Beit Midrash

  • Family and Society
  • The Israeli State and Goverment
To dedicate this lesson

The Status Quo


Rabbi Berel Wein

Israel and the Jewish people generally have been living with the concept of the status quo governing us for the past many decades. We have a status quo relationship regarding the official role of religion in Israel. We have a status quo arrangement regarding our system of elections and government since no basic constitution for our state has ever been formulated and adopted.

We live with a status quo relationship regarding the Arab world - a world that wishes to eliminate us but is unable to do so. It seems that all of the important issues in our national life are controlled by status quo arrangements and unspoken agreements that lets the status quo remain operative indefinitely. And, all in all, I think that this status quo arrangement has served us well over the past sixty-three years of our national existence as a Jewish sovereign state in the Land of Israel.

Our little country has grown and prospered, defended itself ably in times of war and developed innovatively and firmly. Poll after poll shows that a vast majority of our citizens are satisfied with their lives and that is reflected in an increasing life span.

The Arab citizens of Israel are not clamoring to become citizens of any proposed Palestinian state and the citizens of East Jerusalem show no inclination to willingly give up their blue card status as residents of a united city under Jewish control. And in many respects, the "occupation" of the West Bank by Israel is more ephemeral than real.

The UN condemned fence has proven successful in preventing terrorist actions inside Israel and serves only as a rallying point for the extreme Left that has nothing better to do on Friday afternoon except throw stones at the fence and the border police stationed there. In short, the status quo seems to be working quite well.

The status quo regarding religion and its place in Israeli society naturally has its detractors from both sides of the matter. Nevertheless, it is obvious that religion generally and Orthodoxy particularly has grown under the status quo. More and more religious Jews are seen in the forefront of leadership and governmental roles in the country.

And all of us who live here in Israel, whether consciously or subconsciously, feel that we are living in a Jewish state that maintains a Jewish life and allows us all to feel a comfort in being Jewish, a comfort level that exists nowhere else in the world. Naturally there are shortcomings in this status quo arrangement. There is plenty of room for improvement in religious-secular relationships, in the rabbinic bureaucracy and in overcoming of bigotry against other Jews who do not as yet conform to traditional practices or values.

But again, overall the status quo system regarding religious affairs has worked and it seems that only the agitators from both sides of the population, who continually attempt to undermine it in order to advance their own personal or organizational agendas, are interested in its demise.

The rabbis of the Talmud warned us not to destroy the old without first replacing it with something better. That should be our watchword regarding the religious status quo here in our country as well.

We are warned over and over again that the status quo cannot survive. Diplomatically speaking, there are tsunamis that await us if we don’t do something. What that something is has not been clearly defined by anyone. In effect Israel has been negotiating with itself for the last twenty years, a process that has not brought a settlement of the core Israeli Jewish - Arab Moslem conflict any closer to true resolution.

In our impatience to do something, we seem willing to do anything. But it is slowly dawning upon us that the status quo situation of the last sixty-three years may be destined to exist for many more decades until truly fundamental changes to the mindset of the Arab world occur. This is a long haul struggle not given to instant panaceas and false handshakes.

To those who claim that the sky is falling and that the current status quo cannot go on any further we should ask them "Why are they so convinced of this?" All predictions made over the past sixty-three years regarding Israel and the Arabs have proven to have been wrong. And over the last twenty years, from Oslo through Gaza, all promises of accomplishments and success have been empty ones. So maybe the dreaded status quo will have to suffice for us for some more time into the future. Most of life is status quo. Let us make the most of what is given to us at hand.
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