G. Gordon Liddy and the Ultra-Orthodox


The G-Man had a guest on his show today discussing the election results, which I happened to hear for five minutes during the drive back from an appointment. In those five minutes I heard enough biased and erroneous coverage to fill five hours of writing, but I’ll be brief.

The person whom he was interviewing was obviously a right-wing settler, very opposed to the idea that Olmert’s government will likely conduct further withdrawals, and that the “ultra-Orthodox” Shas party would be party to removing religious Jews from “the heartland” of the Jewish people, Judea and Samaria. I don’t disagree that Hevron is part of the heartland, but so is Jerusalem.

Asks Liddy: Are these the same ultra-Orthodox who are opposed to the existence of the Zionist state?

Answer: No, that’s another group of ultra-Orthodox, who recently went to Iran etc. etc. etc. The interviewee equated the Niturei Karta nutcases, who number 50, with Shas, who polled over 340,000 votes yesterday. No attempt was made to point out that Shas has nothing to do with Niturei Karta, or that they, like any sane individuals, regard them as encouraging murder of Jews.

Asks Liddy: Are these the same ultra-Orthodox who basically, under Israeli law, as long as they are learning don’t have to work, and are supported by the government?

Answer: Yes.

Which, of course, is false. The law says they don’t need to enter the Army, under the same rules for Divinity Deferments used in the US and elsewhere. As for student stipends, the Hebrew University student doing graduate work in Greek mythology receives nine to ten times the amount of money of the yeshiva student doing graduate work in Torah, Talmud and Halacha.

Always good to know the Jewish state has Jewish priorities — to this settler, the numbers ought to be worse?

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19 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    Demonstrating this proposition to the average taxpayer, who is trained to be dead set against it, is a challenge. Maybe Am Echad Resources (R’ Jonathan Rosenblum) has a clue as to how to present this. Ultimately, it depends on the general success of kiruv activities.

  2. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Bob Miller,

    A lot of the opposition in Israel is not to Torah study per se, but for publicly financed Torah study. I doubt it would be at the same level regardless of the number of people financed, and therefore the expense of financing them.

    You’re right, I have not been exposed to the “best of the best” studying today in higher level Yeshivot, except maybe here and on torah.org. They may have deep knowledge of and closeness to HaShem, which is great for them. However, is it a paramount public benefit? Can you show how it benefits the average Israeli taxpayer, who is non observant, in a way that will convince that taxpayer?

  3. Bob Miller says:


    You said “I doubt you’d hear the same level of rhetoric against full time Yeshiva students if they were the best and brightest, rather than the norm.”

    I think most of this opposition is really to Torah study in principle, irrespective of who is doing it.
    Also, I don’t think you have been exposed to the “best of the best” studying today in higher level Yeshivot.

    You noted correctly with respect to scientists that “Very often, the only way they can get grants to continue their research is to show how that research can lead to a tangible benefit.”

    The Jewish people has historically regarded the fruit of Torah study, which is knowledge of and closeness to HaShem, as the paramount public benefit. The tragedy of secular Jewish society is that it has inverted our priorities. We somehow have to set things straight.

  4. Ori Pomerantz says:

    mnuez, I wish I could agree with you. Having spent time in two humanities departments, one in Israel and one in the US, the search for truth seems to be a low priority for a lot of professors – they are more interested in finding evidence for their own theories and prejudices. Unfortunately when people study texts, there are rarely any experiments that can validate or invalidate their opinions. At most they can check for conformance with other people’s opinions, rather than the underlying reality.

    Bob Miller, scientists produce measurable results that are subject to peer review. Very often, the only way they can get grants to continue their research is to show how that research can lead to a tangible benefit. The fields that don’t show such benefits, such as Archeology and Plaentology, tend to be very underfunded.

    The fields that don’t even produce measurable, verifiable results such as History and Greek Mythology tend to be funded even less. Many of the graduate students in those fields study while holding another job. The professors and stipended graduate students tend to be the best of the best, having competed for those rare positions. I doubt you’d hear the same level of rhetoric against full time Yeshiva students if they were the best and brightest, rather than the norm.

  5. Yaakov Menken says:

    According to Mortimer Zuckerman, the editor-in-chief of US News & World Report (and who is not observant), the learning done in Lakewood vastly exceeds that of Harvard. I concur as a Princeton alum. If you don’t believe there’s any value in Jewish learning, that is your right, but with you there is no Jewish future, and Cross-Currents is aimed in another direction.

