Israeli Values Religious Voices

Letter 46 - Rabbanit Leah Shakdiel

To the State of Israel and all its inhabitants,

Do not go with the flow. Do not wait for a consensus. Do not stay within the camp. Think outside of the box. Step out of your comfort zone. Get out of, to be extricated. This extrication is called in French - to be the “Avant-Garde”, at the front. In order to go forward, and break the boundaries before everyone else. Just like the innovation of the Fringe theater, it is not possible within the binding conventions of bourgeois art. To dare and take risks, being willing to sacrifice and pay the price. To declare: “follow me!”, sweep others into action in the right direction. Mark a goal and strive for it, for everyone’s sake. Literally, this phenomenon began with the two and a half tribes, that were approved to settle on land on the eastern bank of the Jordan River, on the condition that they leave their families and their livestock there, while the men will join the war for settling the land of Canaan on the western bank, not only together with all the other tribes, but at the front of the camp. The original context was being the pioneer force in the war: “every man armed for battle, cross over the Jordan with you before the Lord”. (Numbers 32, 29)  

We need to extract this value from its context in the Torah and to test its implementation through the ages. We are the children of Abraham, who not only was extracted from his homeland and the house of his father in order to make a new path for his descendants, the path of “doing what is right and just” (Genesis 18, 19, he is Abraham, the whole world is one side and he is on one side. That requires heroism, spiritual and emotional courage, to act when needed as an individual or as a small minority, in order to prove the public like the prophet of apocalypse, or to set a personal example for the realization of a vision that is still perceived by many as a groundless imaginary delusion.

The value of pioneering has been renewed as a contemporary Zionist value, a leap towards the realization of the vision of a modern settlement of the Land of Israel towards renewed sovereignty of people on their land, without waiting that all the Jews in the world will accept this urgent act. The leader of the “Hapoel Mizrachi”, Shmuel Chaim Landau, called this action in the 1930’s “The holly rebellion”, following the call of the Rabbi from Kotzk for a small group of Jews to repair the world out of “Decadent fierceness”, courageous act of sanctifying God in public, not by death but by choosing life of faith. Our sages praised two historic rebelles and connected them together: Caleb Ben Yefune, who acted against the advice of the majority of spies and swept the people to fulfill the original plan and proceed towards the land of Canaan, and Bitiya the daughter of Pharaoh, who rebelled against her father's decree to kill the male Hebrew babies and actually saved baby Moses. What is the pioneering required from us?

In 1990, I participated in a joint program with Dr. Miriam Maryi, a Muslim woman from Acco, in order to demonstrate Jewish Arab coexistence in a society which is fed by violence of wars, incitement and hatred. Someone told us: “you are both pioneers”. 

May we all be swept away by something like that.


Rabbanit Leah Shakdiel

Rabbanit Leah Shakdiel, is an educator and social activist. She lives in Yerucham.

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