Battle for the Soul of Israel

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Avi Abelow

Last May, Community featured a report about the demand being made by left-wing groups to reconstruct the platform of the Kotel – the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, the holiest site in Judaism. These groups insist on the creation of a large adjoining space that would be placed under the control of the Reform leadership and used for large Reform prayer services, with men and women together, in violation of centuries’ old halachic tradition. For Torah Jews, this would constitute a grave violation of the sanctity of the Kotel.

Mati Dan and Oren Honig of the Libah Yehudit organization have been combatting this initiative on several different fronts, including in the courts, seeking to protect against not only this infraction on the sanctity of the Kotel, but also the leftist movements’ other initiatives that threaten to undermine the Jewish character of the State of Israel. And they are turning to Torah Jews in the Diaspora for help.

An Effort to Change the Status Quo

The Reform movement, which has little to do with traditional Judaism, now embodies the most “woke” ideals, platforms that are at war with many of the most sacred hallmarks of Judaism, including the nuclear family, the sanctity of marriage, fetal rights and even Orthodox Jewish practice. 

The president of the Union of Reform Judaism, Rick Jacobs, has made it very clear that the movement’s agenda extends well beyond the Kotel.  

“If the Reform Kotel plan is implemented,” he said, “this will open the door for more religious pluralism in Israel.” His movement seeks not merely an area by the Kotel, but official recognition in Israel as an alternative form of Judaism – absent authentic Torah observance. The movement has publicly declared its desire to have its conversions, marriage, and kashrut – all of which are totally disjoined from traditional Jewish halacha – recognized as law in Israel. It also hopes to foster widespread public Shabbat desecration by allowing buses to operate to and from the Kotel on Shabbat. 

The rickety Bennett-Lapid coalition government, which ruled the country from the spring of 2021 until the spring of 2022, included anti-Orthodox leftists eager to tamper with the status quo of religious affairs in Israel. Then Prime Minister Bennett signed coalition agreements with Reform Knesset members advocating to expedite the Reform agenda, pushing to change the kashrut and conversion laws, to permit hametz in the hospitals on Pesach, to create the Reform platform at the Kotel, and establish a budgeted government office to promote the leftist agenda in Israeli society.  

Although the Bennet-Lapid government has now fallen and is being replaced by a right-wing government with religious political parties, Mati and Oren warn that the threat to the soul of the Jewish State remains. Leftist movements, they say, have successfully infiltrated the Israeli government offices through strategic planning and a great deal of finding for their cause. The Libah Yehudit organization is reaching out to Torah-committed Jews throughout the world, imploring them to recognize the threat and join together to protect the sanctity of the Land of Israel. 

Infiltrating the Public Education System 

Already in the 1990s, the Reform movement understood that one of the most influential ways to change Israel is by introducing and disseminating its liberal, anti-Torah value system via the country’s education system. They therefore developed a strategy to infiltrate Israel’s Ministry of Education by slowly staffing senior Education Ministry positions with their own trained professionals, and taking charge of the textbooks and curriculums in the Israel public school system, that educates a majority of Jewish Israeli children. 

Many different foundations that promote the leftist agenda in the Jewish world donated money towards programs to infiltrate Israel’s education system. The Libah Yehudit organization has discovered that the Mandel Foundation – established by the Mandel family, which also happens to be a major donor to the Reform Movement – began a training program back in 1990 aimed at staffing 1,500 of the most influential positions in Israel’s education system, in order to change Israeli society. Today, 32 years later, they have succeeded in filling 500 of those influential positions with professionals that they trained with their pedagogical methods and materials. Each year, 20 experienced Israeli education professionals were carefully selected to join their exclusive educational training program to then be placed back into the education system, filling influential positions. One example is Itzik Danziger, Vice President of the stridently left-wing New Israel Fund, who today runs Matach, one of the leading educational resource institutions run by Israel’s Ministry of Education. 

A second tactic, as mentioned, is exerting control over textbooks and other materials used to teach about Judaism in Israeli secular public schools.  Previously, the materials used for teaching Jewish studies were based on authentic Torah Judaism. Today, however, according to Libah Yehudit’s research, 83 percent of the schoolbooks used in the Israeli education system were written by leftist organizations. The leftist organization with the most schoolbooks in the classrooms is the Conservative Movement’s Tali Foundation, which has produced all the books used in the first and second grades. Very few books written from the perspective of traditional Torah Judaism are used today in Israeli schools. Instead, schoolchildren are being taught anti-Torah, leftist values, such as the belief that it is acceptable for families to have two fathers or two mothers, or one non-Jewish parent. Children are also told that they can choose their gender. These troubling trends are unfolding with the active participation of government institutions that liberal movements have infiltrated through programming, funding, and staffing. 

