Yair Ettinger’s “Frayed, The Disputes Unraveling Religious Zionists” is eye-opening. He is revealing a dangerous situation that many people do not know exists. And those who know don’t know how to resolve the problem. The religious Zionist movement today in Israel is splintered. And each side, like squabbling children who fail to realize the consequences of their acts, is attacking those who disagree with them. These religious people forget their history. Such squabbles brought the destruction of the second temple in 70 CE and the exile of many Jews from Israel for some two thousand years.
- Ettinger is a prize-winning journalist with a keen eye and open mind who sees and understands his community. His book contains many narratives that depict the tragedy.
- He begins by describing three different experiences of three different women who consider themselves religious Zionists. They are involved with matters that some of the splintered groups of religious Zionists consider contrary to Jewish law, the halakha. As a result, they disparage the women. Their reaction does not reflect what religion should try to achieve. The disparaging people are not satisfying many women’s needs.
- He tells us that about 22 percent of Israelis identify with religious Zionists. This is a sizable number of bickering people. It affects the entire population.
- Despite identifying as religious Zionists, the adherents have no unifying definition of religious Zionism.
- When people say they are religious Zionists, we know nothing about them unless we question them. Which one? Which rabbi do you obey? Do you believe in the equality of the sexes? What’s your opinion of non-Jews? Would you accept a female rabbi? Can a woman lead worship services? Can she say Kaddish? Should she be in the military? What kind of kippa should a Jew wear? What are your thoughts about homosexuals? What do you think of nonobservant Jews and Haredi Jews? Are American Jews OK? Are their rabbis genuinely religious? These and many more questions and issues prompt different responses from religious Zionists.
- Unfortunately, many of the responses are heated.
- In short, religious Zionist Jews are no longer united around a common idea. Broadly speaking, there are two groups. One defines what is right by what halakha and customs decree. The other is open to change, both secular and religious. But each of the two broad groups has people with different opinions. And the people of both groups are unable to work together.