Sunday, September 08, 2013

Is the Israeli Government Anti Charedi?

A pro Charedi  future
There is a little blurb in the Rosh Hashana edition of Mishpacha Magazine that encapsulates the warped image the Charedi world has of the non Charedi world. It is in the section called ‘Year in Review’. It reads as follows: 
Once Yesh Atid won 19 seats in January’s election, becoming its second largest political party, it was only a matter of time before seething anti-chareidi sentiment came gushing to the surface. Barring a change in government  - or sentiment – chareidim will have to deal with demands to “share the burden” by serving in the IDF, joining the workforce in greater numbers and adding secular studies to school curricula. 
This statement is both troubling and yet hopeful.  It is troubling because of how they describe the changes being implemented by the government as ‘seethingly’ anti Charedi.  It it is indeed seen that way by Charedi rabbinic leadership, Charedi journalists, and Charedi politicians. This is not a secret. It is an almost universal belief that is constantly expressed at every opportunity. One need not look too far into the past to see how Charedi politicians reacted in the Kenesset to these initiatives.

What should not be overlooked here is that it isn’t the religious against the irreligious. It is the Charedim against virtually everyone else. It is Modern Orthodox Jews; Dati Leumi Jews; Jews and secular Jews on one side - and Charedim on the other.

The fact is that all the things mentioned in that Mishpacha blurb as seethingly anti Charedi are actually willingly incorporated in to the lives of all non Charedim. Serving in the army, working to support families, and adding secular studies to their curricula are all things that are enthusiastically supported and participated in by both secular and the Dati Leumi community.  

Not only that - but even though American Charedim support the positions of Charedi counterparts in Israel - even they work to support their families  and have secular studies added to their curricula - in most cases. (They are not drafted because America does not have a draft.)  

What is seen by virtually every other segment of Jewry - Orthodox or not - as perfectly acceptable and laudable, is seen as seethingly anti Charedi by Charedim in Israel.

Mishpacha must certainly know all of this. And yet they parrot this view as though it were true.  

They argue that Israeli citizens have the right to choose for themselves how to be educated. Well that’s true. That right will be maintained. The only thing they will lose is government funding.  

Besides - I would dispute that right in absolutist terms. If the educational system of a large segment of their society is detrimental to the whole by causing great numbers of its citizens to be a financial burden to the State - the government has a right if not an obligation to say something about it. And to do something about it.  Something that would provide more taxpayers and less tax takers (welfare recipients).

I think that in their heart of hearts, Mishpacha’s editors know that these measures are not really anti Charedi. They are in fact pro Charedi. Especially the educational and financial components. It is pro Charedi because it will ultimately make them more financially independent and contributory to the economy.

And even the draft is not really anti Charedi – if it is implemented along Nachal Charedi lines.

What about the Charedi contention that Torah studies will be harmed? It depends how one defines harm.

Yes - there will be less people per square inch learning full time. But the quality of Torah study will be greatly increased since the ones remaining in full time Torah study will be the best of the best - the cream of the crop. And the government will support them at greater levels than ever thus taking them out of the poverty most of them are in. The rest of the Charedim will still be allowed to be Koveah Itim – establish regular times for daily Torah study.

I said that the Mishpacha statement is not just troubling, but that it is also hopeful. Here’s why. I sense that they feel this is going to happen. It will not be successfully resisted. They worded this blurb  in an almost neutral way. If you leave out the characterization about the government being seethingly anti Charedi you have a recognition that Charedim will have to deal with being drafted, putting more people into the workforce and adding a secular studies to their curricula in a matter of fact way.

There is no mention of resistance. They realize that it is not the end of the world. It is as though they felt that they had to insert that ‘anti Charedi’ phrase in order to maintain their Charedi credentials.

I hope that is the case. Once secular studies become part of the curricula in most Charedi schools it will enable them to participate more productively in the workforce. And once this becomes the norm, it will eventually be accepted by the Israel Charedi leadership themselves. At least I hope it will.