Israel from the Inside with Daniel Gordis
Israel from the Inside with Daniel Gordis
"Am I Jewish or Israeli?"—One of Israel's most respected religious authorities believes Israelis increasingly feel they have to choose

"Am I Jewish or Israeli?"—One of Israel's most respected religious authorities believes Israelis increasingly feel they have to choose

A conversation with Rabbi David Stav, rabbi of the city of Shoham, founder of Tzohar, and once a candidate for Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel
Rabbi David Stav (Courtesy: The Tikvah Fund)

The current tumult in Israeli life is largely political, focused to a degree on the coalition that Prime Minister Netanyahu has assembled, and to a much greater degree, the judicial reform being pushed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin. But just underneath the surface, there are also seismic shifts taking place with religious identity in Israel, and those are our subject today.

In today’s episode, we speak with Rabbi David Stav, one of Israel’s foremost religious personalities. A nominee several years ago for the position of Chief Rabbi of Israel (but blocked by the ultra-Orthodox because of their objections to his embracing vision of Judaism), Rabbi Stav is the rabbi of the city of Shoham, the founder of the organization Tzohar, and an inspiration to many hundreds of thousands of Israelis from all walks of life.

Politics aside, how does Rabbi Stav see this moment in Israeli history? What about the political battles unfolding worry him not about the Knesset, but about the Jewish soul of the country? In a moving and far-reaching conversation, Rabbi Stav shares with us a Judaism in the Jewish state that could be different, more embracing, and key to unifying our country.

The link above will take you to our conversation, and a transcript follows below.

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Impossible Takes Longer, which addresses some of the above themes, will be published this April. It’s available now for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

We have been spending a tremendous amount of time in recent weeks speaking about current events in Israel. Normally, we don't do that. We talk about poetry and literature and history and art and a whole array of things, including some politics, some defense, some security, speaking with people from all different sides- Jews and Arabs and men and women and young and old and religious and secular. But as our regular listeners know, in recent weeks we have devoted an inordinate percentage of our time to trying to, first of all, understand the judicial reform or judicial revolution, depending on who you ask. And today we are still going to speak about contemporary Israel, but we are not going to talk at all about judicial reform because we've said, both in my conversations with Yaniv Roznai and with Micha Goodman, that in addition to all of what's going on in Israel legally, there is also something happening to Israeli society. There is something happening in the relationship between different groups of Israelis that is painful. That, to me, seems ugly. And I'm sitting with one of the most important people in the Jewish state who has been at the helm of founding an organization called Tzohar, which he will tell us about in a minute. Rabbi David Stav, who I will say more about in a minute. But I'm just going to share the opening conversation that he and I had before we even got started. He asked me, so how are you doing these days in Israel? And I said, I remembered that when my father passed away about seven something years ago, the best moment of the day was the moment between waking up and then remembering, because the rest of the day was sad. But there were at least these seconds, 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds I said at the beginning of the day when I didn't yet remember, and the world seemed brighter. These days, I said to him, and this is a completely true statement, I don't even get those seconds because I literally dream about what's happening in Israel in the middle of the night, and I find myself waking up in the middle of the night, thinking about it and having trouble falling back asleep.

Something, for those of us who love this country, is happening here. That is sad, that is worrisome, and there's really no one better to talk about the religious dimension or the shared society dimension of this than Rabbi David Stav.

Rabbi David Stav is the founder and chairman of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization. It's a rabbinical organization which aims to provide religious services to and create dialogue with the broader Israeli population. He also serves as the rabbi of the city of Shoham. For those of you that don't know Israeli geography so well, it's not too, too far from the airport. Not right at the airport, but not too far. Previously, he served as the rabbi of the religious film school Maale and was one of the founding heads of Yeshivat Hesder Petach Tikva. He is the author of “Ben Ha-Zemanim”, a book about culture and recreation in Jewish thought and law. He is one of Israel's most visible rabbinic figures, I would say most venerable and highly regarded rabbinic figures. Always on Israeli television and radio, lectures to a wide array of audiences and we have much more information about him in print on the dispatch that you got the link to this podcast from.

