Laws and Israeli society

Some years ago, I wrote a blog in the Jerusalem Post about “Lawlessness and Faith”. It was a time when the Palestinian authority was supposedly going through a full mess with regards to legal authority, laws, rules and regulations. By the same time, the Israeli press was a bit concerned about a sort of “unforgivable look of our Israeli society”. Laws and faith principles seemed to definitely be unmatchable at that time.

This sense of an “unforgivable society” has progressively grown over the past five years into soft to strong and stiff breaches made of fences, walls, borders or “gevulot/גבולות ” for each portion or segment of the society. We must be aware that this does concern the Jewish part of the society that pathetically and frenetically looks for it real identity and “points of openness”. it also directly concerns the whole of the Arab Israel or Palestinian societies. Then come some specific segments of ethnicity, such as the Ethiopians or the former Soviet immigrants who recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of their mass arrival in Israel.

The State of Israel was granted, given two major profitable capacities on the verge of its Independence and, beforehand, by the time of the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate. The immigrants mainly came firstly from the Russian Empire. They had no experience of any sense of legal rules and decent legal system in the Tzarist Empire. Moreover, in the different countries where the Jews were scattered in autonomous shtetlech – שטעטלעך/villages, the internal laws of Judaism was powerful enough till the period of the Enlightenment to secure the cohesion and security of the Jewish people and identity within the framework of the so-called Yiddishkayt/יידישקייט – /Jewishness.

Upon their arrival in Palestine, the Jews were not educated, trained to be agricultural workers, swamp cleaners, fight the various local diseases or even get to their correct mind because the language was only on the process of a revival that was hard. This shows at the present how much Israel as such is a miracle. It should also call the inhabitants to more respect for the land, the language, food, creativity and the individuals.

In the beginning of the years 1920es, the German decided to come up en masse to Palestine and among them a great amount of very proficient and insightful lawyers and judges. I often say this is a great portion of the specific Jewish religious background: the Jews often chose – also for other reasons – to be doctors (to heal), in the professions of the Word (Arts, theater, press, media, films,…) and the Law (lawyers, judges, defenders, advocates,…).

It has certainly be a highly positive feature for the State in the pangs of birth that these lawyers were trained to European lawfulness, rules and regulations, both adapted to Latin and Anglo-Saxon codes as also German way of thinking. It made Israel a strongly legal country to begin with; when defects show, there is a sort of reaction that conducts the State to vehemently and drastically combat the tendency to corruption or disorder.

This is a dual heritage: German spirit spread among most of the European Jewries is thus combined with the deeply rooted vocation to show the Divine Presence of the Master of the Universe. Jewish faith is founded, grounded in a very moving way in the profound desire to correct the faults, imbalance, misdeeds, unrighteousness of human beings toward each other and even to the creation as a living reality.

At the moment, the State of Israel has chosen not to have a specific secular right and law system. Still, the secular law exists as based on a very strong British influenced system. On the other hand, Israel has decided to recognize the Jewish traditional halachic and rabbinic rules and regulations, also the ecclesiastical rights developed over the centuries by the 13 official local Christian Churches and the Islamic right. In fact, each person or group can appeal to be judged according to their specific traditional right in force. This is so far possible for the Mormons…

On the other hand, it may lead to a full absence of regulation or disrespect of the law. This is, firstly, a cultural attitude: the Middle-East is obsessed by JUDGEMENT and RIGHTEOUSNESS and this can be read throughout the Bible and the New Testament. Still, these laws, in terms of Semitic language and practice mainly consists to regulate the society through caring and acute listening and “barriers” that would prevent the members of the society to infringe social order. The Israeli society speech sounds obsessed by two words: “is it forbidden or allowed / האם זה אסור או מותר ? Intriguingly, the order of the words is important: what is forbidden to begin with and then what may be permitted!

The same phrase and way it is put into words only exists on a permanent speech basis in the Russian and former Soviet language system and this should be taken into account accordingly (“Разрешается ли или запретшается?”). The idea is directly rooted in the heritage of the Biblical and Talmudic language and cultural habits but it would rather difficult for the moment that the Eastern Orthodox Churches would admit such a common background with the Jews.

The manifold existence of various legal systems in Eastern Europe and the Slavic areas (Russian Empire and other connected States) obliged to the Jews to be pretty much aware of the fact that nobody would defend them or come to their legal assistance. The example of the Beilis blood libel trial (Kiev 1910), the previous pogroms, the full mess during the Ukrainian civilian war (1917) as also the different murders committed in the Ukraine, Belorussia and Poland, but also the most criminal attitude of Mgr. Tiso in Slovakia could only convince that Jews can be useful but that they are mainly butchery stuff to be slaughtered in case.

