I was born two years prior to the Six-Day War when Jerusalem was still a divided city, with barbed wire and concrete walls separating the two sections. Jerusalem totally changed by the time I grew up. It became a city without borders, an exciting and fascinating place, whose spaces were accessible to everyone. One could experience the city on a personal, one to one basis. My urban encounter spanned the entire city…
Distress signals sent out by secularists in recent months have been picked up loud and clear by the Secular Forum, though stridency does not necessarily ensure soundness of the writers’ arguments or best serve their interests. The most important step of any strategy is precise analysis of a given situation. Incorrect analysis leads to hasty action that fails to solve the problem or actually exacerbates it.
In recent months, acrimonious public debate has been raging in Israel over Jewish education enrichment programs. The Secular Forum has been especially vociferous against what it terms “religionization” in non-orthodox state schools, sounding the alarm at the prospect of secular children coming into any contact whatsoever with Jewish content. Were it not for the religious Minister of Education imposing his Jewish agenda, goes secularist reasoning, their children could be studying philosophy, Darwinian theory of evolution, and even Shakespeare.
Motherhood is a central element in the process of nation building. The growth of nations transformed the notion of motherhood to a foundation stone. Thus, the mother as builder of the family assumes a national meaning as well.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel, there has been ongoing debate over the Ministry of Education’s role in shaping the country’s Jewish identity. Successive education ministers formed public committees, launched new programs, promised transoformations. First was Education Minister Zalman Aran’s “Jewish Awareness” program in the 1950s; then the 1994 Shenhar Committee recommendations; Minister Limor Livnat’s “100 Tenets” program which hardly took its first steps before being shelved; then Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s “Jewish Culture and Heritage” program which lasted around five years before Minister Shai Piron decided to revise it. In between, Knesset Education Committee Chairman Rabbi Michael Melchior promoted the ‘Integrated Education Law,” which posited joint educational programs for secular and religious students in semi-private frameworks.
Every year camp counselors confront a dilemma: what content is appropriate for Tisha B’Av when this fast day occurs during the camp season. Should the campers be expected to fast? The counselors? In many cases, commemorating Tisha B’Av is reduced to cancelling swimming or programming an activity related to the rabbinic midrash of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza on the destruction of the Temple. What indeed is Tisha B’Av’s place in contemporary society?
The recent Pew Survey on Israel, conducted from fall 2014-Spring 2015 examined the religious identity of Israelis. The survey was comprehensive in scope – beyond any previous survey of this type. Over 5,500 Israelis were interviewed face to face, some 3,800 Jews and 1,700 non-Jews.
In one part of the military cemetery in Jerusalem stands a lone and unusual gravestone, marking the grave of David Raziel, Commander of Etzel (also known as the Irgun, a Zionistparamilitary organization that operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948). Not many are aware that this is Raziel’s third resting spot, after he was first interred in a British military cemetery in Iraq and later moved to a Jewish cemetery in Cyprus.
On Chanukah in the year 1897, shortly after the First Zionist Congress was held, Theodore Herzl wrote an article called “The Menorah,” in which he compared himself to the shamash that lights and wakes Jews of all affiliations. Recent research on Herzl and his family points to the bond between Judaism and Zionism that was the cornerstone of his Zionist thought. Herzl was not raised as an Orthodox Jew nor did he become such, yet the shift in his attitude towards Jews of different stripes represented a move away from the assimilationist stance of his youth, when he was alienated from Judaism.