We had dinner with our new Jewish neighbours during the week and we ended up discussing Israel as you do. Mr P advised he was upset with Zionists and Orthodox and their influence of government policy in Israel. He accused Orthodox jews of “not contributing positively to society as they don’t work, they marry have 11children, they receive tax exemptions and working Israelis pay for them” in his exact words. His wife disagreed with him and we did not know what to say as we are ignorant to the situation there. He is proud of his Jewish heritage and is the first Jewish person I have come across who dislikes zionists and Israeli foreign policy.
I have always considered Jews to be Zionists by default, I’m now rethinking that. Anyone with some knowledge care to elaborate?
There are MANY Jews who disagree with the policies of Israel and our nation’s blind allegence to thier policy. When I worked in a newspaper back in the 1980s I met many Jews who surprised me as well in terms of thier opinions on Mid-East issues. Many were older reporters and editors who were WW2 veterans and saw first-hand the horrors of war and oppression. I was a die-hard Republican in those days, and it confused me.
The Middle-east is far more complicated that Fox News or any of the cable news outlets lead people to believe. One must be willing to (gasp!) listen to both sides of the story before making an instant judgement (I seem to remember a Proverb about that). There are many stories that never see the light of day in the US because of our corporate media. Stories that would cause a re-think about our current policy in that part of the world.
Sun Tzu said in the “Art of War” ‘An angry man can be made happy again, a dead man remains dead’.
I would guess that most Jews are probably pro-Zionist, and it is quite understandable in that regard; they have sought a home of their own for generations, and now they have one. It is only natural that they cherish it and seek to protect it. I sympathize with them on the horrors of war…but justice will come to all eventually.
By that same token, the Israeli response has become very extreme, and we can no longer deny that many innocents have indeed been slain, and not all of them necessarily in self-defense. Fighting terror with brute force only fans the flames of strife and conflict. The issue of Israel and Palestine is a very difficult and complex one, and we need to consider it from many different angles and perspectives. Perhaps in the end, neither side is truly wrong, and perhaps at the same time, both sides are.
One through three are correct. For generations, the so-called “ultra-orthodox” that live in Jerusalem have been vehement anti-Zionists, although this is beginning to change a bit. But you can still travel there and see anti-Zionist posters and plaques.
Zionism started as a completely secular enterprise with the idea that Jews needed a homeland to escape Christian persecution in Europe. They didn’t really care where it was–Uganda was one of the possibilities floated at the time. Today there are many Jewish and non-Jewish Zionists who would say that the Jews are returning to “their land”–the rights to which they see as documented in the Bible. Christian Zionists would be more likely to look toward the prophecy angle.
Your neighbour was particularly criticising Haredim (“Ultra”-Orthodox Jews, such as Hassidic Jews) who emphasize rigorous religious study, have been historically wary of Zionism or anti-Zionist, and wield quite a bit of influence over social and political issues in Israel.
For these reasons, among others, they are sometimes accused of being “lazy,” “disloyal,” and “intrusive.” While Haredim do tend to rely on state benefits, opt out of military service, and sometimes impose their values upon non-Haredi society, I don’t think it’s an entirely fair accusation. More and more Haredi women are becoming the breadwinners for their families. There are more and more Haredim joining special units for their military service. If I remember correctly there was even a Haredi unit of the emergency response group, ZAKA, who volunteered their efforts after the earthquake in Haiti. And the truly extreme fringes are very small.
Orthodox Jews tend not to be Zionist, and ultra-Orthodox tend to be Anti-Zionist (tend being the key word). As it was explained to me they often immigrate to Israel out of a desire to be there when the Messiah comes to found what they believe will be the true rebirth of Israel. They have no real connection to the modern Jewish state.
I’m not sure how they got all those exemptions (which they slowly seem to be losing), but I’m guessing it was because they were such a small minority and the government didn’t see it as worthwhile fighting them on the issue. Of course, demographics change.
A common notion people with good intentions have - as well as those with bad intentions that hate Jewish people - is that they think and speak of Jews as one monolithic group.
I had a Jew of part Arab Jewish ancestry advise me that the best way to understand Jews is to think of them as something akin to Latinos. Like Latinos are white, black, and brown and have different political views, and some are agnostic or atheist or liberal Christians, while others are conservative or traditional religious people, so too you’ll find Jews are white, black, and Arab and come in different stripes of socio-political and religious views.
Most Jews today are of Reformed liberal Judaism (the Jewish Reformation began in Germany like the conservative Protestant Reformation did). They tend to be Westernized and adopted the rational views of Protestants and Catholics in the sciences.
Orthodox Jews historically have not been liked much by Reformed Jews. Although I think that is probably not much of problem between the two in the U.S. today. Orthodox Jews have been viewed by Reform Jews as backwards and stupid people.
I think there are some Orthodox Jews that are not Zionists though.
100 years ago, many Jews weren’t Zionists. The ultra-Orthodox because the original Zionists weren’t religious; even anti-religious, the Reform because they didn’t believe many things in the Torah to be taken literally- like the physical return of the nation of Israel to the land of Israel. Both have changed dramatically since.
The Orthodox Jews: There are different types of Orthodox Jews. One way to classify is “modern Orthodox” and ultra-Orthodox. Within each category are different sub-categories, partucuarly among the ultra-Orthodox.