So, Rabbi Stav, first of all, it is a great, great honor to be sitting with you. I'm very flattered that you took the time to chat with us, I consider myself really a talmid of your Torah, read you regularly, listen to you regularly. Let's talk about Israeli society. When I said to you what I said about waking up in the middle of the night, then you said something as well so we're in the same place. So, I want to hear from you your assessment of what's happening here, what troubles you, what really is the deep problem in Israeli society. And then, of course, before we're done, we have to talk about how do we fix it.

Shalom to everyone. Shalom to you. Daniel and I really share the same concern, just like you. Before I will try to explain what really concerns me today in these days, I want to emphasize it didn't begin in the last two or three months. We are talking about deep process that is taking place already in the Israeli society for years. But I would say that the last two or three months gave a kind of a booster, gave a push to a process that we are facing this process for years and this is very much concerning. Before I will begin, I'll try to divide for our people that are listening to us to divide the Israeli society to four or five tribes so that we'll understand what we are talking about. Israel, I'm talking now about the Jewish component of the Israeli society because there is a fifth tribe that's the Arabic society, which is a very important tribe in the Israeli society, which has about 18 or 20% of the citizens in Israel. But let's focus for this conversation on the Jewish society. The Jewish society is basically divided to four major groups. One group is the group of the secular. I would use a word that is not politically correct. With your permission.


Secular Ashkenazi society.

Ashkenazi is not impolitically incorrect though secularism is an Askenazi phenomenon.

Correct. Secular Ashkenazi, which used to be the biggest tribe, the leading brand and actually used to be the majority.

And it was the founding tribe.

And that was the founding tribe of the state of Israel. No question about that. This tribe today has about 35% of the Jewish society in Israel. The second biggest tribe is the traditional, usually Sephardic tribe that has around 30% of the Jewish society and the rest of the society if we sum up 40 to 30, we have 30% left, which is divided between modern Orthodox religious Zionism and Haredi parties, Haredi people that have altogether around the 30% of the society.

How does it divide up inside that 30% between what we call modern Orthodox?

Basically 50% - 50%. Although we assume that in the next generation, in ten or 20 years there will be an increase in the Haredi society on the account of the modern Orthodox society. But meanwhile it's around 50 - 50. I mean, about 50% are Haredim and 50% are modern Orthodox and religious Zionists. Now, I want to add one more component to this conversation. Usually speaking again, we are generalizing, it's not 100% accurate, but usually I would say that out of the 40% that is the secular tribe of the Israeli society. I dare to say that I would not exaggerate if I would say that between 80% to 90% of them voted for the parties that are connected to the opposition. And in the other three parts that have about 60% of the Israeli society, between 80% to 90% of them voted to the parties that the coalition is consisted of. Again, it's just generalizing, just to make the picture clear to our listeners. And I would add one more thing. 90% of the taxes to the Israeli government are paid by the 40% that voted to the opposition. If it's 90 or 85 or 92, it's not important. But these are the people that basically are carrying on the shoulders the Israeli economy and many of them carry on the shoulders the IDF.

Although the modern Orthodox is very well presented.

Correct. And again, the Arabs that basically belong to this camp do not go to the army. The other side, the Haredi that are about 15% also do not go to the army. So, it's balanced more or less. But yet these are the ones that secret services are consistent of them. And the head of the Mossad, of the Shabak, the pilots, most of them are coming from this arena, social arena. Again, it's just to make the story simple and just to explain to our listeners what the challenge is. If you ask between these four tribes what is their identity? There are two identities that are now in struggle. Again, it did not begin with the judicial reform or changes. It did not begin with that; it began years earlier. But there is a battle between two identities in the Israeli society. You can call it democratic versus Jewish, you can call it Israeli versus Jewish. It's not the same, but they are very similar because I don't have to explain for religious people and even for traditional people their Jewish component of their identity is very strong versus the democratic values that are important but not as important. And for the secular Israelis, their democratic identity or their Israeli identity, the component of these areas in their identity plays much bigger role than their Jewish identity. They usually combine, connect between Jewishness and religious and therefore since most of them are not religious so for them the component, the Jewish component in their identity is usually very small, very little.

