Unto a land flowing with milk and honey—Exodus 33:3
Explaining why Israel is intrinsically wrong is not difficult. In legal terms, the foundation of the State was neither conducted properly nor finished even under its own askew definitions. In moral terms, the State of Israel was defined as “terror inflicting” by the UN. Theological analyses render a no better verdict; even by Jewish-Orthodox interpretations. The unholy alliance* between Zionists and Ultra-Orthodox Jews is shaking badly these days. Yet, this is not enough to draw the attention of the Western audience to crimes taking place in the Holy Land.
Last year, I read a statistic claiming that every American sees at least 2,000 assassinations in films until he graduates from school. Maybe that is what is needed for one to become insensitive; I cannot compete with that. In the day after Israel was shocked to discover that its Prime Minister took a nap that cost the public $127,000,** I cannot provide better mass-distracting gossip. Today, instead of commenting on big-issues, let me bring a small story of horror in the Holy Land.
Joseph Duvdevany The Holy Cow
Holy Cows in a Secular State
Duvdevany was featured today, May 14, in an article by secular Yediot Ahronot entitled “Righteous of Milk.” Informally, this can be understood also as “softly-righteous,” hinting at the central issue of this article, State discrimination against everything that is not Jewish-Humanist-Secular.
Joseph Duvdevany, note his Haredi-style sidecurls
Parasite?Keeping the semantics adopted by the abovementioned Hebrew newspaper, “moshav” can be defined as a “soft-kibbutz.” It is a socialist settlement, but unlike kibbutzim, they kept two reactionary ideas: family and private ownership. Thus, they were better suited to Ultra-Orthodox Jews, who tend to have large families. The political movement behind it, Poalei Agudat Yisrael, established 14 settlements, 9 of them are moshavim while 2 others are kibbutzim. Duvdevany is a third generation in the moshav, where he runs a familiar cowshed.
“Like my wife wakes up in the night to take care of the baby, I must wake up for the cows, I never sleep more than 4 hours at a time,” he said. Yet, this is not how the State acts against him.
His grandfather was initially member of Hapoel HaMizrachi, a movement of what today is known as Religious Zionism, an offspring of the abovementioned unholy alliance. Unconvinced by the Zionist rhetoric, he moved to the Haredi Poalei Agudat Israel and joined Moshav Beit Hilkiah. Joseph is 40 and has a wife and 9 children; he claims he lives in the small area between his cowshed and the nearby synagogue. Once a year, he takes a short vacation in the Galilee.
Beit Hilkiah Synagogue
“At the age of forty, I have fulfilled all the dreams I had, including the largest one: to be a cowman.” This statement is so unexpected that he clarified: “A cowshed in Israel has always been a prize. It was a gift given by the people in power to their friends. Labor gave to kibbutzim, Mafdal (a defunct Religious Zionist party) gave to the religious kibbutzim. If you didn’t have a political force behind you, you wouldn’t get the permit. Ultra-Orthodox Members of the Knesset fought for their colleges budget, not for cowsheds. I struggled, I turned the world upside down to become a Haredi cowman.”
He achieved that while in the 1990s most cowshed placed in moshavim closed; the system favored the larger, less personal, more industrialized cowsheds placed in kibbutzim. His strategy was to buy the quotas of other cowmen forced out of business until he accumulated a permit large enough to allow him to feed his family.
Trivial as this may seem, milk businesses in Israel are not innocent. A monopoly run by Tnuva, the high price of the cottage cheese, a staple in the local cuisine, was the trigger to the Social Protests that forced Netanyahu to call for early elections in January 2013, and to lose a significant percentage of his political strength. Duvdevany owns one of the few private cowsheds in the country. He is forced to sell his production, 2 million liters per year, to Tnuva.
He keeps the cowshed strictly by Jewish Halakha. He provided two examples of what that means. The first is that he never eats before having given food to the animals. That’s nice, but then he provides a reminder of the discriminatory practices of Judaism. He uses a “Sabbath Goy,” a gentile, to perform actions forbidden to him during Saturdays. This is wrong. If Jews think they should honor God by keeping the Sabbath, but corrupt others by entrapping them into the same blasphemy, they are sinning. There is no other honest interpretation. Yet, this is loose change compared to the way the secular State behaves towards him.
Secular Jews often refer to Ultra-Orthodox ones as “parasites,” due to the large children-pensions they get from the State. The reason for the apparent discrimination is that religious Jews have larger families. Duvdevany was clear on that: “Since when the children pension is a salary? It is a small help, nothing more. Lapid (Minister of Finances) was born with a spoon of gold in his mouth, I have 9 children to feed. Parenthood is not about money; it is about love.” There is more wisdom in his words than a million secular Israelis can probably utter in a lifetime.
