Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Charedi Power

I don’t know who Asher Moaz is. I have no idea whether he is religious or secular. Based on an article he wrote in Ha’aretz published a couple of weeks ago, my sense is that he is a religious but non Charedi Jew. But one thing seems certain. He is the creation of Charedism in Israel. He is a product of the ever increasing power that Charedim have achieved and are wielding at their every opportunity.

Mr. Maoz has made it painfully clear what has happened. He expresses what must have been a growing sense of frustration and anger that finally came to a boil - and boiled over when the precipitating event that caused the current conversion crisis in Israel occurred: The invalidation of a 15 year old conversion of a woman by the rabbinic court. It reverted her status to non Jew and thereby declared her children to be non Jews as well.

I am not here to talk about that case. One can debate the merits. Nor am I even going to talk about the continuing outrage about not accepting any of Rabbi Druckman’s converts since 1999.

The issue here is the heavy handed way that Charedi leadership has treated all non Charedim. The minute they get the power, they use it to their own ends. They seem to have chosen as their goal to change the state from a secular one to – not just a religious one tolerant of all Hashkafos – but into a State of Charedism. No tolerance for any other views.

This is certainly evident in the way they handled Rabbi Druckman’s even legitimate and sincere converts. It is also obvious from the type of bans they have issued and Tznius rules they implemented in their own communities. Communities like Bnei Brak and the Geula section of Jerusalem. It is only a matter of time before they mandate these conditions for everyone in the state. Is there any question that they will pass legislation like this, given the chance?

The heavy handed approach is their modus operandi. Whenever they have the opportunity they act – and act forcefully. Consider all the protests, boycotts, and bans. The bigger their numbers become the greater chance that protests will turn into legislation.

Will any of this really happen? I don’t know, I can’t predict the future. But if one believes their rhetoric it seems inevitable. And so too will there be an increase of the hatred of them - by not only secular Jews but even non Charedi religious Jews as well. That is all reflected in Mr. Moaz’s article.

As this phenomenon progresses - it will surely lead to an even deeper divide than we have now. The hatred by secular Jews and even religious non Charedim will deepen. Ultimately the chasm will be too wide to bridge.

How sad it is that there cannot be a different and more tolerant approach to secular and non Charedi religious Jews. There is no need for all this hatred. All that is needed is a sense of tolerance. Charedim need not flex ther muscles at every opportunity. They should be more sensitive to other Hashkafos and appreciate what other members of Klal Yisroel do for them. Non religious as well as non Charedi religious. Fighting in the army is no small sacrifice.

One might argue that the reverse is also true. The secular and especially the non Charedi religious Jew should appreciate what the Charedim do for them as well.

This is true. Religious Jews know the value of learning Torah and certainly appreciate that… doing so themselves, albeit not to the same extent as Charedim. And secular Jews must know that without religious observance, Judaism means nothing. They owe a debt of gratitude to the Charedi and the rest of religious world for maintaining the true Jewish character of the state. In fact very few secular Jews are actually anti-religious. Most of them are selectively observant themselves. I don’t think that most Charedim in Israel realize that. If they do, they have not given any indication of caring.

The onus is on Charedi leaders. They are the ones forcing their ways on the secular and non Charedi religious public.

Instead of using the vinegar approach to human relations with their brothers and sisters they ought to try using the honey approach. Secular Jews - and certainly non Charedi religious Jews - don’t inherently hate Charedim. But I think that misconception probably fuels the hatred that Charedim feel they are only returning in kind. It feeds on itself and results in what Mr. Moaz writes about.

It’s all about not imposing your views on others. It’s about respecting individuals as decent human beings. We are all brothers – not the enemy. It is about tolerating religious Hashkafos other then their own - and understanding that non religious people are not inherently evil. They just don’t want religion shoved down their collective throats.

I know it’s just wishful thinking to hope for a change of attitude and approach. But there are Charedi voices that feel the same way I do. The question is whether anyone there is listening to them. Or are they too spitting in the wind?