  6. mnuez says:

    Will you allow a comment on that simply opens the question as to whether there’s any academic value in what the Yeshiva students do?

    Is it not possible that university students spend their days seeking truth and – more often than not – finding it, while Yeshiva students play mind games to read into ancient words that which was never there in the first place?


  7. Bob Miller says:

    Aryeh said:
    “Lastly, just by way of an analogy, if one wanted to become a great scientist, he couldn’t do it while holding a ‘regular’ job either.”

    The problem is that modern society (anywhere) considers an academic scientific career to be a valid choice of “regular job” and a benefit to civilization, but considers a yeshiva-based Torah career to be an invalid dodge. Somehow, we need to raise people’s consciousness.

  8. Toby Katz says:

    It’s true that there are way more than fifty Neturei Karta members but there are only about 30 NK members who actually visit Iran, suck up to Arafat, get themselves photographed at pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Washington and Paris, have websites, issue press releases and are publicity hounds. Those 30 or so are almost all Americans, not Jerusalem-born Neturei Karta. The real NK disdain and reject those guys and are in no way pro-Arab. And don’t have internet! Those 30 or so guys who show up all over the world and always get their mugs in front of the nearest camera — I suspect their travels and activities are funded by Arab money.

  9. Aryeh says:

    Ori, the current gdolei hador are not better than Rashi. But that’s because of generations and people getting smaller. There were gdolim throughout history who were what we would call “baalei batim” i.e. who did not hold rabbinical or teaching positions, for example the Chochmat Adam. However, they were a small minority. To become a gadol (not a great Torah scholar, a Conservative Jew can also becom a great Torah scholar by doing “academic work in Torah,” a gadol refers to his greatness as a person, besides being a great Torah scholar there’s also yiras shamaim, good deeds etc.) requires a lot of dedication and time. Most people, at least for a long time, haven’t been able to do both, i.e. hold a “regular” job and become gedolim. In fact, the Chovos Halvovos (shaar hapreshus), says that the earlier generations (he’s actually referring to people of the Tanach and Talmud) require much less separation from the world in order to achieve the same spiritual results. Now if that was true a 1000 years ago (approximately), how much more so today, when one sees more tumah in 15 minutes of walking to work in midtown manhattan than Rashi or Rambam would see in a lifetime. Oh and by the way, when R’ Akiva herded sheep he was Akiva the ignorant shepherd. Then he went to learn in yeshiva for 24 years straight, without coming home (or having a job). That’s how he became the great Rabbi Akiva. And the Rambam, also only learned medicine after his brother who supported him died at sea.

    Lastly, just by way of an analogy, if one wanted to become a great scientist, he couldn’t do it while holding a “regular” job either.
    Notice that I haven’t addressed the issue of the regular guy who (allegedly) will never be a gadol. But that’s where Torah L’Shma (Torah study for its own sake) comes in. The point of learning Torah is not to produce great Rabbis, community Rabbis or teachers of Talmud. The point of learning is learning. It happens to be that the Jewish community also needs Rabbis etc. But even if that need would be magically waved away, there would still remain the duty of Torah for the sake of Torah. Of course, there’s always a question of unlimited desires and limited resources (an eternal human problem). So how to square everyone’s desire to learn with the need to make money. I don’t know. But there probably isn’t a fixed formula. It’s a complicated question and it would be arrogant for me to say that I have an answer. That’s for bigger people than me to decide.

  10. amechad says:

    “Which, of course, is false. The law says they don’t need to enter the Army, under the same rules for Divinity Deferments used in the US and elsewhere. As for student stipends, the Hebrew University student doing graduate work in Greek mythology receives nine to ten times the amount of money of the yeshiva student doing graduate work in Torah, Talmud and Halacha.”

    University is not yeshiva and much of Hebrew U’s money is private. Also, graduate students at Hebrew U, Bar Ilan, Tel Aviv, etc. also can study and get MAs and PhDs in Torah, Talmud and Halakha. Maybe the yeshiva students need to do academic work in Torah.

  11. Nachum says:

    R’ Menken:

    Of course it’s not fair (unless the guy was trying to make a subtle philosophical point, right or wrong, that Shas allowing Oslo to pass was somehow derived from the same hashkafa that lies at the root of NK extreme anti-Zionist actions, but I somehow doubt that). I must admit I didn’t hear the interview, and was just basing myself on your report, where you say that the interviewee responded “no” when asked it they were the same. I imagine the context changed his meaning somehow.