“Parasites” refers to more than the children-pension. It is a reference to the fact that most Ultra-Orthodox Jews don’t go to the army. Also in this case, Duvdevany has a shocking testimony. “Are you talking about the army? Let me tell you about the army. I reached the army because I refused to sign that I was a Yeshiva student (these are automatically exempt; many of them are students only on paper). They wanted to put me in the Military Rabbinate. What is wanted? They forced me! Yet, I wanted to serve in the Tank Corps. They sent me to Zikim (a base related to the Tank Corps). It was Hannukah in a Shmita Year, thus we had no food. It was a hole near Gaza and I had a female-commander who didn’t stop cursing, dirty words that I had never heard before.” His colorful descriptions are easily believable, he describes the daily reality of a confused IDF.
His testimony is key, the recruitment of Ultra-Orthodox Jews to the army was the second issue that forced Netanyahu into early elections and his new secular government will soon attempt to enforce service. Duvdevany added: “Haredim can only be second class in the army, serving in exclusive ghettos built specially for them. They speak a cheap and ugly language that fits indecent places. The IDF is a place for people who request from one to shave nicely, but they don’t ask to keep a clean mouth. I have an 18-year-old son that grew up as a flower in the Yeshiva, do you want me to send him to the army and be spoiled?”
I am unlikely to accept Duvdevany’s way of life, or even his basic values. Yet, he is a positive man. He is giving everything for his family (some of his children were adopted) and his cowshed. He is everything the Zionists should encourage. Yet, he is a “parasite” and a “second class” citizen due to his beliefs. A Jew discriminated by the Zionists. Considering this, can Palestinians expect an agreement with the Zionists? Even if offered, could it be trusted?
* Jewish redemption is far from the Spiritual Redemption professed by Christians. Jews expect a physical redemption based on a Godly Kingdom in the Land of Israel. All the religious interpretations until the 19th Century didn’t leave any place to a Zionist party rushing to conquer Arab lands. That was the role of a future Messiah. Thus, any cooperation between Zionists and Orthodox Jews was impossible. Then a Maoist-styled Giant Leap Forward took place and things changed. Traditionally, the Jewish Orthodoxy believed that the abovementioned redemption would arrive in two stages. The early stage is called “Messiah Son of Joseph,” and would include the physical stages of bringing the Jewish people together; this stage is symbolized by a bull. The second stage is the “Messiah Son of David,” when a spiritual Messiah would restore the Kingdom of God.
This stage is symbolized by a donkey; Christian readers would immediately recognize Jesus triumphal entry to Jerusalem riding one (John 12:12-16). In the 19th Century, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, was one of the Orthodox Jews who created the base for cooperation between Zionists and Pharisees. What he did was simple, and is known as “Hamoro shel Mashiah” (“Messiah’s Donkey” in Hebrew, a book by this name was published in 1998). He claimed the secular Jews (i.e. the Zionists) can take the place of “Messiah Son of Joseph” as a collective entity, creating the base that would allow the Pharisees – the Orthodox Jews – to produce the “Messiah Son of David” in the new and secular state. It worked. The political alliance produced a state accepted by most Jews. Neturei Karta is one of the few Jewish groups that do not accept this unholy contraption. Yet, these days, the wheel is starting to turn backwards.
** On May 13, 2013, Israeli media said that the cost was incurred by having four walls and door installed around a double bed, as well as 22 business class seats fitted on a plane chartered from El Al, Israel’s national airline. The event took place while Netanyahu traveled to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral The aircraft cost about $300,000 to use, before the custom fittings, designed for a flight of about five-and-a-half hours. “Bibi is king, and in a monarchy, when the king and queen fly, price is no object,” said political commentator Sima Kadmon.
*** Halakha is the Jewish religious law, a body of legislation parallel to Muslim Shar’ia. Its most comprehensive text is the “Shulchan Aruch ” published by Yosef Karo in 1563. The name means “Set Table” and is the most extensive Code of Jewish Law. It generally follows Sephardi traditions. Shortly afterwards, Rabbi Moses Isserles published his notes to the “set table,” usually known as “mappah” (tablecloth). The combination is an acceptable way of solving liturgical discrepancies among the bulk of Jews, namely Sephardic and Ashkenazi.
Roi Tov is a graduate—among others—of Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition to his memoir, Tov is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Physics and other scientific journals. He won various travel writing and photography awards.
In his writings, he tries to reveal life in Israel as a Christian Israel Defense Force (IDF) officer—from human rights violations to the use of an extensive network of underground agents. He was recognized first as a refugee and subsequently as political prisoner of Bolivia.