For over a decade, Moshe Feiglin, a Jewish Press weekly columnist, has been working toward becoming prime minister of Israel with the aim of “turning the state of the Jews into the Jewish state.” He still has ways to go, but on February 5, he advanced one step closer when he was sworn in as a Knesset member for the first time.
Ahead of a dinner celebrating his victory in the Chateau Steakhouse in Queens, NY on February 25, MK Feiglin spoke to The Jewish Press.
The Jewish Press: You’ve been trying to get into the Knesset for a long time. Now that you’re in, what do you hope to accomplish?
Feiglin: I hope to advance the concept of Jewish leadership to the state of Israel – a state that is based on its Jewish identity and not just the concept of survival.
What does that mean?
One example is the two-state solution. If you understand that we came back to Israel after 2,000 years of exile to achieve a goal and not just to survive, then you understand we need the whole country. We long for Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, Schechem, Chevron – all these places that connect us to our identity.
When the goal is survival, Tel Aviv is enough. When the goal is to create a special society that carries a message to the entire universe, then questions like [surrendering land to the Arabs] are not even considered.
You often write that you want to create a Jewish state. For some people, this means a halachic state.
No, I’m talking about something much, much wider. I’m talking about making the Torah part of our culture.
Some people argue that a Jewish state means a state where Torah law reigns supreme – with police enforcing the laws of tzniyut, for example, as they do in Iran.
No, nothing can be forced. The whole concept of force is against Judaism because Hashem tells us, “U’bacharta ba’chaim” – you should choose, and if you’re being forced, you cannot choose…. The difference between Judaism and Islam is exactly that. God wants us to choose between life and death. Therefore, the whole concept of force is totally irrelevant.
Are you saying there was no force in the times of the Bayit Rishon or Bayit Sheini?
I’m saying that this is what we need today – a state that carries a message of freedom.
A number of years ago, you wrote that Israel should make Sunday a day off like it is in America. You argued that Israelis who love soccer, for example, would gladly move all professional soccer games from Saturday to Sunday and possibly observe Shabbat if Sunday wasn’t a workday.
That is a good example of how to build a modern Jewish state that gives its citizens the capability to have a real Shabbat even though they’re not religious right now. What we need to do is to be more open and give Israelis the ability to be who they [truly] are. If you give them the opportunity to choose, most of them will choose the right thing.
Some people would claim this argument is silly since Israelis are, by and large, secular.
I think they’re totally wrong. When you ask Israelis what they are first – Jewish or Israeli – more than 80 percent say first of all, and above all, they’re Jewish. When you ask Israelis to describe themselves, only 19 percent say they’re secular, 50 percent say they’re traditional and the rest say they’re dati or haredi. So those who say that [Israelis are secular] don’t really understand where Israeli society is holding.
In your articles, you often write about the importance of building the Beit HaMikdash, calling it “the direct link between the Almighty and His world” – a place that allows us “to synthesize between the physical and spiritual…to create a life of harmony between the two.” Your average Orthodox Jew, though, believes we must wait for Mashiach to build the Beit HaMikdash. You evidently don’t agree.
We just read in last week’s parshah, “V’asu li mikdash” [“You should make a Sanctuary for Me”]. It doesn’t say “V’asu li haMashiach mikdash”[“Mashiach should make a Sanctuary for Me”]. “V’asu” means the people of Israel. So what can I tell you? It’s written clear and simple right there.