Can We Do Anything to Lessen the Hatred?

Already five years ago, a prominent American rosh yeshiva told me that we might be approaching the end of a miraculous period in which the secular Israeli government became the prime supporter of Torah learning on a scale unprecedented in Jewish history. If the new coalition guidelines are implemented, that moment has arrived.

The incoming government coalition results from a concatenation of long-range political trends and a series of inexplicable blunders by veteran politicians. First, we’ll consider the long-range trends. From 1977 until 2005, the Israeli public was divided primarily over the “peace process,” a trend that became even more pronounced after the signing of the Oslo Accords. Each side was willing to offer the chareidi parties whatever was required to join their coalition to prevail on the issue of paramount importance to them.

Since the failure of the 2005 Gaza withdrawal, Israelis have soured on the possibility of peace and concluded that further territorial withdrawals will only result in the creation of another launching pad for rocket and terrorist attacks. That consensus closed the great fissure in Israeli politics. With issues of war and peace dormant, the possibility of new coalitions around other issues arose. Chareidi parties no longer hold the balance of power on the issue of paramount importance to most voters. Indeed for much of the non-chareidi public, the chareidim themselves are the most important issue.

Still, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was eager to retain the traditional alliance between Likud and the chareidi parties, in forming his new government. One does not sever old and reliable allies when the political roadmap ahead is filled with potholes. Unfortunately, the math did not work out. For one thing, Netanyahu made two bad decisions: He did not time new elections to coincide with the height of his popularity, and he decided to merge Likud and Yisrael Beitanu, whose leader, Avigdor Lieberman, immediately found himself under criminal indictment. As a result, Netanyahu ended up with ten less mandates than anticipated.

Second, Shas leader Rabbi Aryeh Deri feared having Bayit Yehudi headed by Naftali Bennett in the coalition, where it would threaten Shas’s control of the state religious establishment. Netanyahu had his own reasons for not wanting Bennett in the cabinet. The result was to drive Bennett’s settler party into the arms of the yuppies of Yesh Atid party, whose leader Yair Lapid has been a persistent critic of the settlement enterprise.

That unlikely pairing could unravel rapidly if President Obama pressures Israel for concessions to the Palestinians in return for American action on Iran. But it held rock firm throughout the drawn out coalition negotiations. The issue upon which Lapid and Bennett found common ground was “equality of service” – shorthand for greater chareidi participation in the IDF or national service. Interestingly, in an interview with Mishpacha during the campaign, Bennett did not once mention “equality of service.” He presented himself as someone who would provide Netanyahu’s “backbone” against negotiations leading to a Palestinian terror state.

NEVERTHELESS, Lapid and Bennett definitely tapped into a rich lode of built-up animus towards the chareidi community. One poll during the first round of coalition negotiations showed that Lapid would win the largest number of mandates – 30 – with Netanyahu plunging to 22, if new elections were held. That means the Israeli public – at least in that one-time snapshot – was prepared to contemplate a prime minister with no military or political experience and no substantive expertise, and who did not complete his high school matriculation exams, at a time when the prime minister will be faced with perhaps the most difficult decision ever to face an Israeli prime minister – whether to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities – and have to deal with the possibility of Syria’s vast stores of chemical and biological weapons falling into the hands of Islamic jihadists or being transferred to Hizbullah. Yet somehow chareidi army service trumped those threats to our existence.

My second indication of how deep-seated the resentments run came when I sent a national religious colleague my piece in Mishpacha on the chareidi draft issue. I consider this woman to be Israel’s finest columnist. She always writes in a measured style, building her argument block by block, like the engineer she is by training. I was sure she would approve of my pragmatic argument for allowing processes well under way to develop.

I was wrong. Perhaps she would have agreed five years ago, she wrote, but now she was fed up and fully behind Bennett. Even a statement by Rav Aharon Leib Steinman, shlita, that army service represents a spiritual threat to chareidi recruits – an unassailable sociological fact in the current IDF environment – elicited paroxysms of anger. The evident frustration coming from someone normally so temperate and with a number of chareidi friends clued me in to the depth of feeling in the national religious world.

