The New Israel Fund has long been demonized by the political right of Israel to support groups such as Breaking the Silence and B & # 39; Tselem, who oppose the occupation. Now the controversial image of the NIF is armed in another conflict – the ongoing struggle by the right wing of the national-religious camp against groups that promote tolerance and pluralism in orthodox Judaism.
A new campaign entitled "Religious Zionism in the Reticle", launched this week by the NGO Chotam, shows activists of pluralism and those in the Orthodox community in favor of "infiltrators" – and part of a larger NIF conspiracy aimed at "erasing the State of Israel from a random Jewish character and turning it into a state of all its citizens." The campaign aims to make a person or organization of the national-religious camp that receives NIF support as not being welcome to declare community, and says the orthodox world should "break ties" with them.
Central to the campaign is a provocative, two-minute animated video with the message: "Do not let the Talia workers come close to your head: Orthodox Judaism must sever the ties to the new Israel fund."
The video is set in "Talia & # 39; s Beauty Shop" with a sign: "We will keep our heads above water!" The owner: Talia Sasson, president of the NIF. It opens with a bride who walks in. Sasson leads her to two stylists of the store – identified as Dr. Hannah Kehat, founder of the Orthodox feminist group Kolech, and Batya Kahane-Dror, head of the non-profit Mavoi Satum, who assists agunot (women who have been refused a Jewish divorce).
She leans towards the bride and speaks to her against an orthodox marriage halakha (traditional Jewish law), and a civil partnership agreement in their hand. When she is ready, she is transformed: she no longer wears a wedding dress and has replaced a veil with sunglasses.
The next customer: a bat-mitzvah-girl, who is sent to & # 39; stylist & # 39; Tehila Friedman, former head of Ne & # 39; emani Torah V & # 39; Avoda – a group that promotes the values of tolerance, equality and justice in the religious society & # 39; Friedman forces a chicken on the head of the girl and a tallit on her shoulders and encourages her to read from the Torah and to bear tefillin at her ceremony.
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A bar mitzvah boy then enters the salon and is sent to Rabbi Shai Piron, who served as Minister of Education of Israel and whose former NGO received support from the NIF. Piron assures the boy that he can have everything "ideological": "You can get to know the Nakba as well as the Israeli story, you can support gay marriage and say that it is not a family." The boy leaves with a confused haircut that is partly punk rock, partly curly, partially shaved head.
The figure of Talia Sasson looks approvingly and says, "Those religious people know how to do a good job."
The video ends with a fusion of the political and the religious: a soldier of the Israel Defense Force enters the store. Sasson laughs and the staff argue what to do with him. Avner Gvaryahu, executive director of Breaking the Silence, intervenes. "I will take care of him and do exactly what you do," he says, proudly, "I have a lot of experience with soldiers."
Chotam, the advocacy organization behind the campaign, is led by a group of rabbis and leaders of the right-wing orthodox community – and seems to have strong ties with Habayit Hayehudi, the political party led by Minister of Education Naftali Bennett – and the sources of the its funding will not be published on its website. The group's last high-profile publicity campaign focused on discouraging orthodox girls from signing up to the IDF, and also contained an animated video.
The new campaign contains images that imply that religious Zionism is under violent attacks by hostile troops. The logo is a target of a rifle that is trained on a soldier who prays with tefillin, religious politicians, bearded rabbis and young people marching with Israeli flags.
The plan of the NIF, according to Chotam, is to undermine the Jewish character of Israel by "weakening" Jewish institutions, to turn it into a "state of all its citizens". Chotam claims that his campaign "exposes" the liberal "Laundering" by orthodox groups of receiving subsidies from the NIF.
Despite the fact that none of the targeted organizations seems to have concealed the fact that they have received NIF support, Chotam accuses the religious public of not knowing that these groups promote a foreign agenda and identify them innocently as coming from their own religious community. "
The NIF, which donates money donated by its supporters to more than 800 progressive targets in Israel, has been repeatedly characterized by politicians and advocates on the right as actively seeking to undermine the security of Israel, and the attacks on it are the intensified in recent years.
In May, officials of the city of Jerusalem refused the launch of an advertising campaign by the strictest critic of the NIF: extreme right-wing organization Im Tirtzu. They ruled that the billboard aimed at NIF president Sasson marked her as a target and could personally encourage violence against her.
In response to the new Chotam campaign, the NIF said in a statement that it was proud to "cooperate with all parts of Israeli society, including the liberal wing of the national-religious camp, which represents an important force to To strengthen Israel as a Jewish and democratic country, the NIF stands for the groups that are attacked by extremist votes. & # 39;
The orthodox organizations and individuals targeted in the video fired back on social media and condemned the campaign as false and ignominious. Ne & # 39; emani Torah V & # 39; Avoda stated in a Facebook post that "Chotam can continue to spread hatred and lies – we will continue to promote good to the religious community and to the Israeli community in general."
Kahana-Dror accused on the page of her group that "instead of confronting the real problems of the national-religious community" that led many orthodox to leave the flock, Chotam chooses to blame the problems of the community " to a target that is easy prey, such as the NIF and the liberal religious groups – essentially shoot the messenger. & # 39;
Prof. dr. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, an orthodox feminist and lawyer at the head of the Rackman Center for the promotion of the status of women at Bar-Ilan University, noted that the Chatom campaign was groundbreaking in the orthodox vs. orthodox struggle. Although feminist groups in that community have always been targets of right-wing rabbis, Halperin-Kaddari remarked in an interview that this Chotam effort also chooses more mainstream and male figures in religious-Zionist circles.
"This is the first time they have compiled the feminists – who have long been demonized – with someone like Rabbi Shai Piron, so far they have been saving them, not to confront him and others like him directly," she said.
"Their strategy was to isolate the women, as had always been a tactic of patriarchal and other female hatred groups. (But) It now seems they took a tactical decision to expand the grouping of their enemies. fundamentalist hard line and to delegate them all together under the roof of the ultimate enemy, the New Israel Fund. & # 39;
Halperin-Kaddari added that in the past, in intra-orthodox ideological quarrels, it was rare to publicly surprise individuals as treacherous: "The tactics of targeting individuals were previously used only against non-orthodox groups and now it is being used against people from the camp. "
The emphasis on individuals, the scholar noticed, was reminiscent of Im Tirtzu's notorious 2015 campaign, which denounced that left-wing Israeli activists in groups such as Breaking the Silence act as local "moles" in the service of foreign masters.
With her angry message and military imagery, she said, the campaign is clearly meant to have a chilling effect and to drive away those who would reform the Orthodox institutions for fear of being rejected.
Hotam's effort, however, does not intimidate me and I hope it does not intimidate other people and activists and organizations who believe in liberal and pluralistic Jewish life in the orthodox world, "Halperin-Kaddari said.
Yet she added: "As someone who cares deeply about both Israeli society and the future of Judaism and orthodoxy, I find it extremely depressing and disturbing."