In an attempt to include some of the most alienated factions within Israeli society, two self-proclaimed non-Zionists - a haredi media consultant and an Arab mayor - have been appointed to Israel's 60th anniversary planning committee.
Sami Issa, mayor of Kafr Kassam, and Dudi Zilbershlag, publisher of the haredi weekly Bakehila and chairman of the philanthropic organization Meir Panim, come from cultures that see the creation of the State of Israel as a mistake, even a tragedy.
Nevertheless, both will participate in planning the festivities celebrating the 60th anniversary of the realization of the Zionist dream slated for April 2008.
"Taking part in the planning committee does not make me Zionist," said Zilbershlag, who has been called a "traitor" on haredi chat rooms, such as Hydepark's "Bechadrei Charedim" [Haredi inner-rooms], for purportedly betraying ultra-Orthodoxy's historic opposition to secular Zionism.
Although not all haredi Jews opposed the creation of the Jewish state (some members of the haredi Agudat Yisrael, acting without the approval of their rabbinical council, signed the Declaration of Independence), the vast majority do not identify with the goals of secular Zionism. Most do not serve in the army and refrain from integrating into mainstream Israeli society.
"I see my role as bringing a little bit of Yiddishkeit to the festivities," said Zilbershlag, somewhat of a maverick among haredi public figures. "Besides, some positive things came out of the State of Israel. For instance, more Jews than ever before in history can now devote themselves to Torah studies."
Zilbershlag, who said that he served three months in the IDF after he was married with children, said that he would not take a stand on the issue of whether or not to hire performers for the celebratory events who did not carry out significant army service.
It seems that when Zilbershlag says he is a non-Zionist, he refers only to secular Zionism. Thus he considers the fact that the State led to more Torah study as a positive aspect of it. His role is to make the Zionist festivities more religious, and If the state were completely religious, it seems he would be happy with it.
Torah Jews who follow the gedolim have a different view. We see any Jewish state as a tragedy because our Torah forbids it, and any Torah study or other mitzvah enabled by that state is a "mitzvah done through a sin". The Talmud states (Succah 30a) that if a Jew steals an object and uses it to perform a mitzvah, G-d is not pleased with that mitzvah because it came about through a sin. True Torah study is only possible when it is financially independent from the Zionist state, and takes place on land that the learners have a legitimate right to use, not land conquered through warfare that is forbidden by the Torah. The Talmudic sages state that even if one studies Torah in a building one nail of which was stolen, his mitzvah is not desired.
Zilbershlag's desire to make the Zionist celebration more religious brings to mind the story of the activists who were working for the observance of Shabbos in the Zionist state and came to discuss an issue with the Brisker Rav. He said to them, You are happy with the state; you see it as an achievement and a place of refuge for the Jewish people. Only, you want to make it better, that it should at least have a religious character. But in my book the whole thing is wrong. When it comes to pork, it makes no difference if there is a lesion on the pig's lungs or not! (Uvdos Vehanhagos p. 198)