A third clue. A close friend was in Hadassah Hospital last week with his son. He mentioned to the nurse on duty that there was an overpowering stench in his son’s room coming from the other bed in the room. The nurse snapped at him, “That’s the problem with you people, all you do is take.” My friend, despite his Chassidic dress, happens to be the CEO of an international company and has served in high government posts. I do not know anyone who thinks more about being a Kiddush Hashem in all interactions with non-chareidim. There are always a number of non-religious and national religious Jews, with whom he has developed close relationships, at his smachot. In short, the nurse’s outburst was not provoked by his failure to speak nicely.

IN THE FACE OF SUCH ANIMOSITY, the easiest and most consoling response is to absolve ourselves of all responsibility and dismiss the hatred as that of an am ha’aretz for a talmid chacham or as yet another manifestation of the well-documented desire of the Zionist forefathers to fashion “new Jews” removed from Torah – a goal turned into policy by the Jewish Agency and the fledgling State in its treatment of religious immigrants from Arab lands.

The depth of the proposed cuts in government aid to poor chareidi families and the magnitude of the transformation they seek to effect are more punitive than rational social policy. Families of convicted terrorists, MK Moshe Gafni claimed, will be entitled to social benefits while families of poor avreichim will be denied on the grounds that they are not actively seeking employment. Nor is it possible to justify the decision to cut off all subsidies for foreign students studying at Mir Yeshiva but not for those studying at “Zionist” Kerem B’Yavneh and Shalavim.

Nevertheless, it is worth asking whether there is anything we can do going forward to lessen the hatred. Have we sufficiently shown the secular public that even if few chareidi parents are spending sleepless nights worried about their own children on the front lines that we are deeply concerned with the fate of every Jewish soldier? Have we as a community internalized the sensitivity to the feelings of our fellow Jews of Rabbi Chaim Shmuelewitz, who refused to let Mirrer bochurim spend more than the briefest time outside of the beis medrash during the Yom Kippur War, even to look for the dalet minim, in order that no mother of a soldier at the front see yeshiva bochurim looking as if they did not have a care in the world? Did we sufficiently listen to the secular public and try to understand why the slogan “equality of burdens” has such emotional power – the first step in any dialogue? Or did we make things too easy for ourselves by dismissing every complaint as nothing but “hatred of Torah”?

It should hurt us the secular public knows that most chareidi shuls do not recite a special prayer for the safety of soldiers, but nothing of the numerous chareidi chesed organizations, such as Yad Sarah and Ezer M’Tzion, serving the entire population.

THE CHAREIDI PUBLIC is in pain and dread of what lies ahead. But nothing will be gained at this moment by name-calling and giving vent to our own anger. Threats of revenge do not dignify us nor will they avail.

If there is any silver lining in the present situation, it is that the decline in chareidi political power affords new opportunities to meet our fellow Jews on the individual level. Their hatred is not primarily for Torah Jews as individuals, but for the corporate chareidi enterprise represented in the Knesset. Now that we no longer threaten them, they may be more open them to getting behind the stereotypes that fuel the animus. On a one-to-one basis, we can show them what Torah means to us, what we are prepared to sacrifice for it, and what it might mean for them as well.

Every interaction with a non-chareidi Jew is an opportunity to change pre-conceptions, and we should seek out those opportunities. The chavrusa programs of Kesher Yehudi and Ayelet HaShachar are one such opportunity.

Over the last decade, the Karlin-Stolin community, led by the Rebbe himself, has hosted between 10-15,000 Jews in small groups for Shabbos meals. Last week, one of the Torah flyers distributed in national religious synagogues on leil Shabbos included a letter from a waiter at Shabbos gathering of 370 Karlin-Stolin chassidim. He wrote of the warmth and respect the chassidim showed him, of how they saved a seat for him at the table and invited him to join them in their dancing, of how they washed so neatly so as to minimize the clean-up.