I'll just add, it's not our subject today but it does relate to your work in Tzohar that they associate Jewish with religious, and they associate it with a version of religion that is not inviting, that is very judgmental, that is not embracing so it makes it even more complicated.

Correct. But to be honest to the history we have to admit that again this process began before the religious Haredi establishment. I mean, the Zionist movement was based on a kind of a rebel of the sabra, of the strong Zionist secular identity versus the image of the Jewish boy from the exile. If you're in this podcast you are talking about the poetry, we know Bialik, the very famous poet that wrote about the yeshiva boy and it describes the yeshiva as a place of darkness. Very famous poem Ha-matmid that deals with the light actually has attracted everybody and took him from the darkness of the hall of the beit midrash of the yeshiva, the image of the sabra… and let's talk about it. We just passed the International Memorial Day of the Holocaust. For me as a younger guy that grew up in Israel to say that my father was a Holocaust survivor, it was a kind of embarrassment because in Israel the sabra image was that the people in the Holocaust went like sheep to be massacred. People were ashamed to tell their stories about the Holocaust because the image and the idea of Zionism was to raise here a generation of strong fighters etc.

Why do I share with our listeners all this? Because this situation today has increased the tension between these two identities and all of a sudden, the Israelis that never had to decide which identity they have to prefer because usually we know that these identities although they have a struggle between themselves but we try to balance between them. I'm Jewish and I'm an Israeli. Israeli is a democratic and a Jewish state. All of a sudden, the secular tribe has to decide which component do I have to prefer? Will I choose the Jewish identity, or will they choose the democratic Israeli identity?

Why do they have to decide now though, what's happened that's making people choose exactly?

Exactly. If we follow the last three months, forget the judicial reform. Just to sit and to look at ten proposals that were brought to the Knesset from stopping subsidizing Shabbat events in different museums, a program that was amazing for the Israeli society that accessed museums and other places of historical heritage of the modern Israel that opened these museums and different places to observe and unobservant people for free and access it to them. And all of a sudden, the minister says, no, we're going to stop it because we don't want to subsidize anything that works on Shabbat. Add to that the threat that if a woman will come in an immodest dress to the area of the Kotel, she will be taken to prison for six months. Add to that the bill of separation in all the wells and springs and natural parks, for people that don't want to be in mixed areas, et cetera, et cetera. All of a sudden, the secular Israelis feel that their way of life is threatened, and that the Jewish component of the society has taken over, which is legitimate, but now they have to choose, okay, do I want to be a part of a society that strengthened the Jewish component on the account of the democratic component? Add to that that these people already from the beginning their Jewish identity was questioned because a lot of challenges that the religious establishment has brought in front of them. And I will just raise one issue and that's before we talk about the Law of Return and conversion, let's assume first of all we have to know in Israel today, forget the issue of conversion, just the issue of all immigrants, including American immigrants. Every immigrant that arrives to Israel since 1990 has to prove that he is halachically Jewish if he wants to get married in Israel. Now, for most immigrants, they have no way to prove that they are Jewish.

Especially if they came from the former Soviet Union.

Especially if they came from the former Soviet Union where there was no Jewish life. But even if they come from America and they come from Reform or Conservative congregations or from unaffiliated families, then from who will they bring a letter that proves that he is halachically Jewish? Nobody will accept this letter. So, the Israelis that their identity was already questioned and threatened before and now add to that, the religious establishment gives a very hard time to everybody that wants to convert. The conversion in Israel is given to the very, very right wing that is very strict in the issues of conversion.

