Saturday, September 10, 2005

What will change quickly in the religious Zionist world is the dominance of the notion of mamlachtiut. Mam lach ti ut' (with the emphasis on the last syllable) is a Ben Gurion-Mapai quasi-fascist ideology which subordinates all other values to the good of the state (or, more precisely, the good of Mapai). It went hand in hand with the socialist ideas of the early Labor Zionists. Mam lach' ti ut (with the emphasis on the second syllable) is a Kooknik quasi-fascist ideology that assigns religious value to the state and all its institutions and activities. This ideology has effectively caused religious Zionism in Israel to implode.

A generation of children have been taught theological mumbo-jumbo attempting to rationalize all the state's deficiencies. Consequently, when the state spectacularly fails to live up to the messianic role assigned to it, the true believers react as if the sky has fallen in. Next stop, Satmar. Moreover, the Mafdal has essentially ceased functioning because every political matter is treated as an ideological one that requires consultation with Rav Shapira and Rav Eliyahu, both of whom invoke metaphysical considerations in resolving mundane matters. The result, as I can personally attest, is paralysis.

What we have needed to do for a long time, and will at long last get done, is the following:

1. Distinguish between the state and the secular oligarchy that runs it. In the early days of the state these two were indistinguishable. As a result religious Zionists who idolized the state took for granted the right -- indeed the divine right -- of the secular oligarchy to run it. The Mafdal's job was to deliver convocations, score a few lirot and bark not-too-loudly from the sidelines. Haredim, who also conflated the state with the oligarchy, hated the oligarchy and so hated the state as well. This stage is now over. We need to dislodge the oligarchy but at the same time keep the state in good working order.

2. Politics is the art of the possible. We need to steer entirely clear of theology in taking political positions. We need to have a clear idea of what we want and what we can actually get away with. Anybody who has a hot line to the riboino shel oilam via which they are informed of how the divine plan will play out right down here on earth should stay out of politics. There are many forums where theological speculation is admirable and virtuous. The political arena isn't one of them.

From now on, fewer people will prattle on about IDF uniforms being bigdei kehunah and the state being yesod kisei hashem ba-olam. But, nor will the state be an Evil Empire or a failed experiment to be resisted, manipulated or ignored. The state will simply be a vehicle for Jews to live a full political life in the best muddling way they can manage. Anybody with a modicum of historical awareness and political sophistication should appreciate that that alone is an awful lot to be grateful for.

And if this imbecilic expulsion of Jews from Aza taught us this lesson alone, dayeinu.


Blogger bar_kochba132 said...

Ben-good analysis. I consider myself a follower of Rav Kook's philosophy but I must admit that in the 19 years I have been here, I was in a form of congnitive dissonance..seeing the corruption of the state and yet feeling that it had "kedusha" in some form. With the onset of Oslo in 1993, it became clear to me that the rulers of the state were indifferent to the very lives and welfare of the citizenry which was expressed so well by "tough warrior general" Sharon after the massacre at the Dolphinarium... "restraint is strenght". (Recall the recent article in Yediot quoting a senior defense official as saying that the IDF should crack down on terror in order to help Sharon in the Likud..implying that the IDF doesn't view stopping terror at others times as so important and that maybe a certain level of terrror is good for the regime).
I must admit I am in a quandry...I still believe that Rav Kook's philosophy of a partnership between religious and non-religious in building up the state was the right path, but as the criminal nature of the regime became more and more apparent over the years, it seems that the religious camp has no choice but to disengage from the state apparatus as much as possible. This is what you referred to as "going Satmar". It is a contradiction and I and others are going to have to chew this over in our minds for a long time.
I have been a fan of writer/philosopher Daniel Shalit for many years (do you know who he is?) and he warned years ago that this policy of the Religious Zionist camp of "joing the establishment and influence it from within" won't work (examples being religious boys volunteering for combat units in the army, getting jobs as journalists on secular newspapers, etc).
Not only will it not influence the establishment, but those religious people will be forced to give up their values in order to "fit in". This became quite apparent when no senior religious officers refused to participate in Gush Katif pogrom, and few lower level soldiers refused, either (you might think that is davka good, Ben, but I think it is a major educational failure). In any event, we all have to do a lot of thinking.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous said...

The Haredim seemed to have had the correct idea in relating to the oligrachy as the poritz -but should have realized that it is a poritz that can be removed. Perhaps this is what RZ has to do now in its relation to the state.