It is therefore a miracle that some Border Jews as David Ben Gurion, Zeev Jabotinsky, and most of the launchers of the Zionist settlers could come and build the embryo of a state as they all were perfectly aware of this total absence of legacy in the countries were they had been educated. At this stage, education consisted in a constant twisting between right and truth, error and fault, trespass and crime, search for righteousness and justice then twisting again with reality and social rules.

The former Soviet wave that arrived in Israel by 1990, “fled” or decided to choose Israel as their historic Jewish homeland for different reasons. Twisting appeared at all levels in the coming of citizens that fled economic collapse, lawlessness over the ancient Soviet republics, anti-Semiticism or a good way to buy some sort of freedom away from a locked and blocked fraternal and full of hatred groups of nations and nationalities.

I accompanied former President of Moldova (Petru Luchinschi) during the celebrations of the Millenium. We had very nice conversations and as we were visiting different places, he told how worried he felt that the “whole of the Jewish Moldovan/Bessarabian/Moldavian nationals had left for Israel, in particular his hair-dresser… and he was ready to give the Moldovan citizenship to all that would accept. In fact, our discussion was more dealing with a short of final hemorrhagic process that showed how the Jewish spiritual flavor has left Europe and the Romanian-Ukrainian-Moldovian coasts where they had been present over more than 2000 years.

In this view, Israeli FM. Avigdor Lieberman is not only a former Soviet politician educated in the wake of a specific system. The Soviet and Communist political staff were and remain of great quality and this not be denied. They are still leading a lot of countries in Central and East-European, if not Germany. I would say that it should be required to read the account of the Beilis trial or Malamud’s book “The Fixer”. The survival of the Jews in the whole region that commences in actual Romania and continues along Bessarabia, Moldova and the Ukrainian is to be considered as one of the most unbelievable events of the 20th century. The Jews who lived in this micro-poly-segmented society composed of Romanians, Romas, Gagauzes, Turkish people, Tatars, Jews, Ukrainians, Russians with other sub-groups have indeed brought to Israel special competences in the fields of business, commercial development, international abilities.

Once they chose Israel as their homeland, no doubt that former Moldovan Jews would either tend to assimilate and take advantage of the possibilities offered by their new country or to defend the country in a very strict way, which is not the general Russian or former Soviet way that can be “mild”. As people from the “borders”, they have face too many experience of rejection, hatred, denial if not deportation and murders.

On the other hand, Israel has to exercise this very strict control of the life of its citizens. Indeed, they might (despite some sort of natural goodwill) tend to act as they had been taught and used to act in the former Soviet Union and their satellites. I would not pretend that the Foreign Minister is guilty or not-guilty or partly guilty… for the moment, in the absence of any conclusive trial, he should so far be considered as innocent according to the common law in force. It is far more difficult in Israel and there are different waves that try to tzunamize political life and certain segments of the recent aliyot/immigrations, especially if they could make their way in the Israeli society and system, which is not obvious.

In daily life, I see very convinced faithful (Jewish and/Christian/Orthodox) that simply choose in a very natural way not to cope with the Law in force. This can deal with business, accounts, money but also marital life, education of the children, acculturation inside of the Israeli society. This also deals with Judaism because some people could not really prove their Jewish backgrounds and got it on a margin way. The Christian Orthodox would never show any certificate of baptism because their baptism proceeds in a normal very Slavic way: their direct connection with God. People are in panic when I ask the copy of their Identity card and eventually their certificate of baptism. They would never think that they ALL gathered with much precision or willing absence of evidence all the required papers to show that they did have a link and right to be given immediate Israeli citizenship and civilian rights without knowing a word of Hebrew… They then hurry to show the documents.

This legal aspect of Israel is also important in this view. Along the decades, hundreds of true Christian faithful have disappeared in the sands that changed into green slopes of the Negev. The recent former Yugoslavian immigrants were special: they usually can show both Jewish papers from a synagogue and a certificate of Eastern Orthodox baptism from a valid Church. The Churches were not ready to face this situation and legal quest. The absence of legal conscience and decent behavior by the concerned faithful endangers the credibility of their testimony. Legacy is also a threat for the believers and constitute a temptation for the Churches and the faithful. It often maybe an element not to recognize the State of Israel to enter the State and then dazzle around without real legal status.

The major problem is RIGHT and LEGACY, i.e. the capacity, in politics, religion or any social behavior to recognize and certify that the State of Israel exists to the full, with its very diversified legal systems. They may be confusing, but they view to recognize who each citizen or inhabitant is and gives to each the opportunity to behave accordingly. It may be a very very long path.

av aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)

April 14/1, 2011 – 10 Nisan 5771 – 11 Jumada al-Ula

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