Even more alarmingly, an increasing amount of school time is dedicated to teaching Jewish Israeli school children about Islam and Christianity, at the expense of time spent teaching them about their own religion, traditions and holidays. 

A third means by which this agenda is being implemented is informal education programs. The Libah Yehudit organization’s research uncovered many external organizations that are used to provide informal educational programs to Israeli schools. A vast majority of these organizations are associated with leftwing movements, while very few are associated with Orthodox Judaism. The Tali Foundation’s website proudly takes credit for developing the entire Jewish culture curriculum with Israel’s Ministry of Education. They are making a concerted effort to replace the instruction of authentic Torah tradition with the dissemination of anti-Torah, leftist values. 

The Libah Yehudit organization has found that many politicians in the right-wing and religious parties are unaware of these unsettling trends. As such, Libah Yehudit warns against complacency in the wake of the new right-wing, religious government that is currently being formed. To the country, with the advent of a ruling coalition with religious parties, the leftist movements are more driven than ever to fight to push their agenda forward, as they did during previous governments that included right-wing and religious parties. 

Facts on the Ground 

The liberal movements operate by slowly and stealthily creating facts on the ground, which then become very difficult to change. 

For example, government policy did not allow replacing on official government forms the fields for father and mother by “parent 1” and “parent 2.” Leftist movements managed to have this policy overturned by wielding influence in the IDF to have the official army forms changed. Once these forms were changed, government ministries followed suit, and started making these changes, as well. After all, a policy valid enough for the army should be valid for government ministries. 

The good news is that a majority of Israeli parents – even secular Israeli parents – oppose this anti-Torah agenda in the Israeli public schools. Just several months ago, a Knesset committee hearing was held, protesting the fact that Islam and Christianity were given more time and lessons in school than traditional Judaism, and that the Judaism being taught is leftist values camouflaged as Judaism. One of the main speakers chosen to speak at this special hearing was a non-religious Israeli Jewish mother.  

This silent majority is being outmaneuvered by the leftist movements, which are well-funded, have developed a careful strategy, and enjoy the sympathy and support of the academic community, the media and the courts. The Torah community is largely in the dark about these activities, which have therefore met with little pushback. Until now. 

The Lone Voices to Protect Us 

A number of passionate, determined activists in Israel who have long recognized this threat to the Jewish character of the Jewish State have now mobilized to confront it. 

The Libah Yehudit organization was founded in 2013 with the stated mission to strengthen the Jewish identity of the State of Israel – from the sanctity of Shabbat, to the sanctity of the Jewish family, to the sanctity of the Kotel. Recognizing the threats posed by those seeking to undermine the Jewish character of the State, Libah Yehudit set out to combat those dangers and ensure that the world’s only Jewish State remains connected to Jewish tradition and Jewish values.  

“The Reform want to make our Jewish country into ‘a country for all citizens’ without any Jewish identity,” says Oren Honig, director of Libah Yehudit. “If we do not fight back and involve the public, we will lose our Jewish country. For the Reform, the Kotel is the Archimedean point, the springboard to change the whole country. If their power at the Kotel is legitimized, they will demand authority over conversions, marriage, kashrut, and education.” 

Reform MK Gilad Kariv and the Reform movement understand that once they gain a foothold at the Kotel, they will gain control throughout Israel. Honig explains that the Reform are trying to attract the Mesorti movement (which parallels the Conservative movement here in the U.S.) and secular Israelis who do not understand the dangers of the Reform agenda. Large amounts of funding have enabled the Reform to advance their agenda in Israel’s government, the Israeli media, and in the Supreme Court.  

Libah Yehudit works tirelessly to inform the Israeli public and to obstruct this effort via various methods, such as extensive lobbying in the Knesset, and careful reviewing of proposed legislation. The organization’s Rosh Hodesh Kotel initiative recruits and provides buses for over a thousand yeshiva and seminary students, and men and women from all over Israel, to come to pray at the 7am shaharit service at the Kotel every month on Rosh Hodesh, filling the Kotel plaza. This prevents the monthly publicity stunt by the fringe “Women of the Wall” group from achieving their desired photo-op while desecrating the sanctity of the Kotel. 