  12. Charles B. Hall says:

    ‘doctoral students are getting more’

    There is a worldwide market for graduate students. In order to attract the best students, universities must pay competitively. If Moshe’s figures are correct, Israel’s universities are paying far less than universities in the United States, and in the US most graduate students do not pay tuition. This is one reason many Israelis attend graduate school in the US — and most international graduate students remain in the US after completing their education. (It is a very good way for the US to skim the cream of every other country’s intellectual resources.)

  13. Yaakov Menken says:

    Nachum, the speaker clearly used the Niturei Karta as a tool with which to besmirch Shas, despite the complete lack of connection between them (other than the fact that both are charedi). He wanted people to think negatively of Shas because of the offensive opinions of the NK.

    Do you think that’s fair?

  14. Nachum Lamm says:

    Veyisem nekiim meHashem umiYisrael. You have to realize what people think.

    Oh, and didn’t the interviewee distinguish? Must every mention of the Neturei Karta be accompanied by a caveat of how few there are? (I see how the Jerusalem Post and Michael Freund were attacked for merely writing a story about them.) A bit sensitive, are we?

  15. Steve Brizel says:

    Wasn’t Shas part of the majority that approved Oslo way back in the beginning of the “peace process”?
    I agree that the rhetoric was overblown.

  16. Ori Pomerantz says:

    The student doing graduate work (in Greek Mythology, Electrical Engineering, or Medical Research) is the Chiloni version of Iluy. He or she is a very good student, who competed against other really good students for a small number of spots. In many cases, the financial support for students is a way for the country to make more money – Israel supports the student now in the hope of getting a better tax payer later. The people who get those stipends are a tiny minority of the population.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t a long term Yeshiva education requiring a stipend for the student and his family the norm in Charedi society? True, each of those stipends is meager and Charedim are a lot more likely to be poor, but they do add up. And as you implied above, Yeshiva study is comparable to graduate work in Greek Mythology, rather than in the subjects that lead to better wages, bigger tax payments, and more money for funding education in the next generation.

    Are Israeli Charedim better than their peers in the US, who do not get any government support for their religious studies? Are the current Gdoley Hador better than Rashi who spent part of his youth learning how to make wine, the Rambam who spent part of his learning medicine, or Rabbi Akiva who herded goats and sheep? If not, then how is that wide spread long term education that is purely religious beneficial?

    I apologize if I have offended, and request to be corrected if I am wrong. My information did not come from Kli Rishon, and is probably biased. I prefer to show off my ignorance, so that it may be fixed, rather than keep silent and keep it.

  17. mobius says:

    um, i don’t know where you’ve been, but the orangies have been singing the neturei karta themesong since the disengagement went down. they too oppose the existence of the secular state of israel, yet where they differ with the satmar NK (who number way above 50, thanks) is that they are kahanists who believe in expelling the arabs from the entire region and NK are anti-zionists who believe we’re safer living under muslim rule. do not forget that the crazies in hebron were wearing orange stars, calling the cops nazis, waving heil hitler salutes, throwing rocks, and lighting fires because, gasp, they were being evacuated from property they were illegally occupying. and in amona, the kids had rocks and bottles already stored up on the rooftops which they began pelting the cops with. i would say that pretty much qualifies as opposition to the state of israel. the difference is, if they were arab and if they were with internationals, they would’ve been shot with rubber bullets and tear gas, and then live ammunition.

  18. Moshe says:

    Just to put the numbers out in the open:
    Graduate students are paying for their education about 12,000 shekels a year.

    Doctorate students are getting between 3,000 – 6,000 shekels per month. The base is 3,000, but some students can get up to 6,000.

    I don’t know how much Yeshiva students get nowadays. A few years ago it was 700 shekel stipend plus 1,000 or so in unemployment if you had 3 kids plus all kinds of tax benefits on property tax and reduced price of sending kids to kindergarten.

    No matter how you cut the cake, doctoral students are getting more, but after factoring in all of the deductions, I don’t know if it is 9 to ten times the amount – it is probably more like 2-4 times.

    Another point is that not everyone who wants to study for a doctorate is accepted – there are fairly high standards and a limited number of positions. In kollel, the opposite is true – all are accepted and welcome (which is a good thing, but a distinction from Universities).

  19. Bob Miller says:

    Just goes to show that people can be wrong on the radio. Why not get yourself onto his show?