Friday, December 19, 2008

"Why Israelis Love Chabad"

I just came across this article by Yossi Klein Halevi--Why Israelis Love Chabad: An unusual outpouring of emotion for an unusual ultra-Orthodox sect:
...Since the Mumbai massacre, there have been calls here for the Israeli government to subsidize security at Chabad houses across the globe, seen by Israelis as extensions of home. "Our Chabad," summed up one headline on an Israeli news web site. The warmth with which so many Israelis have responded to Chabad proves--along with the growing popularity of prayer lyrics in Israeli rock music and of informal "secular" prayer groups spreading in Tel Aviv and elsewhere--that large parts of Israeli society may be entering a post-secular phase.

Still, it is doubtful the country would have reacted with the same emotional intensity had the Holtzbergs been ordinary ultra-Orthodox Jews rather than Chabadniks. Mainstream Israelis resent ultra-Orthodox Jews for separating from the state and its obligations even as they demand that it subsidize their separatism. Chabad neither separates nor demands, but gives. Israelis encounter Chabad's embrace most often abroad. When our young people just out of the army travel the most remote corners of the world (because military service doesn't provide enough dangers and thrills), they invariably encounter a Chabad house.

Israelis also love Chabadniks for their courage: Rivkie and Gavriel weren't yet buried when Rivkie's father announced his intention of taking over their work in the Mumbai Chabad house. Though few Chabadniks are drafted into the army, they don't avoid danger zones: Chabad activists rush to the front lines during war, providing religious services and dancing with soldiers to raise morale. One friend told me about her sister who was serving in a border post so sensitive that a visitor required special permission from the general in command of the front: "And then who shows up on Hanukah with jelly donuts? Chabadniks."
Read the whole thing.

Which leads to the next question: why only Chabadniks?
We should all be able to reach out to each other.

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