Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Yom HaAtzmaut – A Historical Perspective Part 2

Rabbi Slifkin writes:
As I mentioned above, though, all this only explains one very minor aspect of those who do not celebrate Yom Ha'Atzmaut. The main reason, especially today, has very little to do with halachic or religious positions, and a lot more to do with sociological factors. See my monographs on "The Novelty of Orthodoxy" and "The Making of Haredim" to understand why the notion of being a fully participating citizen of the State of Israel, and the very idea of incorporating a new entity (The State of Israel) into one's religious worldview, is entirely at odds with the isolationism and traditionalism of charedi society. They'd be uncomfortable with it even if the Ribbono Shel Olam Himself were to say that it's kosher.
There are several problems with this explanation. But instead of pointing out its flaws, we would like to present our own explanation and leave it to the reader to decide which sounds more compelling.

In order to appreciate the Charedi opposition to Yom HaAtzmaut (YH), it is necessary to understand the historical background and events which culminated with the establishment of  the State of Israel.

Subsequent to the Dreyfus Affair (1894), Theodore Herzl became convinced that the only way to address the “Jewish Problem” in Europe was for the Jews to have their own country. He outlined his idea in a short book called Der Judenstaat (Herzl was Viennese) and distributed it amongst the populace. His ideas were enthusiastically adopted by many Jews who felt intuitively that the only solution for the Jewish Problem was to have their own homeland. Encouraged by the wide support his ideas were receiving, Herzl called for a meeting of Jewish leaders to discuss the “homeland idea”. On August 29, 1897, the first Zionist Congress convened in Switzerland. The Zionist Movement was now a reality. At the outset the Congress defined the primary mandate of Zionism: “to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law”.

In reality Herzl did not care where the “homeland” was established. In fact, just a couple years before his death he attempted to broker a deal with the British government for a Jewish State in Uganda. Herzl was a product of Western European assimilation. He was an elitist who looked down at Jewish customs and traditions, an agnostic who knew absolutely nothing about Judaism. He didn’t even know the aleph beis. In fact, in Der Judenstaat Herzl envisioned German as the official language of the new state! Eastern European Jews, lead by Chaim Weizmann, were more traditional than their Franco/German brethren and refused to settle for any other land. For them, Palestine represented the realization of a deeply-rooted historical longing for “the land” and eventually Herzl had no choice but to defer to them.

Although the first Zionist Congress was attended by several important Rabbinic leaders, the movement itself was vastly secular. Eventually it became entirely secular and fiercely anti-religious.

The opposition to Zionism by Orthodox Jewry was intense. In Part 3 of this series we will outline several issues with the Zionist Movement that generated serious concern amongst Torah-observant Jews. Part 4 will be dedicated to the Mizrachi Movement. Finally, drawing upon the background of the previous posts Part 5 will offer an explanation for the current Charedi opposition to YH.

Stay tuned…     

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