Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Ultra-Orthodox and the National Religious in Israel

Shahak and Merevinsky in their book, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel (1999, 2004), discusses two religious social groups within Israeli society, namely the ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews and National Religious Israeli Jews. (This book was mentioned in a previous post discussing Arutz Sheva, a media outlet that caters for National Religious Israeli Jews.)

In the preface Merevinsky expresses regret at not discussing Meir Kahane because Shahak regarded him as too marginal to be described in this book.

Chapter 1 provides an overview of the ultra-Orthodox and national religious. The ultra-Orthodox and national religious split from each other back in the 1920s. The national religious chose not to renounce modern society as the ultra-Orthodox did.

Chapter 2 discusses the ultra-Orthodox in Israel.

Chapter 3 discusses the ultra-Orthodox and differences between those of European origins (Ashkenazim) and those of Middle Eastern origins (Sephardi/Mizrahim).

Shahak and Merevinsky are quite scathing describing various aspects of ultra-Orthodox Israeli society and politics. But for all that they viewed the ultra-Orthodox as for the most part wishing to be left alone and they used politics mainly to keep themselves insulated from mainstream society. Shahak and Merevinsky were more worried about the National Religious Israeli Jews who did not share the reclusive nature of the ultra-Orthodox.

Chapter 4 discusses the National Religious Israeli Jews and the religious settlers who organized themselves as Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful). Shahak and Merevinsky identify Rabbi Avraham Kook as being the wellspring of the ideology of National Religious Israeli Jews.

Chapter 5 discusses the religious settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Chapter 6 discusses the shameful sympathy expressed among national religious Israeli Jews and Israeli settlers towards Baruch Goldstein and his infamous massacre of Palestinians in Hebron atop Abraham's grave in 1994. Shahak and Merevinsky also exposes how Goldstein refused to give medical treatment to non-Jewish soldiers of the Israel Defense Force putting their health in jeopardy and how, alas, he was never properly disciplined for this dereliction of duty.

(This book does not mention this but it was after this massacre that Hamas began using suicide bombers against civilians. Hamas had started using this ghastly tactic in 1993 but at first they were directed against military targets. It was after this monstrous massacre that Hamas began to use suicide bombers against civilians. And so Goldstein's massacre led to even more violence and suffering. It appears Hamas stopped using suicide bombers around 2005.)

Chapter 7 talks about the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and seeks to explain why the morally depraved assassin believed himself to be religious justified in committing his heinous murder. This chapter is quite different from the rest of the book as it discusses historical events before the founding of the State of Israel. But I am more interested in what is happening today.

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