To Unify a Nation
By MK Rabbi Dov Lipman
Urim Publications, 2014, 96 pages
In this short volume, member of the Israeli Kenesset (MK) Dov Lipman describes many ways to improve Israeli society and unify divergent groups in Israel. Lipman is an Orthodox rabbi. His ideas are helpful and necessary and should be implemented.
“Successful societies,” he writes, “know how to change and to adapt to changes around them while preserving the core that makes them unique….the abandonment of core Jewish values, especially among some segments in religious circles, led to terrible disunity and polarization.” But these values “are the only thing that can truly unify the Jewish people.”
The basic value is “that all humans are created ‘in the image of God’ and deserve to be respected as such.” There are countless examples where kindness produced, both in humans and animals, exemplary results. The second century Simeon ben Lakish, for example, was a gladiator and a robber, but was shown kind treatment, and he began to study and became one of Jewry’s greatest Talmud scholars. Jews remove wine from their cups on Passover today to remind them that as much as the ancient Egyptians oppressed Israelites, their deaths diminish the joy of Jewish lives. To attack mosques, Palestinian fields, or to throw rocks at Israeli non-believers who drive cars on the Sabbath, or women who do not wear long sleeves “have no place in Judaism.”
Unfortunately, despite Israel remarkably rescuing and bringing over 20,000 black oppressed Ethiopian Jews to Israel, there is discrimination in Israel, including rejecting Jewish Sephardic girls (from countries such as north Africa, and Arab countries) admission to Ashkenazi-run schools (with European girls).
Women are discriminated against in many ways, such being forbidden to approach a gravesite during a funeral and being assigned a small area at the Western Wall where they can pray. Women are also under-represented in government; they “hold only 34% of government leadership jobs.”
The Israeli rabbinate, over-zealously religious, carries much of the blame. It believes it is divinely obligated to force Israelis to accept their notions of religion. But this stops many people from converting to Judaism, especially Russian, and making it difficult and sometimes impossible for men and women to marry and divorce. These practices must stop. “These laws are leading hundreds of thousands of young Israelis to turn their backs on any connection to Judaism and Israel…. in order to preserve Jewish value” we must give “people free choice” and we must “separate religion from politics” to preserve Jewish unity.
Rabbi Lipman speaks strongly against the idea that a religious person should avoid a secular education and should not join the Israeli military to defend Israel. The notion that sitting and studying Talmud all day is contrary to Judaism. The Ethics of the Fathers states: “any Torah not accompanied by work will end up being nullified and will lead to sin.”
Rabbi Lipman ends his well-reasoned book by saying: “The time has come for all of us – male, female, young, old, religious, and not religious – to reaffirm what it means to be Jews with the restoration of a moderate, embracing, value-centered, and unified Judaism.” This “is absolutely necessary to save our nation.”