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  Naomi Ragen

Naomi Ragen
author of ...

The Ghost of Hannah Mendes Jephte's Daughter Sotah (A Woman Under Suspicion) The Sacrifice of Tamar

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A Pyrrhic Victory      (February 15, 1999)

by Naomi Ragen

So, you think you've won, do you -- all of you who organized and participated in that great show of yeshiva power this Sunday in Jerusalem? And, what then, exactly, is your victory?

If you think your show of numbers cowed our judges and our court system, we can only pray that isn't the case. I use the term "pray" particularly, and not a more secular term, because Israeli's civil court system, its High Court of Justice, is the last refugee for so many religious people fleeing the injustices of the Rabbinic Courts. I can't tell you how many unfortunate women -- some of them haredi, the former wives of rabbis -- who have tried desperately to get their cases moved from the Rabbinic Courts to the civil courts so that they might have a chance of achieving some justice in property settlements and child custody issues, for it is well-known that Rabbinic Courts favor men.

If you think that you've achieved justification for your point of view because so many came out to support it, then think again. We who have lived through the twentieth century know better than to believe truth and right belong to large crowds. After all, millions of Germans were dead wrong about everything, weren't they?

If you think your dancing and singing and prayer warmed our hearts, think again. When Moses came down from the mountain, he found the people dancing and singing also, didn't he? He too was unimpressed. He broke the tablets of Law because the people, with their disgraceful enthusiasm for the wrong idea, didn't deserve the beautiful laws G-d had prepared for them, laws meant to enoble and enrich them, to set them above and apart from the lawless pagans.

And if you think you "sure showed those secular Jews" just who's in charge, then think again. True, you bused in a quarter million, and the opposing side only had fifty thousand. But most of us realize that unlike your participants, those on the opposing side couldn't really take time off to sing and dance in Jerusalem on a sunny afternoon. They were too busy tilling the fields so you'll have food to eat. Too busy patrolling the borders, so you can sleep in your beds safely at night. Too busy earning a living to pay for your yeshivot, your share of city taxes, your subsidized housing, susidized school buses, subsidized food stores ….

All day long, I listened to one member after the next of the haredi community explain what the demonstration, or "prayer vigil" was all about. Again and again I heard the following: "We want the courts, the judges to respect us. We deserve respect."

Just as haredim have long disconnected the act of receiving money from actually going out and earning it, so they have now disconnected receiving respect from actually going out and earning it. Showing no respect for the law, or for judges, or, by the way, for the Halacha which states clearly that a judge must not "respect" any one side more than another when reaching a fair and even handed judgement -- they wish,nevertheless, to be respected for their point of view. Both money and respect, it seems, can be yours for the taking if you make enough noise.

So, congratulations, all those of you who organized and participated in what is being called the largest demonstration in Israeli's history.

You've managed to achieve the most stupendous, most well-attended and mindboggling desecration of G-d's name in recent history.

If you can stop patting yourselves on the back long enough to look into the mirror, perhaps you'll see what those of us who were watching you saw: a docile, manipulated crowd of sheep led by power-hungry, money-grubbing, wheeler-dealers in saints' clothing who are leading you all straight off the cliff.

 

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Last modified: March 12, 1999