Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Placing the Blame on the Wrong People

MK R' Shai Piron, former co-head of a Hesder Yeshiva
I have to take issue with Jonathan Rosenblum’s latest column in Mishpacha Magazine. Jonathan predicted last year that Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party would reverse a trend  of greater integration into broader Israeli society. From Mishpacha: 
An unidentified official in the Council on Higher Education termed the registration for the start of the upcoming academic year among chareidim as a “catastrophe.” According to the best estimates of the head of the council, Professor Manuel Trachtenberg, there will be a 20 percent decline from the chareidi registration in the 2013 academic year. The decline has been particularly dramatic among male students. 
This in spite do the fact that there has never been a better time for Charedim to do this because of increased government support in the form of student loans and grants – and at a time where government handouts have been reduced because of the economy.

The same is true for Charedi enlistment in the military: 
Defense Minister Moshe (Boogie) Ya’alon recently told the Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security that the IDF had witnessed a 50 percent decline in chareidi enlistment in recent months. 
(What kind of a nickname is Boogie? But I digress.) Why does Jonathan blame Yair Lapid for this? Because of the Charedi view that his goals are anti Torah. As such the formerly tacit approval by Charedi leaders to those who felt they needed to go to work, get the army out of the way  and get educated has been changed to seeing this as an attack on Torah study - a Shas HaShmad even.

As such these leaders have been directing their students to resist anything even remotely related to leaving the Beis HaMedrash.  Statements by Yesh Atid  Kenesset members, like MK Rabbi Shai Piron about integrating Charedim into society were (and still are) seen as an attempt to wean them off the true path of Torah via assimilation into the world of the secular Jew.

What a bizarre interpretation of reality. MK Piron’s idea of ‘forg(ing) a common Israeli identity’ for Charedim does not mean one must leave the path of Torah. Nor does it mean that one cannot be as Charedi as they wish. It simply means giving Charedim a sense of pride in country. Much like American Charedim have a sense of pride in being Americans. There is nothing wrong with that. It is not Shmad to call yourself an Israeli… and know what that means and what it doesn’t mean. Being an Israeli does not preclude being Charedi.

On the contrary. There is by far not enough of such identification by Charedimin Israel.  Some are so anti Medina (State of Israel) that identifying as an Israeli is anathema to them. You may as well call them a Kofer.  The result of such thinking is to lack any sense of gratitude for what the state of Israel has done for them.  Basic decency requires you to have gratitude for what your are given, even if you have  legitimate issues. 

If - as is the goal of Yesh Atid – you are imbued with a common Israeli identity, you will not see things as myopically as you have in the past. The blinders will have been taken off. You will see the positive as well and not only the negative.

This is what forging a common identity means. It does not mean dropping one jot or tittle from Halachic observance or even Charedi Chumros.

The irony of blaming someone like Lapid for the reduction in the number of Charedim taking advantage of incentives for military service and a college education should not escape anyone. It is his party that has advocated for them. They are incentives. No one is forced to do anything. The fault lies not with Lapid, or Rabbi Piron. It lies with the Charedi leadership who have unjustly characterized Yesh Atid’s goals  and have reacted in ways that are detrimental to their own constituents. And even against their own interests which include the economic survival of the Charedi world

I’m sorry that Jonathan has spinned it this way. He should instead appeal to his leadership to stop mischaracterizing the motives of Yesh Atid, a party that includes 2 religious rabbis whose goals are the exact opposite of what the Charedi leadership has said they are.

Message to Charedim in Israel: Take advantage of these opportunities, you have nothing to lose but your poverty.