Oren Honig consulted on the matter with leading Torah luminaries such as Rav Chaim Kanievsky, zt”l, and Rav Gershon Edelstein, shelit”a. These sages urged Oren to mobilize large numbers and fill the Kotel plaza in order to preserve the kedushah (sanctity) of the site. Through the organization’s hard work, buses brought thousands of men, women, yeshiva boys and seminary girls from throughout Israel who prayed peacefully at the Kotel. Their presence allowed no room for the “Women of the Wall” and heads of the Reform movement to execute their plans at the Kotel Plaza. 

“They Need to be More Involved” 

As founder and Chairman of Yeshivat Ateret Cohanim in the Muslim Quarter, Mati Dan has been working since 1977 to build up the Jewish presence in the Old City. He also recognized the threats of the Reform movement, especially its attempts to undermine the sanctity of the Kotel. Mati has spent the last number of years gathering a cadre of top-notch lawyers to advocate on behalf of maintaining the status quo at the sacred site. Facing off against leftist judges is a daunting challenge, requiring huge amounts of time, energy and legal fees. 

“The Reform do not come to pray; only to obtain legitimacy,” Mati explains. “Behind the Kotel campaign is their desire to start a revolution against everything that is holy in Eretz Yisrael – marriage, conversions, kashrut, and education. To fight against this, we need to mobilize Jews both in Israel and in the Diaspora who care and understand the Reform movement’s intentions and are willing to stop it. This involves PR initiatives to educate the public about who the Reform are and what their goals are. In Israel, there is very little knowledge of who the Reform are. American Jews understand. They need to be more involved and have a louder voice.”  

Mati is fighting the battle in the courts. When the “Women of the Wall” go to the courts to sue for the right to turn the Kotel into a Reform temple, Mati retains top lawyers to fight on behalf of the sanctity of the Kotel. 

“The Israeli courts are mostly liberal and have an agenda,” Mati explains. “If you do not appear in court, you lose. If you sit quietly, the judges will believe that the Reform demands do not bother people. If it really mattered to them, they would rise up and send 100 lawyers to oppose the Reform movement’s demands.” 

Mati warns that without waging a fierce battle in the courts, the Reform movement will succeed in defiling the kedushah of the Kotel and of Eretz Yisrael generally. 

A Call for Help 

Chayim Rabinovitz, director of SaveOurKotel.Org, who is helping to organize this campaign, is calling upon Orthodox Jewry throughout the world to support the efforts of Mati Dan and the Libah Yehudit Organization to fight against the woke leftists. 

“The only way to stop the Reform agenda is with true unity, with the Jews of Eretz Yisrael joining with Jews around the world,” Chayim says. He explains that if Torah Jewry comes together to help fund the efforts of Libah Yehudit, Mati Dan’s litigation expenses, and Libah Yehudit’s PR efforts, the leftists can be denied a critical foothold in Israel’s bureaucracy. 

“With the ahdut [unity] of all Jews for the kedushah of the Torah, the kedushah of the Kotel, the kedushah of Eretz Yisrael and the kedushah of the Jewish Nation, we can fight back and, b’Ezrat HaShem, be victorious.” 

SaveOurKotel.Org, Libah Yehudit, and Mati Dan’s initiatives are endorsed by the leading Torah sages of our generation. Both Chief Rabbis – Hacham Yitzchak Yosef, shelit”a, and Rabbi David Lau, shelit”a – have written letters endorsing the cause and urging all to contribute. 

The first of many scheduled meetings was held on November 20th  at Shaarei Zion With Rabbi Yaakov Ben Haim at the forefront, together with Rabbi Uziel Admoni. 

 

Rabbi Admoni stated, “If we do not take immediate action now, recognize the dangers of the reform, and take united actions by helping Libah Yehudit fight the evil anti-Torah reform agenda, we will cry later. The dangers affect the children in the U.S. as well, especially in the Yeshivot and via social media. We must join and help Libah Yehudit in the fight for Torah values.”

Funds are needed urgently for this campaign, and the activists are turning to us for our assistance and support. For more information and to donate, please visit saveourkotel.org.

Avi Abelow is a writer for PulseofIsreal.com and IsraelUnwired.com