They won't even accept some Orthodox rabbis in America.

Oh, it does not accept, of course. Forget Reform and Conservative conversions. Many, I would say most of the conversions that are done in North America by modern Orthodox rabbis are not accepted in Israel. So, if that's the case and you want now to add restrictions on the Law of Return, all of a sudden people say to themselves, what's going on here now? The price that we are paying is in two levels. A) is the price in the hatred to religious and Haredi people, which is hard to describe. I was here in Israel a few weeks after the murder of Prime Minister Rabin.

It was largely in response to that that you founded Tzohar.

Yes, that's one of the consequences of this murder that we founded Tzohar. But I remember how religious girls or religious boys were ashamed to walk in the streets because they were afraid to be kicked out of the buses, not to be treated in a normal way as they should be treated in the hospitals in other places. The same scenarios occur today. Just last week, one of the very famous journalists has published how a religious guy comes to a bookstore in Tel Aviv and is kicked out from the store because he said, this store is not for religious people. Stories of Haredim, religious men or women that are kicked out from national parks because people say to them, we don't want to see you here. You're taking our parks, you're taking our money, et cetera, et cetera. These are events that the religious leadership, political leadership does not understand what is the damage they are causing to their own people because the hatred toward them in the current situation in the Israeli society is so deep and so high. But from my point of view, it's not only a question of hatred to people, it's hatred to Judaism as well. And that's the area that I could say I'm the expert in that. And I will share with you some anecdotes just from the last couple of days. I met a group of rabbis last Saturday night. One of the rabbi's wives, she's a doctor in Ashdod in Assuta Hospital. And the doctors she shared with us, doctors tell her we decided, forget buying passports from other countries, which is a phenomenon that we never faced in such big numbers, large numbers.

Just to make sure everybody understands-- it's Israelis who are eligible for passports for other countries going to the trouble of having a non-Israeli passport as some sort of backup. And that's become a widespread kind of insurance,

Yeah, kind of a guarantee.

It's become a pretty big deal in recent years.

Correct. Recent years and in recent months even more. But she tells me doctors tell her we decided not to make circumcision to our boys, to our babies that were born now because we don't want to have anything with Yiddishkeit and that's shocking for us in Israel. We knew that 95%, 97% of the Israeli society doesn't matter if you are observant or not observant used to make circumcisions to their babies without any questioning this issue almost not questioning. Not today. I hear from men and women that try to hide their religious identity when they go to work because they feel embarrassed to represent themselves or to present themselves as a part of the religious Zionist movement or as a part of the Haredi society.

So, they're experiencing in Israel exactly what they fled Europe not to have to deal with.

Exactly. And so, first of all, we have to understand that the current situation arrived to a peak that if our leadership will not understand the price of, I'm not talking politics, I'm talking from the Jewish point of view. If people will not understand that Jewish achievements could not be accomplished by using political power, which is a kind of opportunity now you are controlling you are governing next year that somebody else will be governing. Judaism should be accepted by good intention and by good will and should not be imposed on people. And the feeling today is that the religious political leadership is not looking for dialogue but is arrogant, is drunk of power and tries to take advantage of the political power to implement their views and their approaches without, we say in Hebrew, without taking hostages, without taking wounded and to be killers. And we don't understand we are going to pay a very big, very high price for that because there is a cost for every kind of such a behavior. And I'm not afraid that the Israelis would, most of them would fly tomorrow to Europe or to North America. A, it's not possible b for most of them they have families and they're not going to do that, but they're going to establish their segregate own communities and tribes, kind of a kingdom, cultural kingdom, what we call today in Israel the state of Tel Aviv versus the state of Jerusalem.

