Fundamentalist Judaism

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Religious Fundamentalist Judaism and the Reformation That Never Was

The fundamentalist brand of Judaism which permeates the American North East and Canada does not accurately reflect the way the majority of Israelis think and behave. Let us call to mind what the beloved Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Liebowitz, who was thought of as the conscience of the nation, said over thirty years ago in reference to religious fundamentalism: "In every generation and at every time, but especially in our time, there are people who speak in the name of faith in God, and assume for themselves the authority to be zealous on God's behalf. And the question is. . . Is their personality such, and are their qualities and human and ethical levels such, that they are worthy of being men of the covenant of peace -- except that their zeal for God has forced them to carry out these severe actions? .

. . If he is zealous on behalf of God without being suited for doing so, he is nothing but a murderer". In 1993 a controversy initiated by religious fundamentalists, in Israel, developed over the fact that Liebowitz won the Israel Prize for his life's work. The controversy was so heated and divisive that he eventually turned down the award and died shortly thereafter, without it.

The Haskalah which was a spiritual and literal separation from the thickness of religiosity; a Jewish intramural campaign in favor of *mixing*: assimilating, with the "host nation" against what the opponents have dubbed "the immutable laws of Torah".

It has been said that Jewish religious fundamentalism is incompatible with democracy in Israel. It must certainly also be blinded to the fact that globalization is democracy on a grand scale, and that any form of religious fundamentalism is antithetical to global peace.

We (Jews) admire and placate America so much; yet we cannot bring ourselves to emulate the fact that the reason why America is so strong is because of the (Lockean) Establishment Clause in her constitution. Israel does not have a written constitution, and marriages there are still controlled by the Temple.

We should reevaluate why the Haskalah came about in the first place, and with it the mutability of Torah. One cannot cry out to the Jewish soul while basking in the knowledge of the Haskalah, attempting to reach the younger one's struggling with the forces of "assimilation", using the secular language of the Haskalah in an attempt to persuade them back into a religious fundamentalism. You can't have it both ways.

There are similarities and differences between militias on the Arizona/Mexico border in America and Jewish religious fundamentalists on the West Bank in Israel. Here, I will focus briefly on the similarities.

First and foremost both groups have an Armageddon mentality, a grossly exaggerated sense of self importance, and a belief that the future is somehow dependant upon their actions. In a word, they are under the impression that the world revolves around them.

Interestingly, the militias in Arizona and their associates want a White-only society, while the kahaneites, Gush Emunim, and other religious fundamentalists on the West Bank have as of late been romanticizing, again, about an Arab-free Israel. Social trends come and go about every twenty-five years and this one is no exception. The question is: will they succeed in destroying peace or will the Rabbis on the West Bank muster up enough courage to convince their flock that the world is sick and tired of religious fundamentalism and the destruction that it brings?

When religion is implemented through the body politic as we are now observing with Islamofascism, militant and aggressive, although now decentralized, is similar to the intolerance of the Haredim: who are interested in nothing that has nothing to do with their agenda. The similarity here is the abject fundamentalism shared by both, along with megalomania and unwillingness to compromise -- even when their own house is burning.

The equation is simple. If religious fanaticism (Islamic, Jewish, or Christian) is successful in imposing its world view on others by gaining too much political support or by extremist action, say by encouraging more Baruch Goldstein's, Timothy McVeigh's, Yigal Amir's, and Usama Bin Laden's, there will always be violence. The powers that be should work overtime to subdue and contain religious fanaticism, and under no circumstances should these fanatics be allowed to seize too much power within the ranks of, in this case, the Likud.

If everyone behaved in this way peace would be lost forever. There must be people available who care enough about others to step up and give something of themselves -- by relinquishing religious Pathos into something more selfless -- to the greater (collective) good, and in the light of day. It takes more courage to make room for the "other guy" within ones weltanschauung, than it does to go deeper and deeper into ones own mishagos.

"When you enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations... For anyone who does such things is abhorrent to the Lord, and it is because of these abhorrent things that the Lord your God is *dispossessing* them before you". Deut. 18:9, and 12.

