I just wanted to point everyone’s attention to this great article by Yossi Klein Halevi that was published this morning in The New Republic.
In the article, Halevi speaks about the strange fascination Israel has with the Chabad movement. He pointedly looks at the heroes welcome that the bodies of Gavriel and Rivkie Holtzberg recieved when they arrived from Mumbai at Ben Gurion Airport.
Halevi points out that their caskets were draped in Israeli flags, much like fallen soldiers, even though they both, like many other ultra-Orthodox Jews, opted out of their army service to pursue more studies.
I don’t think would happen if it would have been another sect of ultra-Orthodoxy. But Chabad, for all the issues I have with it, does one great thing. They offer Jewish life to anybody, anywhere in the world.
Many Israelis travel in India and the Far East after their army service. While most of these Israelis are not religious in any way, shape or form, the Chabad Houses of Mumbai, Beijing, etc. offer a place for Jews to feel a level of comfort and familiarity. I think Israelis appreciate this service by Chabad more than even American Jews do. That is because Israelis stick out in a crowd, while American Jews can easily pass as simple Americans.