“Shabbos ended and so did all my stereotypes,” the waiter wrote. So moved was the waiter that he called the Rebbe himself, who cried with joy and exclaimed, “That’s how I educated them for decades — in ahavas Yisrael and mutual respect.”

An example worth emulating.

This article first appeared in Mishpacha.

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89 comments to Can We Do Anything to Lessen the Hatred?

  • L. Oberstein

    I don’t want to be ‘ad homkinem” but it really hurts me as a father whose son volunteered to stand guard on the Seder Night even though he had already arranged to be elsewhere so that an Israeli boy could be with his family. For Michael or anyone else who sits in comfort and safety to say that “a person sincerely learning Torah is doing more for even those in Israel, much less all of us, than someone standing out at a guard post holding a gun?” is nothing but a cop out and dismissive of the mesiras nefesh of my son and his colleagues in Tzahal.
    Here is the Email he sent about his seder

    Hope your having a nice חג. I had someone switch me at ten for about 45 min I read the Haggadah quick up to the food ate in like five min and went back to the tower were I did the afikowmin a friend came by and we went through the Haggadah till 0130 we opened the door to the tower for Eliyahoo and sang all the songs and talked about going out of מצרים and the זכות we have to be guarding ארץ ישראל ליל פסח so our people could be free to celebrate in their homes and hotels all over the country it was not glamorous the food was not gourmet but it was the most unique סדר
    Love yoni

  • dina

    zach,
    baal teshuva yeshivas are not the only way to do kiruv

  • dina

    “I hope someone who is “DL” can explain why so many of the comments seem to talk about learning as if it was simply “those chareidim” doing what they want, rather than “serving” by being in the army.

    Chilonim talk that way. But if you are “DL” then you understand what Torah means, and that ultimately it’s not about military power but Divine protection.

    Do you agree that a person sincerely learning Torah is doing more for even those in Israel, much less all of us, than someone standing out at a guard post holding a gun?”

    But he’s sacrificing much less.
    And I would nonetheless be willing to accept that–
    If he was willing to even ACKNOWLEDGE that he is sacrificing much less.

    Yom Hazikaron is coming.
    Why will the charedi community not be acknowledging the sacrifice of DL soldiers?

  • dina

    2. Stop taking money from the government.

    why? universities, kibbutzim, research institutions, private industries, cultural groups, hesder yeshivot and ein sof other groups have government support. if you want to say “acceptance of any government support will be dependent on meeting universal agreed-upon criteria, just like the above groups and no longer will you receive funding without government oversight”, that is something else.

    someone of integrity who believes the government is evil should not be benefiting from it. All the groups you quoted don’t believe the government is evil, and the arab groups that benefit aren’t role models of integrity.

    you really don’t see the hypocrisy in “You are EEEEVIL now give me my money!!!”

  • Michael

    “L.”, that’s not an honest answer. I asked you about Talmud Torah vs. holding a gun, and you act as if I were downplaying your son’s personal act of chessed. Chessed is one of the Amudei HaOlam. But as for the rest of what you’ve said, I see you have the “Leumi” part ok, but how can a “Dati” person call “Talmud Torah Kneged Kulam” a “cop out”?

    Dina, you just fell right into the same trap. “He’s sacrificing much less”? Really? How is learning Torah helping his job prospects? This is exactly what I said before, you’re acting like someone sincerely studying Torah is just doing what he wants, rather than protecting all of us.

    I hate to let you in on the secret, but the yeshivos don’t stop learning when the siren sounds on Yom HaShoah either, even though the chareidim were devastated more than anyone — no one today matches the level of European yeshivos, and entire communities of chassidim were wiped off the map. (I read that more than half the Kedoshim of the Holocaust were chareidim.) That’s because there is nothing in Torah that says standing like a Golem is a Jewish way to memorialize the dead. Do you know how many chareidi children learn mishnayos in their memory? Do you think they only memorialize the frum Jews who died?