And we are experienced this two and a half thousand years ago we know how the story of the kingdom of Solomon and David ended up. And the beginning of this process was by splitting the kingdom to Judea and the kingdom of Israel. Now, if we recall, if we remember our history, we know that it started with issues of taxes. The King Rehoboam, the son of Solomon comes to Schem, the capital of Tel Aviv, the previous Tel Aviv if you translate this to modern society, he comes to them and he says well, we have to continue to pay taxes. Well, we need the taxes for the temple, we need the taxes for our needs. And they say to him, well, you have to reduce a bit of the taxes. We are paying most of the taxes because the kingdom of Israel was much richer, much wealthier than the kingdom of Judea and the same thing occurs today. That's why I mentioned at the beginning that the secular tribes, how do they feel that they have to pay the cost of the current government that shifts the money, instead of encouraging science, high education, et cetera, et cetera, to more and more religious studies, Talmud Torah studies. And not only that, but they could hear in the news that the Prime Minister tries to convince Haredi people don't send your kids to schools that teach English and mathematics. I will give you all the budgets you need. Just continue to do what you do in order to make sure that all the Haredi parties are running together so that we'll be able to pass the threshold again. Look at this event that took place four months ago. From a secular point of view, we need urgently all the forces to strengthen our economy. But the Prime Minister, for political reasons wants the Haredi society not to learn mathematics and not to learn English, not to involve them in the work market in Israel in order to strengthen his political situation for the second tribe. This is something that could not be received in a proper way, and I'm speaking politically correct, and that's why they feel that, okay, so let's separate, let's separate ourselves from you, okay? We will not leave the country, but Tel Aviv will be one country and Jerusalem will be the second country. Now, it's not going to happen practically, but it is happening culturally and it's happening socially. And this is not less dangerous than a political divide, because once we lose this solidarity between the tribes, it's the beginning of a collapse of our society.

Right. And you mentioned the David and Solomon model. It's worth thinking about for just a moment that David ruled in Jerusalem for 33 years, and then Solomon ruled for 40. So, the combined empire was basically 73, 74 years, which is exactly where we are right now. And people sometimes make similar calculations around the time of the Maccabim, the Hashmonaim 74 was not a good time then. So, we're really at a kind of a historical repeat now. I do want to get to in a minute, what do we do? In other words, how do we fix this? But in order to sort of sort of nudge us in that direction, I want to ask a question from the point of view of somebody who might say, from the point of view, let's say, of the National Religious group or in America what is called Modern Orthodox, even though it's not really exactly the same thing. We can just sort of use that term for right now. And they would say, look, I understand how off putting all of this is to the secular Ashkenazi world in Tel Aviv, and it's certainly unacceptable that a person wearing a kippah would walk into a bookstore and be told that you're not allowed to shop in this store. That is outrageous. But they might say, but isn't there some responsibility among the leadership of the secular Ashkenazi world that for the last 75 years has not really figured out a way to embrace Jewish civilization and culture, anything positive Jewishly, even as it advocated for a Western Jewish state? I mean, they would say that that 30% or 40% that you're talking about, that founded the country, really has no Jewish content. Or you mentioned Bialik before, right? You can't read Ha-matmid, which was the poem that we mentioned, or The City of Slaughter, or Al Hashita About the Slaughter. Bialik didn't have children, unfortunately. But if Bialik had had grandchildren and they were living in Tel Aviv today, the education they would have gotten in Tel Aviv would not have enabled them to understand their grandfather's poetry. They would say, yeah, he was famous. But I don't really get all of this. How do we also get that part? We're saying we have to get the religious community to be more tolerant, more embracing, stop grabbing power. But how do we get the secular part of Israel? I know that Tzohar has been involved in this tremendously but how do we get it to re-embrace the glory and the beauty of Jewish tradition without anybody telling them what to eat or what to wear or how to live?

