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Who is Marching for Israel?
It's the most important US event for the Jewish People.
We are living in grave and momentous times in the history of our nation. The largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust took place. 240 hostages are held in Gaza. Hamas threatens the long-term survival of the Jewish State - not directly, but because if Hamas is not defeated, Jews will not feel that Israel is a safe place to live, and our enemies all around will be emboldened.
We also, for the first time in over two thousand years, have our own army working to rescue the hostages and defeat our enemies. In order for that operation to be successful, we need international support, particularly from the US. We need to counter the many hundreds of thousands of people who have been rallying against Israel. And so today, there is a March for Israel in Washington DC. There have been rallies before - for Soviet Jewry, for other important causes. This one is for the safety, indeed the continued existence, of Israel.
Who is going to the rally? Jews from almost all walks of life, along with non-Jewish friends of Israel. Schools and shuls and communities. People are flying in from all over the US. Rav Hershel Schachter issued an urgent appeal for everyone to go. He pointed out that when he was in yeshivah, every time there was a war in Israel, they would all go and rally in Washington or at the UN. Accordingly, Yeshiva University and Stern College cancelled classes and thousands of students are going.
And who is not going to this tremendously important event for the Jewish People? The American charedi/ chassidic/ yeshiva community.
Don’t get me wrong. There are many people who are socially/ culturally part of the American charedi yeshiva community that are going. But it’s only those who are on the more “worldly/modern” side of it. It’s grassroots, not based on rabbinic directives from the top. The yeshivos are not going (with some rare exceptions, such as Chafetz Chaim); the hardcore yeshivish and chassidic community is not going; and the rabbinic leadership is not urging people to go.
The lay leadership of the Agudah is convinced of the importance of the march, but the rabbinic leadership is not enthusiastic. The Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah agreed to encourage participation, but their support has been tepid and apparently insincere. There was a Kol Korei urging people to davven yesterday, but not to join the march today. The only one of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah who gave an impassioned speech is Rav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, who said that it is “chazzer treif” to go to the march. Agudah Rabbonim are not urging their shuls to go.
In Lakewood, according to my sources there, there are some buses going. But the enormous yeshiva network is not going. And those who read about events in the Yated or HaModia may not even be aware of the event. In Monsey, it’s business as usual, with most people feeling no emotional connection. The number of people going, as one friend in Monsey put it, is less than the number of people who would go to Montreal to attend a wedding.
Why aren’t they going? The standard professed reason is that everything is in Hashem’s hands. Accordingly, our greatest power is in Torah and tefilla rather than rallies and marches.
But it’s bogus to claim that they believe that. Because the charedi community understands the political power of the masses very well indeed. Whether it’s protesting the overreach of the Israeli Supreme Court or the drafting of yeshiva students or secular studies in schools, or engaging in electioneering, they don’t rely on Torah and tefilla - they empty the yeshivos and go out in the tens and hundreds of thousands and rally!
So why aren’t they going to help Israel with the March? Because (A) they don’t want to validate an initiative that came from outside their community, (B) they don’t want to be part of a larger mission that stresses the achdus of a general Jewish identity rather than reinforcing a separate charedi identity, and (C) they just don’t care enough. The hostages are not charedi yeshiva people and nor are the soldiers; they’re not “our boys.”
This is Israel’s hour of need. There’s never been a more important time for achdus in Klal Yisrael. It’s a tragedy and disgrace that the professed “Torah community” is not a part of that.
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