A group of more than 100 moderate Orthodox rabbis assembled last week to announce the formation of Beit Hillel, a forum intended to provide a response to the extremist trend within religious Zionism.
“We mustn’t let the extremists do to Religious Zionism what was done to the face of Ruthie Fogel of Blessed memory,” said at the event Science Minister Professor Rabbi Daniel Hershkowitz, referring to a recent issue of a religious Zionist publication put out by the Meir Institute, which blotted out the face of terror murder victim Ruthie Fogel, apparently for the sake of modesty (see article image).
The rabbinic get-together was studded with Religious Zionist stars such as Rabbis Yuval Sherlo, Yoel Bin-Nun, and Amnon Bazak.
“We want to establish the clear voice of Torah, which is compared to water, A Torah which people thirst and yearn for, and don’t twist their noses every time it is mentioned in the public arena,” said at the forum Rabbi Haim Navon, a congregation rabbi from Modiin who also teaches in several religious Zionist yeshivas.
Rabbi Navon added: “We didn’t come here to be nice, or to find favor in anyone’s eyes, or to say things people would necessarily enjoy hearing. We wish to make demands on Israel’s society, but in order for these demands to be heard, they must be phrased in a language this society would understand.”
This week, Rabbi Haim Navon emailed the Jewish Press a kind of manifesto describing the aims of the new forum:
“Recently, the Torah has been presented to the Israeli public in a superficial and misleading light. The Beit Hillel Forum was established by a group of rabbis who believe that this is not the true face of Judaism. We believe in the eternity of the Torah of Israel and are completely committed to Jewish Halacha. In our view, only Judaism in its true, illuminating form, with its “paths of pleasantness,” can deliver a meaningful message to today’s Israeli society.
“We believe in incorporating women in public leadership roles. In this spirit we chose to become the first Orthodox rabbinical organization to open its doors to women. We’re not talking about ordaining women rabbis, but learned women will find a home in Beit Hillel, alongside congregational rabbis and Torah teachers.
“We see ourselves as inseparable from Israeli society. True, on occasion we are critical of the manner of public discourse in Israel, but we express our criticism with love and empathy.
“We are devoted to the State of Israel, and think that its continued existence and success are essential to the development of the Jewish nation. We disapprove of attacks on the Zionist vision, which come from a variety of sources within Israeli society.
“We view positively the modern world with its innovations, as long as those fit the Torah of Israel. In our view, secular studies are essential to becoming a faithful Jewish person in our generation.
“We believe that the ideas we present are accepted by the majority of the religious Jewish public in Israel, which function as full partners in the State of Israel and in Israel’s society. We wish to give our voice to this silent majority.
“Our sages taught that the rabbis of the historic house of Hillel treated even their ideological foes with humility and respect. Likewise, we have committed to an open and attentive dialog, even with speakers with whom we disagree.”