First of all, I think you're 100% right. And Tzohar sees as one of its missions today to start having connections with different groups. I personally started a few weeks ago a project in Tzohar. We call it Hiburim – Connections in order to expose to the secular society, the beauty, the glory of what the Torah has to offer. I think that I cannot release them from responsibility for the tremendous failure in education to what they believe, forget to what I believe. To what they believe. The fact that you mentioned that today nobody in the secular education could read Bialik. Bialik is for universities. Nobody could read Yehuda Amichai, who is a secular poet from the mid 60s- 70s, and even him that he was secular, not like Bialik…

Tons of biblical references…

You cannot understand what he's talking about, because if he talks about Rachel, about Yitzhak, akedat Yitzhak (binding of Isaac), or other Jewish events, secular boys and girls have no clue.

It’s true with David Grossman, by the way, if you David Grossman's novels, they're interlaced with all sorts of biblical…

Of course, and that's why I'm not releasing them from responsibility. As a matter of fact, I met a group of one of the 70 people that signed a petition to the prime minister regarding the judicial reform. I said to them, look, you are very much against Avi Maoz and his nomination to take care of the contents of education. I agree with you. He's not a man to decide what should be the content, and I could understand very well why you don't want him to impose you about the content of the Ministry of Education. But it's time to raise the question how come none of your kids have no clue what is siddur? What is kriyat shema? What is Birkat Hamazon? What is the blessing on the food after you had bread? How come in everyday school in Europe and in South Africa and in New York, even if in reform and conservative, or wherever I go, I will see the youngsters that know they don't have to be observant, but they have the knowledge. And here in Israel? None. Almost 0% of the kids are talking again about the secular Ashkenazi, not talking about the traditional that see things at home, not because of education, because of their families they grew in. But it's unbelievable. And you have to understand that if you will not fill your wagon with a Jewish content that for you, you decide what it should be.

There is a very famous expression of Rabbi Sachs of blessed memory that says we shifted from being the chosen people to be the choosing people. But when you choose, you have to know what are the options. You don't access to your children to the different options, so they will know which part of their inheritance they want to take with them. You're 100% right. But when we pray three times a day and there is a Jewish custom to knock on our chest, when we ask Hashem, ask God, please forgive us for our sins, usually there is a habit to knock on somebody else's chest and not on ours. So, it's true, they have a lot of responsibility. I could analyze in a deeper way, in a broader way, in another time. But today our mission, you're 100% right, is not only to change the approach of the religious or modern Zionists, modern Orthodoxy, but to change the approach of the secular society, to tell them that if they will not do it, eventually, they will not be here, they will not survive in the Jewish continuity. You're 100% right.

Well, it's not only that, the state won't survive. You pointed out before that even with all the changes, they are the pilots, they're the ones on the Mossad, they're the ones that are doing the really high-level security work. In order to do that, you have to believe in the country. To believe in the country, you have to be able to say something about why the Jewish people matters. And you can't say anything about why the Jewish people matters if you don't know anything about Judaism. So, it's a national security threat.

Absolutely. And therefore, we in Tzohar, one of our projects, a new project, as a result of this current government, not to be political, not to say this side is right or the other side is right. That's not our mission. Our mission is to deepen the Jewish identity in a situation, in an environment that actually doesn't want to hear about it. Because the voices that all the protest is making in this last couple of weeks is leave us alone. We don't want to have anything with you until you fix the system, until you compromise with us, we don't want anything from Judaism. We don't want to do anything for our heritage we want this to be fixed. We understand and that's why we have dialogues with different leaders in the secular society that if they want to succeed as one of the tribes and we need them it's our responsibility and it's our need for us as a Jewish state that all the tribes will remain together. If we want this to happen, we need to connect them to Jewish values in a way that will inspire them, that will engage them, that will resonate with them.

That's a long-term project or at least a medium-term project we're in the middle of a crisis moment now, though so I want to, as we begin to wrap up our conversation to ask you two related questions for those of us who are Israeli, what can we do? Those of us who are not politicians and not in charge of anything, what can we do to try to heal this rift and to try to bring this moment of crisis to a close and to our listeners and many of whom are abroad, who care deeply about Israel, who know that they're not citizens and they're not all philanthropists. They're asking themselves, is there anything that I can do? But let's talk about Israelis first what can people like you, who do have the ears of people, the leadership of the country and people like me who don't have the ears of leadership of the country… What can we do to try to back away from the cliff, which is very dangerous and then what can people outside do?

