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    IN SEARCH OF GOD -יוצאים בשאלה

    0 תגובות   יום שני, 29/2/16, 11:56

     IN SEARCH OF GOD

    במסגרת התנדבותי בהלל יזמתי כתבה זו שנכתבה על ידי אסתי אלירז ואביאל שניידר בעיתון ISRAEL TODAY


    More and more young people educated in yeshivas (seminaries) are leaving their way of life. In a three-part documentary on Channel 10, reporter Avishai Ben Haim throws light on the spiritual conflicts within these strict religious communities. Today, more ultra-Orthodox Jews are turning their back on their upbringing than secular Jews coming to religion "Thousands of young men and women are leaving their ultra-Orthodox families,” Shiloah, who lives with several other former religious Jews in Jerusalem, told us. “There is one in every household who turned secular.” Secular does not mean atheist; they cling to faith in God but in another way. “My God is a new God; He walks with me and has nothing to do with the god of Orthodoxy,” Benny Bollak, 25, told Israel Today. “For me, god used to be a kind of master whom I was not allowed to contact on my own. Today I speak to Him directly.” Bollak left the ultra-Orthodox fold five years ago and is not in contact with his parents. He also uses the terminology of “murdering” the old god of the ultra-Orthodox. Not just killing but murdering! Like so many others, he is searching for a God of love. “I am a born again person,” he declares, giving credit to the Hillel movement.

    Hillel: The Right to Choose

    Hillel is an Israeli organization providing social, psychological and financial assistance to former ultra-Orthodox Jews on their journey of faith. Its motto is: Everyone has the right to choose. Currently, Hillel (www.hillel.org.il) is helping more than 600 people in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. These individuals want to study what they missed during their youth. Ultra-Orthodox schools only teach the Torah and Talmud (the Oral Law and rabbinical commentary). There is no math, English, civics or science. “The Orthodox community has no idea how deep the spiritual breach is,” says Avi Tapilinsky, a former ultraOrthodox rabbi. “They say we have no meaning or spirituality in our lives and we have no soul. But we have God, wehave Shabbat [the Sabbath] and we even have girlfriends now.” Mirell Eckstein, 33, is a former member of the anti-Zionist Satmar sect. “I was always aware of being forced to lie,” she told Israel Today. “I could never say what my heart felt. We were not allowed to open the Bible and read it by ourselves.”Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community stands at about 1 million people, some 15 percent of the total Jewish population of 6.4 million. They are represented by two parties in the Knesset: Shas and United Torah Judaism control 13 seats in the 120-member parliament. The ultra-Orthodox population is growing much faster than the secular: They average five to 10 children per family compared to just three for nonreligious Jews. And they have vowed to use their large families to make them the majority in Israel one day. However, there is also a reverse trend. According to a survey by the Central Bureau of Statistics which questioned 157,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews, 12,000 said they are no longer religious. It starts at a young age. Among 15-yearolds, 10 percent said they have left the ultra-Orthodox fold. “One of every 10 ultra-Orthodox Jews is becoming secular, and within the national-religious camp, one person in four enters the secular world,” Ben Haim noted in the documentary. Ultra-Orthodox media dismissed this as nonsense, saying their way of life is not falling apart, and on the contrary, their communities are getting bigger and stronger.But in the TV report, Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi admits that the movement is shrinking. “It is true, many ultraOrthodox Jews are leaving the path,” he said. “More are leaving than are coming in.” Ironically, this also applies to the second generation: Children whose ultra-Orthodox parents were originally secular are returning to the very lifestyle their mothers and fathers left behind. For example, a close friend of mine became religious during his military service and today has eight children. A year ago, we sat together in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem. With tears in his eyes, he told me that his four oldest children had become secular and were serving in the army.

    Smartphones Are of the Devil

    Yehuda Moses, the son of ultraOrthodox Knesset member and Rabbi Eliezer Moses, left the fold along with his sister. He draws a parallel with the revolutions of the “Arab Spring.” “In the past, ultra-Orthodox Jews were cut off from the outside world,” he explains. “Today, everyone owns asmartphone and has access to the Internet. Those who want to stay dumb will stay dumb. Whoever is curious will satisfy his curiosity. That’s our Orthodox Spring!” So in the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox, the Internet, smartphones and military service are all of the devil and lead people straight to hell. Rabbi Eliezer Moses refuses to talk about his son Yehuda, but he does discuss his daughter’s departure from religion. “What happened to my Heidi is an accident in her life,” he laments. “I love her very much and also her children. It pains my heart. But I will not sit shiva about it.” It is common for ultra-Orthodox parents to sit shiva, the seven-day mourning period for the dead, over the “apostasy” of a child. This is what happened to Avraham Ferster, 40, when he, his wife and eight children left the strict cloister of the Belzer sect. Ferster had been the most popular radio host on the ultra-Orthodox scene in Israel. “I have not left Orthodoxy out of duress but at the peak of my career,” he told the Jerusalem weekly Yerushalayim. “I was somebody. Because of that I do not regret my new path.”It was a bombshell in the ultraOrthodox world because Ferster was a star—and the change was startling. He described how he started to question his life and realized that something within Orthodoxy did not make sense. His wife Zahava came to the same conclusion. Overnight, they picked up and left their religious neighborhood and today, two of their children are serving in the army. Despite the grief caused to his family, Ferster says he “never looked back for a single second.”Secular Jews with an Orthodox past often display the kind of intelligence and savvy that can open doors into the top echelons of politics and society. Some examples are the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, poet Haim Bialik and Russian Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. They all had an Orthodox background but turned into secular Jews who played important roles in the formative years of the State of Israel. Perhaps a new political leader will arise from the circle of former Orthodox Jews in Israel, who can guide the country in a new direction. 

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