    They aren’t standing around like the goyim would do, and therefore you say they don’t “acknowledge their sacrifice”? Shame on you.

  • lacosta

    >>>>>It amazes me that for 60 years no one has managed to get the charedim in the army but Lapid and Bennett think they will succeed :), it’s definitely a gezeirah and we must try and understand what Hashem wants from us (probably strengthening and increasing our learning)

    —– could the gezeira also be those whose talent is not learning , should stop learning primarily, [not to say that their tora should be 'taffel'], but see to find a way to support their family?

    also , i am not convinced that the haredi community has made the case why they should have a lifetime exemption from military service. if they could convince the country that they deserve special exemption , the learning would not be an issue….

  • Pinny

    >> you really don’t see the hypocrisy in “You are EEEEVIL now give me my money!!!” <<

    Of course not. That is exactly what you would say to someone evil who took your money. Since the Israeli government does take money from the Charedim, I see no issue.

    By the way, for how long would you like this non-halachic government to continue, if you had your druthers?

  • cvmay

    Do you know how many chareidi children learn mishnayos in their memory?
    Do you think they only memorialize the frum Jews who died?

    Since I don’t know the answer to either of the above question….perhaps it is a zechus to begin a program of learning Mishnayos in the memory of Fallen IDF soldiers, terror victims or other who have ALSO died al ‘kiddush hashem’.

  • dovid landesman

    Michael:
    You write “Do you know how many chareidi children learn mishnayos in their memory?” Truthfully, I don’t know and would very much appreciate your filling me in – but with real data. I have 20+ grandchildren [kein yirbu] in the chareidi schools in EY and not one of them learned mishnayot, said tehillim or had a teacher, mechanechet, rebbi or menahel/et make any reference to Yom ha-Shoah or Yom ha-Zikaron. The tired lines about “standing like a golem” or that the siren is “chukat ha-goyim” are not the real reason why our [I consider myself a chareidi] community does not mark Yom ha-Shoah or Yom ha-Zikaron. In my humble opinion, we have not yet come to terms with how we should react to the facts on the ground and we are afraid to raise the questions for public discussion because the answer may not be to our liking. Rav Dov Schwartzman zt”l once said that our problem with the medinah stems from the fact that we disapprove of the means through which the Ribbono shel Olam brought it into being. Sixty-five years after the State became a fact, we are hung up on issues that are irrelevant.

  • Dr. E

    Michael

    Of course we believe in “Talmud Torah k’neged kulam”. We just don’t believe that Torah is exclusively Chareidi, that all Chareidim are actually in Yeshivos, and that all Chareidim sitting in Yeshivos (whether objectively capable or not) are actually learning seriously for 16 hours a day. This was never the case in Jewish History (even in Europe) and is certainly not the case today.

  • Pinny

    To all those who decry the lack of participation of Charedim in Yom HaShoah – what did you do on January 27th of this year? Don’t know what I’m talking about? For shame! It is the International Holocaust Memorial Day! Are you not a citizen of the world?

  • Yehuda

    Why we don’t mark Yom HaShoah… How about 9 Av? A day when many chareidim read Holocaust literature, a day on which all Jewish tragedy throughout the ages, most definitely including the Holocaust, is recalled.
    There is also 20 Sivan (Tach v’Tat) if you are looking for commemoration of past massacres.
    And as for Yom Hazikaron: unlike the zionists, we don’t see Jewish fallen soldiers as an anomaly in Jewish history, but rather as one piece of a Galus tragedy. Therefore there is no reason to set aside a day specifically to mark their petiros among all the other millions of korbanos.
    Of course many outside the chareidi world don’t like all of this, and then, there’s a lot more that they don’t like, too. But should pleasing “them” really be the deciding factor? By now it should be obvious that it’s basically impossible to make chareidim look good to outside eyes. They are simply not interested.