Unfortunately, much of the so-called "moderate" religious zionist camp (kibbutz hadati, dati-lite, the "pikuach nefesh" beit midrash of RYBS, etc.) has ALSO adopted elements of both Mam lach ti ut' - we see this in all the calls for the renewal of the "historical alliance" between Hapoel Hamizrach/Mizrachi and Labor Zionism, which supposedly (in their view) was damaged by Gush Emunim; as well as Mam lach' ti ut - especially in assigning religious value at least to the State (this is certaily well within in RYBS' position) if not the institutions.

It will probably be much more difficult to dislodge this thinking from the "moderate" RZ camp in view of the fact that they (presumably) are having less of a crises of faith than the messianist RZ camp.

Frankly, a "moderate" RZ that ascribes some religious value to the state, albeit non-messianic, coupled with a perspective that, as you put it, subordinates all other values (including many Jewish and religious ones) to the good of the state (and/or the Oligarchy), is - from an Jewish educational perspective at the very least - frankly much more frightening to me than a quasi-messianic (if indeed one?) movement which generally will run its course and reach its natural conclusion (if it hasn't done so already).

We must help end this partial messianic movement that took hold of RZ, but not at the expense of strengthening so-called "moderates" who will further entrench some of its value system.

1:58 PM  
Anonymous zalman said...

“The state will simply be a vehicle for Jews to live a full political life in the best muddling way they can manage. … that alone is an awful lot to be grateful for.”

That is pretty much my attitude towards the US. And, maybe that is all we should strive for on the political level. If so, then most of us would do well to redirect our mamlach’tiut energies to the communal level. That still allows for participation in the army as sharing the burden of security. But, that attitude will make it more likely that army will be avoided. Nu, so we will be just like the chiloinim. (Still thinking this through.)

2:47 PM  
Blogger ben pesisa said...

Gedola hitnatkut, shemeviah geula laolam. Now that Sharon has de-sanctified the state, we can get down to normal politics, just as if this was Brooklyn.

Ben Chorin, you're lucky you got your liberty before you went nuts. This is normal politics?!

Yes, religion in politics gets in the way of rational thinking when you turn political institutions into totems (and let rabbis who know as much about politics as about shoemaking make your decisions). But the biggest word in politics is not rationality or culture or anything like that. It's ethics, personal and public. You can write the e-word with all caps.

Basically, Israeli society is in ethical meltdown. That's what Oslo, hitnatkut, Inbal Gavrieli and Moshe Karadi are all about. What unifies the domestic and foreign policy aspects of hitnatkut is the intense demoralization of Israeli society and political leaders it displays; demoralization in the sense of loss of morale, of loss of grip on reality, and loss of moral compass (cf Neve Dekalim). Societies in this kind of condition often don't make it and usually don't deserve to.

I don't take issue with Ben Chorin's recommendation of dumping the oligarchy and preserving the state structure, which can still be useful. But, to use a seasonal metaphor, we're not in any safe harbor for normal politics. We're in Jonah's boat (that's why you feel you wanna puke).

What's required in this situation is not just normal coalition politics or the kind of games Ben Chorin plays with his pet Center. I'm not sure the state's going to be around long enough for those to work. I think we need a lot of people going around Israel with a direct, in-your-face message: The ethics you're living are going to turn you into a refugee or a korban shalom sooner than you think. You need to adopt a totally different ethic, the one you've been doing your best to ignore for 200 years.

Of course, that has to come accompanied by a political option you can vote for, otherwise you're wasting precious time.

11:03 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

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11:14 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

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11:34 PM  
Anonymous Zisha Pinkus said...

have you seen the burning shuls

3:01 AM  
Blogger Ben said...


Also, yes. I completely concur except for the part where you impute to me the view that our current politics is normal. I even agree that had I suggested that, it could fairly be said that I "went nuts".
And, by the way, the problem with my "pet Center" is that my partner is so autistic that he doesn't realize quite how distinctive his stilted English is...

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see how you can be a religious supporter of the state (unless you support it for purely pragmatic means as a menas to keep Jews alive, but even then) and not believe the state is yesod kisei Hasham baolam. G-d's throne is his dominion. When G-d is sitting on his throne, his kingship and dominion over the world is complete. (So too with His name - U'shmo echad - Unified Name=Kingship.) Under any system of Jewish theology, Jewish sovereignty (and the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies embodies in the state) helps enshrine and further the sense of G-d's dominion. Therefore, Medinat Yisrael, as a manifestation of Jewish sovereignty and a clear beginning of the fulfillment of G-d's promises to His people as expressed via the Nevi'im, serves as a base=Yesod for establishing G-d's dominion in the World, i.e. Yesod Kisei Hashem Baolam.

The above is not to imply that the kids on the roof of Kfar Darom necessarily understand the above.

וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם ה' נקרא עליך ויראו ממך


5:54 PM  

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