One of the unfortunate delusions that besets both our general and Jewish societies is that we are somehow advancing in an unbroken line upwards towards better times. We gaze triumphantly at all of the great technological gadgets and medical advances that give us such satisfaction and pride. In the Jewish world we revel in the new freedoms that we now routinely expect and enjoy and in our reviving numbers and material affluence.
This is certainly true of the Orthodox Jewish community here in Israel and in the Diaspora as well. But it is this very attitude and view that masks the true problems and difficulties that surround us. It should be fairly obvious to all by now that the Holocaust as a moral lesson and as an historical reminder is already very passé and irrelevant. Anti-Semitism, certainly in Europe, has reached the level of the 1930s.
No one is embarrassed to be anti-Jewish and anti-Israel. Just as Germany advocated and enforced boycotts against Jews and Jewish commercial establishments so too is this the tone of European society today regarding Israel and its economy. Just as Germany and Poland in the 1930s banned shechita and ridiculed circumcision and other Jewish beliefs and rituals so too is this wave of hatred cloaked in the piety of animal and human rights sweeping Europe today.
As far as the Jews are concerned, so-called democratic Europe has regressed to where it was eighty years ago – weak, feckless, and institutionally inimical to Jews and Judaism. Appeasement, though by a different name, is the policy of Europe and the United States to all aggressions. And, the United Nations is proving itself to be a worthy successor to the League of Nations in dealing with crises and armed conflicts.
In spite of all of our gains in other areas, generally speaking, the world has regressed in its policies and attitudes towards evildoers, haters and bigots.
In the Jewish world we are also witness to a tide of regression. The Jewish Left has apparently learned little or nothing from the events of the past century. It has whitewashed the Soviet Union, and demonized the American victory in the Cold War. It opposes Israel and its policies of self-defense and portrays it as the main obstacle to world peace and societal serenity.
It has nary a good word to say concerning traditional Judaism or the destiny of the Jewish people. Its political correctness stifles all dissent and it is relentless in its condemnation of Israel. It has learned nothing from the foolish unilateral withdrawals that have brought only grief and death to thousands of Israelis over the past twenty years.
The Arab world also has apparently learned nothing from the events of the past century. One cannot say that it has regressed to its original position of not acknowledging the existence of the Jewish state since it never has changed that position for almost seven decades. Only Egypt and Jordan are the tenuous exceptions to this mindset.
The opportunity for a Palestinian state existed in 1948, again in 1967, in 1991 with the Oslo agreements, with Ehud Barack’s proposals at Camp David and later with Ehud Olmert’s far-reaching concessions a decade ago. But, all to no avail.
So in effect, in spite of all of the efforts and optimistic statements and all of the pressure placed on Israel for more and more concessions, we have really gone nowhere as far as this so-called two state solution is concerned.
In my opinion, much of the Orthodox Jewish world has also regressed. For many members of this society and for many of its educational institutions, we are still living in 1920s Eastern Europe. It is as though the Holocaust never occurred and, if it is acknowledged, it is as though no practical lessons are to be learned from it. It teaches us no lessons to be applied in today’s society.
And certainly as far as the State of Israel is concerned, it is still embroiled in the battles over Zionism that so roiled the Jewish world a century ago. The reality of the existence of the State of Israel and that it is now the home of over six million Jews and that the Jewish future everywhere is inextricably bound to its welfare and success is completely ignored.
It revels in fighting battles that have long since disappeared from relevance. Constructing a fantasy world of false history, legendary biographies that have no basis in fact, and ignoring the moral and societal implications of the isolationist behavior of much of Orthodox society has created an enormous disconnect between it and the rest of the Jewish people.
Parochial interests, political power and the budgetary pie have created a regression from the nobility of Orthodox life of seventy years ago and returned us to the bitter divisions and internecine warfare of Eastern European Jewish life in the 1800s. One would hope that this disconnect can somehow be bridged before it brings complete disaster upon all concerned.