NEW YORK (Nov. 11)
Yosef Burg, the former Israeli Minister of Religious Affairs who retired last month after serving in virtually every government since the State was founded, believes the present Labor-Likud unity coalition will survive the final two years of its tenure, despite ideological differences between the partners.
“I don’t see any serious political problems which will break up the unity government,” Burg said at a press conference here Monday. But the 77-year-old Burg, who can be described as leader emeritus of the National Religious Party, did not come to New York to make political prognostications.
He is here to rally support for the religious Zionist movement in the upcoming elections to the next World Zionist Congress. According to Burg, religious Zionists are under siege by the Reform movement, which is “trying to muscle in on the Zionist movement” through its constituent bodies such as the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Congress.
CONCERN ABOUT THE REFORM MOVEMENT
Burg expressed fear that the Reform movement, which is vigorously seeking equal status in Israel, may align itself with the Labor camp to try to oust the religious factions from Zionist organizations.
He warned of dangers, such as a recent resolution adopted by the Zionist Actions Committee, the supreme body of the movement between Congresses, which would bar funding for non-Zionist or anti-Zionist yeshivas in Israel.
Burg urged the religious Zionist movement to organize itself for the Congress elections to counter encroachments by Reform elements. He said the religious camp in Israel is under-represented in the Zionist movement and is apathetic about its role in the movement.
He called on Reform Jews to come to Israel on aliyah before trying to gain influence in Zionist bodies in proportion to their strength in the United States. The Zionist Congress is not for everyone, just for Zionists, Burg maintained.
ISSUE OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN ISRAEL
Burg was questioned about freedom of religion and worship in Israel. “There is freedom of worship in Israel, every human being can worship God in the way he sees fit,” the Orthodox leader said.
With respect to the recent confrontation in the Baka suburb of Jerusalem when ultra-Orthodox Jews attempted by force to interrupt Simchat Torah services at a Reform congregation, Burg said the incident was “unhappy.” He called it a “clash between personalities” who have since made peace with each other.
The Reform congregation dropped criminal charges against the local Orthodox chief rabbi, Eliahu Abergil, who gave a written promise never again to interfere with Reform services.
According to Burg, “The bone of contention is not in the form of worshipping, but the absolute necessity of having the (religious) law of Israel as one and only one in order to preserve the character of Israel.”