The modern Orthodox are Zionists, serve in the Israeli army in the most elite combat units far beyond their percentage of the population- like the kibbutzniks used to, go to university, work, etc. They also generally have large families, although not as large as the ultra-Orthodox.
The ultra-Orthodox is a much more complex issue. It used to be that they were either non-Zionist (they would vote and serve in Knesset, etc.), but didn’t believe that the state of Israel is the beginning of the redemption; or they were anti-Zionist.
As time passed, the number and percentage of anti-Zionists has dropped; dramatically. It is hard to ignore the elephant in the room; the fact that there is a Jewish sovereign state- even if it isn’t perfect (when was it ever?), the fact that there is an ingathering of the exiles- to the point where Israel has a plurality of the world’s Jewish population, and is on its way to being an outright majority, the fact that more Jews are learning Torah than ever- in history, the fact that the barren land is yielding fruit like never before, etc.
12 years ago, Elya Weissfish from the anti-Zionist Nerutei Karta was forced to concede to me in a debate that: “We know well that what you say regarding the Orthodox world is true. Thus, the most important part of our battle today is against the members of the Aguda (the ultra-Orthodox- YKohen), who are coming closer (to the positions of- YKohen), as well as the rest of the torah-observant Jews, to religious Zionism.”
A recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that a majority of ultra-Orthodox here do, in fact, define themselves as Zionists:
There are other issues though. Especially because they are growing so rapidly, these are having a greater impact than ever. The 2 main ones are:
Army service: An overwhelming majority of ultra-Orthodox learn Torah full-time instead of serving.There are actually changes going on right now as the IDF tries to accomodate them and their needs- AND they recognize that they also need to serve (at least the ones who can’t learn full-time and will ultimately want to work):
Work: Because so many have been learning Torah full-time- and because they don’t teach secular studies (and also without having gone to the army), many ultra-Orthodox men don’t work. Their wives all get some sort of degree or skills, are the bread-winners (and give birth to many kids), and they get a stipend from the government for learning full-time.
This worked OK for a while, when the parents could help out, would buy them an apartment, etc., but by the 2nd generation, the system has proven itself to be unsustainable. Surprise surprise. So now there if finally a move to establish ultra-Orthodox institutions where they teach the men a trade and skills that they can use to get a job.
It’s a slow process, but is beoming much more popular.
I’m not the Reform Jewish expert, but I can point you to this:
Today, overall, anti-Zionists comprise a miniscule percentage of the Jewish people.
So let’s look at your later statements:
Not all Jews are Zionists: True, although a majority are in the braodest sense of the term.
Not all Orthodox Jews are Zionists: True, although a majority are.
Some Orthodox and not so Orthodox Jews are Zionists: True.
Zionists basically claim that the re-establishment of the State of Israel is in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy: Religious Zionists do claim that, secular Zionists don’t, “traditional” (somewhere in-between) Zionists are probably a mix. As to the ultra-Orthodox, many are now accepting that it is Biblical prophesy being fulfilled, some try to ignore it- although it is getting harder to ignore, and a small percentage say it isn’t.
As an aside, it seems to me that your friend is more anti-religious than anti-Zionist.
I just wish the Jewish people would be one
There’re synagogues that only liberal Jews go to and there’re synagogues where only orthodox Jews go to. There’re Catholics that don’t go to church regularly on Sundays and there’re those that go every Sunday and during the week also. But we still go to the same church. So you can have different levels of observance but still get together at the same church or synagogue, no? How comes that the Jewish people even agreed to splitting up so much? It’s not right according to G-d, I believe. And in my opinion something that Jews don’t need is dissension amongst each other…
I know that in Israel there are some Ultra-Orthodox Jews who do not believe in the existence of the State of Israel. Some believe that the State of Israel should not have come into existence till after they believe the Messiah has come. And they don’t believe that the Messiah has come yet. One example is the Satmar Hasidic Jews. And this was the overwhelming belief in all Orthodox Judaism till the late 1800s.
Many of these people live in Israel, but are against the existence of the state. And so many have a lot of children, they live off a type of welfare, and spend their time studying the Talmud and raising their children.
Thank you for your interesting `in-depth and enlightening response YKohen.
I understand now that Zionism is a political ideology which some believe is biblically rooted. Judaism the religion and Jews are the masses/laypeople or as Catholics call the Church Militant.
My friend is a practicing Jew although I am not sure what subset he belongs to, all I know from your description is that he’s not Ultra Orthodox. He could just be anti-Ultra Orthodox, i suppose similarly we have hard-core Traditional Catholics who don’t have any time for ‘liberal’ Catholics.
Funny, my experience has been just the opposite. As someone who lived and worked and prayed among the Jews for the past 12 years, I found that there was much more unity in Judaism, much more of a “mix and match” situation, with friends from every denomination praying together on any given Shabbes. On the other hand, Catholics only pray with Catholics, Methodists only with Methodists. We are not “one church,” unless you dismiss all denominations except Catholic, and even within Catholicism there are many rites and traditions.
I have recently been studying the issue and conflict between Israel and Palestine, something I was previously barely aware of, and I am interested in hearing the views of the Catholic and non-Catholic members of the site on the matter.
What do you think of the conflict overall, and do you think it possible that there will be a permanent solution to the conflict? I myself really have no idea, and I cannot say that I am truly certain of which side one should support…