On a very individual level, I think each one of us should today encourage people that are around him to meet each other, to talk to each other, to change the language that is now in the social media and in the demonstrations from all sides. You know, there is a very famous expression that the second temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred. But actually, it's not baseless I mean, there was big reason to fight different positions, political positions and today you are supportive of the judicial reform. You are against it. So why do we call it baseless hatred? The issue is the following- the rabbis called it baseless hatred. It's not baseless dispute. It's not a baseless debate. Of course, it had a lot of basis because there were a lot of reasons to dispute one another. But it was baseless to hate. The hatred is baseless. We should take our mission to increase love. And how do we increase love? We change the way we talk to our neighbors we change the way we talk to our friends and to our colleagues, we need to show love, concern and solidarity to each other. That's on the very, very fundamental level. On the second level, each one of us in the areas where he is influential should ask to more and more meetings between rabbis, authors, artists, performances that could be a bridge that will share values, that will inspire values to people that today are terrified. And I'm using the word terrified because today people do not distinguish between Rabbi Stav and I don't want to mention another name for them all the people with beard and kippot are terrifying.

Each one of the of us is intending to impose us and to change our lifestyle. No, you have to understand that people are not the same and alike. And people have shared different approaches among the religious group, among the secular groups. We need to expose each one of us to others. For instance, next week I'm going to meet with a group of high technology company of 400 people. And he asked me yesterday even to expose it by Zoom to other thousands of workers in a few other high technology companies to listen to a discussion with me in Hebrew about Judaism from goodwill and that Judaism by choice and that Judaism that is imposed on us, for instance. Take this as a challenge what values do we want to adopt from Judaism? And let's discuss it. I think we have so many sources that could inspire everybody. I'll share with you an anecdote and I think we have to conclude with this. I met former Prime Minister Lapid a few days before the elections and he said to me, “You know, Rabbi Stav, my rabbi is Rabbi Jonathan Sachs. When I read his books, I feel I'm inspired, I feel I'm connected, I'm engaged.”

I'm sure that there isn't one secular guy in Israel that if you will read the literature of Rabbi Sachs, he will not say to himself, well, this kind of Judaism I really want to expose myself to. I need to deepen myself. So let me tell you something. Rabbi Sacks is not alone. It's just a very pure and professional voice that represents a voice of hundreds of thousands of rabbis and others that feel that his way is their way, and their way is his way. And I think we have a lot to offer to the Israeli society that could stay together, that could love each other and could continue despite the differences and the debate that will continue. And I don't have any magic solution for all the debates. I know that there is nothing better to recover than love and concern and exposure to each other.

That's a vision of Judaism that it's hard not to embrace. And that's why you are yourself. You mentioned Rabbi Sachs, but I think it's important to note also that you are yourself revered by so many thousands of people across Israel because of the notion of a Judaism of love and embracing and intellectual sophistication and halachic seriousness and all of those things that you bring together. You are a source of great hope for those of us who share your concern. I wouldn’t say despair, but you're concerned at this particular time. So, for exposing our listeners to a new way of thinking about what's going on in Israel and for having them have an opportunity to meet one of Israel's most important and formidable religious personalities, I'm very, very, very grateful for and honored by your time today.

Thank you so much.

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Music credits: Medieval poem by Rabbi Shlomo Ibn Gvirol. Melody and performance by Shaked Jehuda and Eyal Gesundheit. Production by Eyal Gesundheit. To view a video of their performance, see this YouTube:

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Israel from the Inside with Daniel Gordis
Israel from the Inside with Daniel Gordis
Israel from the Inside is for people who want to understand Israel with nuance, who believe that Israel is neither hopelessly flawed and illegitimate, nor beyond critique. If thoughtful analysis of Israel and its people interests you, welcome!