Balaam’s Cursenhy Moshe LeshemnNew York: Simon and Schuster;n304 pp., $19.95nMoshe Leshem ends Balaam’snCurse with a warning againstnthe growing political power of thenIsraeli Orthodox rabbinate. By yieldingnto Orthodox authorities on educationalnand cultural matters, he says, Israelisnare sacrificing their democratic patrimony.nFor the sake of Israeli democracynand of the country’s future relationsnwith other nation states, Leshem urgesnthat Israel perform a separation ofnchurch and state. This would meannthat Israelis would treat religion as anprivate matter and, among othernthings, accord to the leaders of Reformnand Conservative Judaism full paritynwith the now established OrthodoxnPaul Gottfried is a professor ofnhumanities at Elizabethtown Collegenin Pennsylvania.nOPINIONSnExorcismsnby Paul Gottfriedn’Truth rests with God alone, and a little bit with me.”n— Yiddish Proverbnrabbinate. Only through such reforms,nLeshem insists, can Israelis avert thendubious blessing — in reality a curse —nthat the gentile prophet Balaam pronouncednupon their ancestors in thendesert: “Lo, the people shall dwellnalone, and shall not be reckonednamong the nations” (Numbers 23:9).nLeshem’s brief against the Orthodoxnin Israel overlooks certain cultural realities.nSuch massive interference withnreligious-cultural patterns would certainlynoffend most Israelis outside thenintelligentsia. The (misnamed) Conservativenand Reformed Jewish movementsnin Israel are made-in-Americanimports; they have little or no supportneven among Israeli secularists and arennow being used to impose feministnsocial agendas on unwilling Israelis.nWhen the Masortim (ConservativenJews in Israel) held services at thenWestern Wall conducted by women innprayer shawls, onlookers were outraged.nDespite his shrieks against organizednreligion, Leshem is informative on thennnsubject of the ideological origins of thenJewish state. He correctly notes thatnamong the Zionists who originally envisagednthe creation of Israel, threendifferent and conflicting concepts werenconsidered. The oldest—as well as thenfirst to be abandoned — was the idea ofna Jewish state constructed by the late-n19th-century Viennese journalist TheodornHerzl. As a German-speakingnCentral European Jew, Herzl obviouslynhad no interest in preserving thenrabbinically controlled communal lifenof the Eastern European Pale of Settlement.nHe dreamt of a Jewish statenthat would free his coreligionists notnonly from anti-Semitic Russian officialsnbut also from the “ungentlemanly”nbackwardness of their own culture.nThe New Jew would speak German,nwatch clocks and mind his manners,nappreciate art and take part in sports.nLeshem is at his best depicting Herzl’snentry into an Eastern European Jewishntown, whose inhabitants rush forth tonhail him as their king. Suddenly Herzlnpulls out a watch — a mechanism de-nDECEMBER 1989/29n