The Israeli concept of “status quo” is constantly evoked in matters of religion and state as if it were a true value and not a political gimmick exploited to justify social inertia and governmental paralysis. This illusory term is too regularly used as an excuse to avoid the hard work of nation-building that used to be associated with Zionism.
It is ironic that most of the current conflicts assailing the nation – both internally from rival Jewish religious issues as well as externally from the Muslim political world – stem from the original mistakes of two outstanding Jewish leaders: David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan.
Ben-Gurion was forced by the imperatives of establishing the state to grant the ultra-Orthodox special status with regard to religious affairs. He did not foresee the geometric transformation of a few hundred exemptions from military service for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students to the self-serving monopoly on religious observance imposed by the Chief Rabbinate.
Dayan was responsible for the decision to relinquish de facto sovereignty over the Temple Mount, which was indeed in our hands in 1967, to the Wakf religious trust, an institution linked with both the Palestinian Authority and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Dayan’s noble gesture was based on his ignorance regarding the religious significance of the Temple Mount for the Jewish people. He not only gave greater consideration to Muslim sensitivities, but reinforced the ongoing Arab ideology that still drives rejection of Israeli sovereignty over Tel Aviv, let alone our capital.
Ben-Gurion’s creation of the religious status quo some 70 years ago came in response to the same political blackmail employed to this day by ultra-Orthodox parties. To hold together Israel’s original coalition government, he was forced to promise that the state would follow religious law.
The religious status quo he established meant that marriages and divorces must be conducted according to the Chief Rabbinate’s interpretation of Halacha.
What is not acceptable is the denial of the legitimacy of other streams of Jewish affiliation, whose members are denigrated and accused of destroying true Judaism by violating the status quo. All Jews are affected by the ultra-Orthodox monopoly on conversion that denies the rights of hundreds of thousands of olim from the former Soviet Union.
These non-Zionist – and in some cases even anti-Zionist – politicians should be made aware of Jewish history, especially as the commemoration of the destruction of the Temples approaches. Tisha Be’av reminds us of what happens when Jews fight and unity is not preserved.
Ben-Gurion wanted the new state to have a constitution like America that would guarantee the freedom of religion. He was defeated by the same forces that prevail to this day.
The Muslim status quo is just as illusory, although its effects as expressed in ongoing terrorism and the frozen peace process are more readily apparent. The so-called “status quo” on the Temple Mount has been violated repeatedly, resulting most recently in a murderous terrorist attack carried out with weapons hidden in the al-Aksa Mosque.
The attack was perpetrated against a background that Dayan could not imagine: terrorists assaulting Jewish visitors to the Mount and Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall below; antisemitic hatred espoused by imams at al-Aksa; incitement by Palestinian leaders falsely accusing the Jews of plotting to destroy the Muslim Temple Mount shrines; the banning of prayer by Jews on the Mount.
As an archeology buff, Dayan would have been appalled at the Wakf’s vast and illegal construction projects on the Mount that destroyed centuries of Jewish historical artifacts.
Israel cannot accept the Islamist violence that has become the new status quo, nor the delusionary Palestinian-Islamic narrative denying the Jewish presence in Zion. This ideological status quo must be changed.