Would a God who is in favor of democracy talk like this? Or are these simply the words of mercenaries and scribes tainting the words of God with human arrogance and militaristic overtones?

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your offspring I assign this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates", Gen. 15:18.

Rashi said "He created it and he gave it to them, and by His wish He took it from them and gave it to us". Rashi was not only a chauvinist, a religious fundamentalist, and arrogant, but also a mercenary (thief) -- expounding "approval from God" to steal. After all, Chukkim, idol worship, and religious fundamentalism are one of the same.

This God wants blood, and he doesn't care how he gets it!

One cannot complain about Islam not having undergone a successful Reformation (which it has not) while simultaneously attempting to draw Jews back into pre-Haskalah status and eclipse the freedoms that we gained from it.

Religious fundamentalism is the harbinger of intolerance; especially when one tries in vain to paint ones-self as a "victim" -- while force-feeding their propaganda to the rest of the world. Your peers will judge you when the actions which stem from your principles contradict one another. Case in point: how is it possible to preach Torah while peering down the barrel of a rifle on the West Bank? Or by suggesting that "an entire town should be leveled" when there is a homicide bombing? This is why hot-heads should be kept out of the upper ranks of the Likud. The secular reality in Israel does not run parallel with the passive/aggressive propaganda offered by Jews here in the North East or on the West Bank.

Either you believe that *the separation of forces* (within the enlightenment(s) per say) were a form of salvation from the *oneness of competing Gods* and the violence they wrought upon history, or you simply don't care. The Haskalah was good to Jews because it allowed us to extricate ourselves from European oppression and from the thickness of religiosity -- bringing the "light" to the rest of the world while living `within it' -- not just by brooding about it. Those who are inflexible in their beliefs will ultimately die from them (either physically or spiritually) or get others killed in the process.

How many fundamentalist Jews were happy when learning of the murder of Yitzhak Rabin? Too many! And how many of those same fundamentalist Jews applauded when Baruch Goldstein carried out his massacre at the Hebron Mosque? Too many!

For the same reason that the American government must keep its militias -- it's Timothy McVeigh's, it's Branch Davidians, its Ruby-Ridge folk, and the KKK under a watchful eye -- so the Israeli government must also keep its religious-fundamentalist-Jews under restraint. The similarities between them are greater than the differences.

Consider this week-old article from the Cleveland Jewish News. "A group of Jewish scholars attempted to recreate the ancient Sanhedrin tribunal in Jerusalem. According to the Jerusalem Post, the 71 Orthodox scholars who convened this week believe not only that they can reconstitute the Second Temple-era Sanhedrin, but that one of their members, Rabbi Yosef Dayan, could qualify as a Jewish monarch because he can trace his lineage to King David. The scholars, described as right-wing religious Zionists, admit that current political realities interfere with their hopes. Unless most Israelis want to replace the democratically elected government with a monarchy, Dayan told the Post, there is no option but to await the Messiah. Meanwhile, the new Sanhedrin has been brushing up on Temple ritual and other minutiae of Jewish law".

Fundamentalist Judaism illustrates the pedestal that some Jews put themselves on while at the same time claiming to not understand why the rest of the world holds us to a greater degree of scrutiny. This counterintuitive impression of one's self is *reflected*, in general, by the world's obsession with settlements on the West Bank, while ignoring other atrocities in Algeria and Africa.

If we are "chosen", if we are "special", if we are "a light unto the nations", then why does it come as a surprise when we are chastised by the rest of the world for initiating a perfectly legitimate military offensive against Palestinians for homicide bombings? What is `it', exactly, that we do not understand that the rest of the world "does not understand"... while claiming that what applies to everyone else does not apply to us?

It is worth mentioning that Yeshayahu Liebowitz also predicted that "the newly occupied territories would become an untenable burden for the country because they would force Israel to become a repressive society". Until we refocus the looking glass in an attempt to answer this question, it will not become clear why fate has dealt us such a hard blow.