Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Why Do They Hate Charedim?

R' Moshe Sternbuch (YWN)
There are 2 stories in the Jewish news media about which one can ask: Mah Inyan Shmitta Etzel Har Sinai – which roughly translates to, ‘What does this have to do with the price of tea in China? (Not an exact translation.) I think, however, that there might be a connection. 

i24 news reports about a poll taken in Israel conducted by Smith Research Institute for Hiddush, a Reform NGO. It reveals just how much the Charedi political parties are hated by Israeli voters. 

Most Israeli voters don’t want a government that includes ultra-Orthodox factions such as Shas or United Torah Judaism (UTJ), according to a poll published by the Hiddush NGO.

The findings contrast recent indications that leaders in Israel’s current coalition intend to include UTJ or Shas in a future government as a bid for more allies in parliament.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White: New Hope (BWNH) party, said he is the only public figure that could “unite the house” because he has not been “vetoed” by ultra-Orthodox parties, The Jerusalem Post (The Post) reported.

Yet, a majority of Gantz’s voters oppose his plan…

Over three-fourths – 79 percent – of BWNH voters said they are against the inclusion of ultra-Orthodox parties in the next coalition government. 

An overwhelming 89 percent of Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid voters also disapprove of making concessions to ultra-Orthodox factions in a government.

Amid the widespread distaste of a government including ultra-Orthodox factions, the poll found that 64 percent of undecided voters, and 52 percent of all voters, said they were more likely to vote for a party that would commit itself to promote freedom of religion. 

There is clearly no love lost between the two parties whose religious philosophy and values are polar opposite each other. But there is no evidence that the pollsters were tainted by the sponsoring organization. Frankly I am not at all surprised by those numbers. There  is a ring of truth to them. 

I have always maintained that your cannot shove religion down people’s throats. The more you try to do that, the more they will resist and hate you for it. In recent years Charedi political parties have achieved unprecedented political power which they have exerted in the cause of advancing their own interests. Such as getting as much funding for their constituents as they can - and asserting more control over the religious character of the country. Secular Jews resent them for that. They want freedom from religion. 

From a religious perspective - if you believe that the laws of the Torah are mandated for all Jews whether they like them or not, then what secular Jews desire is irrelevant. For observant Jews it doesn’t matter what one desires if the Torah  forbids it. For example I would love to try a cheeseburger. But I won’t because the Torah forbids it. 

Kol Yisroel Areivm Zeh BaZeh. All Jews are responsible for the welfare of one another, including their spiritual welfare. We therefore have an obligation to try and get them to be observant to whatever extent we can. But Coercion is not the way to do it. More about that later.

Secular Jews obviously don’t think that way. They see freedom to do as they please as the ultimate value. Which is the essence of the democracy Israel claims to be. This is why religious coercion will never work no matter what the motives are.  It ought to be completely abandoned as the means to that end.

This is how things stand now. As the political power of the Charedi parties increases, so does their tendency to assert a more religious character upon the state. Which secular Israelis resent. No one likes to be forced to live their lives by the standards of others. This applies even to  Dati Jews that are observant but far from Charedi. and lie their secular counterparts they contribute to the economy and the security of the state. Dati Jews also reject Charedi religious standards being imposed upon them. But the accumulated power of the Charedi parties over the years has enhanced their ability to do just that. 

The resentment of Charedi parties does not stop there. The political muscle they now flex assures them of increased funding for a constituency seen as contributing little to Israel's security and economy.  They instead see a growing Charedi constituency that will strain the economy without contributing a thing to it or Israel's security. Secular Jews laugh at the idea that Torah study is what really provides security and not the IDF. Seen from that perspective, who could blame them for not wanting to see Charedim as part of any ruling coalition  

As if that weren’t enough, the violence by Charedi extremists that are so often a part of the media news cycle is by itself enough to turn secular and Dati Jews off of them. Whether it is violence of the sort that happened to a woman on a bus a few days ago or violence even against their own, R’ Moshe Sternbuch a few days ago. As reported by VIN - the second story I referred to above. 96 year old R’ Sternbuch is in line to become the new head of the Eida.

True - they paint with a broad brush, but who can blame them when even religious media  like VIN constantly bombards them  stories like this. Who wants to be part of a religious tradition where issues are solved through violent attacks against 96 year old religious leaders?  

There is no real distinction to be made between extremist Charedi hooligans and their fellow non violent travelers that support them. especially when their leaders do nothing to stop them. A view they unfairly but understandably extend to mainstream Charedim that are nothing like that. 

There are surely other issues that will drive the election like the state of the above mentioned economy and security issues. But not too far below those two items is the desire to rid the government of the influence of the Charedi parties. 

My guess, though, is that all this anger will not produce the desired result. Charedim will continue to enjoy their political power and exercise it whenever they can.

That's because of the way the system works.  The country is so divided that the majority of the Kenesset required to form a ruling coalition depends on smaller parties to join it. And the Charedi parties will sell their support to the highest bidder. All of which contributes to secular hatred. 

If I said it once, I said it a hundred times. The only way to reach secular Jews is not through coercion, but through love and understanding. Not by forcing them to live by Charedi standards. But by showing respect and offering friendship. That will always have a positive impact on them. Instead of hating Charedim they might even want to emulate them via the positivity their lifestyles generates. Instead of seeing a bunch of angry bearded men constantly haranguing against the secular world, they might instead notice the beauty of religious lifestyle that  focuses on family.