The ultra-Orthodox were also on a sort of automatic pilot.
Their society did not talk about the redemptive process and all types of glorious concepts. They simply waited for Mashiach. They learned Torah, fulfilled the directive to settle the land of Israel in their own way, and protected their communities from the winds of heresy with all their might. The irreverent Zionists who suddenly decided to play state making reshuffled all their cards. After all, it cannot be that the Mashiach wears an Israeli farmer’s hat. For the ultra-Orthodox, a serene prayer at the Western Wall under the enlightened flag of her majesty is ten times better than the unnecessary wars that the “heretics” brought upon us.
But somehow, their logic continues, the “heretics” actually established a successful state. And to prove how serious they were, they even asked us to join in on the democratic game. Now that you have engaged us against our will in a state that we do not want, we will try to salvage as much as possible for our communities.
At first, it seemed that the competing religious ideology that viewed Zionism as a positive development was flourishing. The National Religious Party had 12 Knesset seats. They controlled the religious institutions. They were the source for Israel’s chief rabbis and engaged in dialogue with the state. The ultra-Orthodox approach seemed to have reached its end.
But then everything changed. The religious Zionists began to sink, their rabbis looked to the ultra-Orthodox rabbis for approval, their political institutions became increasingly less influential, the state scorned them, and their leaders paid homage to the rabbis in ultra-Orthodox Bnei Brak – not to the rabbis in religious Zionist Kiryat Moshe.
For an entire generation, it seemed that the ultra-Orthodox ideology was more realistic. Proof of that was Aryeh Deri’s consistent observation that no government could be formed without Shas – true, until the past elections. And then it turned out that a government could be formed without Shas – with those very same religious Zionists whose influence had almost dissipated.
That is how the ultra-Orthodox ideological self-confidence evaporated – to be replaced by cries of pain and insult. It is always easiest to blame the rest of the world and not to make an accounting of your own ideology. That’s fine. The religious Zionists did the same thing. But ultimately, reality prevails.
In truth, the religious Zionist ideology was not destroyed. Its foundations were genuine. Those foundations also exist in ultra-Orthodox ideology.
The religious Zionists correctly understand the redemptive process. But their abundance of love caused them to relate to the state as a means – not as an end. Danger! From this point, it is very easy to descend into a soft type of fascism. It is a kind of idol worship, as the halachic decisions made by some religious Zionist rabbis obligating soldiers to obey orders to drive Jews from their homes testify. When the individual belongs to the state and not vice versa, when the state is both father and mother to its citizens, the resulting crisis is just a matter of time.
For their part, the ultra-Orthodox correctly understand the danger of the state – any state. But they completely miss the redemptive process, leaving them outside of history and even outside of society.
Just as the Gush Katif crisis opened the religious Zionists up to their surrounding Israelis, creating diversity and new options, the same will happen now to the ultra-Orthodox. Everybody will gain from this process – first and foremost, the state of Israel and Israeli society.
The state of Israel is stuck, and not only because it does not have an answer for the missiles from Gaza. Bereft of its faith, it is incapable of dealing with all the deep-level challenges of our era. That faith, existing among believers of all stripes and all ideologies, will rise out of the crises to create a faith-based Israeli culture – a new type of vision.