Is Rise of Jewish Fundamentalism Endangering Israeli Democracy?

Authors See Conflict Between Haredim and Secular World

Clear and Present Danger: Yuval Elizur and Lawrence Malkin predict dire consequences as a result of the struggle for power between the sectarian and the secular.
getty images
Clear and Present Danger: Yuval Elizur and Lawrence Malkin predict dire consequences as a result of the struggle for power between the sectarian and the secular.

By Jerome Chanes

Published April 22, 2013, issue of April 26, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 4)

A substantial chunk of the sectarian/Haredi problem is the fact that the rabbanut — the Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel — has in recent years been under the thumb of a few sectarian rabbis, and has become morally, politically and religiously bankrupt. This issue, not addressed by Elizur and Malkin, is especially rueful for those who recall the Religious Zionism, represented by the centrist, responsible, Mizrachi/National Religious Party of decades past, before the “Religious” got pinched by the sectarians and the “Zionism” got pinched by the settler movement.

At bottom, Elizur and Malkin assert, it’s all about politics and purse: Israel’s parliamentary system has often insisted that Haredi support is key when building a governing coalition; the sectarian influence has all too often forced the majority to kowtow to the Haredim.

There is occasional factual confusion in “The War Within.” “Many” Haredim did not fight in the pre-State Etzel (Irgun Zvai Leumi) — the underground Zionist-Revisionist Irgun, which regarded partition of Palestine as an unsatisfactory compromise. It was Lehi (Lohamei Herut Yisrael) — the so-called Stern Group, far more radical than the Irgun — that contained, remarkably, Haredi fighters together with units from Agudat Yisrael and even the far-left Hashomer Hatzair. The Irgun was all about political ideology; Lehi was united in one goal: Get the British out of Eretz Yisrael — Palestine. The point: ideological divisions informed the pre-State Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine), and continued to do so in the early years of the state. Remnants of ideological struggles inhere in the religious warfare of 2013.

And on the basic question of when, indeed, did “the war within” begin, the authors assign the origins of the struggle to many decades in the past. In reality, while there were always conflicts, there was yet a permeability in the boundaries between those then known as Haredim, Agudat Yisrael and the more centrist Mizrachi Orthodox. The true beginnings of the “war” are more recent, when those boundaries solidified.

And it is a mistake to conflate, as do Elizur and Malkin, the entirely sectarian Satmar group with the rejectionist Neturei Karta, which celebrated the Palestine Liberation Organization and meets with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Satmar stance on Zionism is not messianic, but rather based on the idea that Jews ought not premise their identity and continuity on contemporary “isms,” including Zionism, but on normative Halacha. The authors confuse various groups; the reality is that sectarian Haredism is hardly monolithic.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.