Why Yom Ha'atzmaut went sour for Mumbai rabbi dad

A seemingly bizarre controversy flared up over this year's ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem to mark the start of Israel Independence Day.

Lubavitch Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg and his four-year-old grandson Moshe Holtzberg, who lost his parents in the terrorist attack on Mumbai's Chabad House in 2008, had been among those asked to light torches.

But a number of other Lubavitch rabbis protested that, Rabbi Rosenberg's involvement went against the movement's anti-Zionist philosophy.

Anti-Zionism has long persisted within the Charedi community, based on two grounds: that Zionism was a premature attempt to end Jewish exile before the Messiah and that it tried to replace allegiance to the Torah with secular nationalism. There was no fiercer opponent of Theodor's Herzl plan for a Jewish state than the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneerson, who denounced Zionism as an "unclean ideology" which destroyed Jewish souls.

As the state became a reality, so some Charedim reached a pragmatic accommodation with it, even if theologically opposed in theory. Some Lubavitchers now serve in the army or as military chaplains, for example, and the movement's outreach activities ensure contact between its members and Israelis from all walks of life.

Last updated: 11:59am, May 12 2011