    It worries me that there are so many parallels between how the anti-chareidim (note: NOT the secular) view the chareidim, and how the outside world views the Jews. This website could do with a lot more ayin tovah, which would not necessitate eliminating critical thought, contrary to what many people seem to think.

    With regard to the “you’re evil, now give me money” comment: Although there are certainly sectors who do not believe in taking from the medinah, there is no logical reason why believing that the medinah is evil means that you can’t take money from them. Why not bankrupt them? (This is tongue in cheek, I hasten to add, though the point is still valid.)
    Furthermore, perhaps it is partially in the merit of its support of Torah learning that the medinah still exists today? Dare I make this suggestion, or do readers prefer to assert that the IDF is the sole protector of the state?

    When it comes down to it, IDF service as it stands is essentially slavery. Readers may be interested to know that Rav Aviner (a prominent DL rosh yeshivah – though I could be confusing him with Rav Melamed, apologies) has publicly stated that it’s not so terrible for religious soldiers to go to military jail if necessary, if the issue is one of following either army or Torah orders. Is the IDF really ready to accommodate chareidi views on what constitutes chillul Shabbos etc.?

    And, will the state now come down hard on secular draft-dodgers? For instance, something like 40% of Israeli women claim to be religious in order to get an exemption. Where’s the hue and cry? So it really doesn’t seem so unreasonable, in light of this, for the chareidim to be crying “discrimination” with regard to how we are being treated.

  • Zach Leiner

    Dr. E wrote “in places like Lakewood, Brooklyn, and Monsey where the money is.”

    Replace those 3 geographical entities with, let’s say, “Scarsdale” , “Miami” and “Beverly Hills” and repeat that line. What kind of persona comes to mind that would state such a phrase?

    Point is that there might be room for constructive criticism in this exchange on condition of avoiding the other types which, unfortunately, permeate the blogosphre.

  • Allan Katz

    Yehuda,
    I don’t know where you live , but I suggest that we put aside ‘hashkafah’ and start focusing on midos, sensitivity and feeling for other Jews and feeling part of Klal Yisroel. The problem for many is that ‘haskafah’ gets in the way. The lack of sensitivity and identification shows itself in having a barberque picnic on Yom Hasho’ah , ignoring the mourning sirens etc. We don’t have to make special religious takana’as but for eg Yom ha’shoah does not pass without the media, especially the radio – including frum stations don’t share the stories and tears and we can listen and feel part of this national remembering and reflection. Yom Ha’ zikaron is much stronger – you just have to see the the lines of cars parked around the cementaries and hear the parents and siblings talk about their and our fallen sons and daughters. The marking of first Yom Ha’sho’ah, then Yom Ha’zicaron for fallen soldiers and then Yom Ha’atzma’ut is very powerful and emotional. The kiddush hashem of those who went to the slaughter with ani ma’amin’ on their lips and hearts , the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers may have a lot to do with the resurgence of Israel in their homeland and the growth of Torah.
    Your remarks about the IDF are way off the mark. My son has just finished his army service and so often he remarked how surprised frum soldiers were to find commander and officer courses dominated by frum soldiers.

    if we want to make Israel a better place , we have to participate and become a kidush Hashem. Unfortunately when Hareidim blame the press or the chilonim it comes at the expense of concepts of kidush or hilul Hashem. If we think -we , the charadeinm are the good guys and the others are the bad guys we will not see the hand of Hashem.

    Yehudah – try to move beyond haskafah to feelings of community, gratitude and love.

  • Bob Miller

    What kind of modern high-tech army would want to bring in soldiers who are less motivated or less technically qualified than necessary?

    It seems to me that this controversy is not about military efficiency but about sociological aims that include:
    1. Assigning to all sectors of the population an equal role in defense
    2. Assimilating all sectors of the population into the currently dominant culture

    I think that, based on its history, the Chareidi sector is most fearful of Item 2.

  • shmuel

    Michael wrote:

    “…if you are “DL” then you understand what Torah means, and that ultimately it’s not about military power but Divine protection. Do you agree that a person sincerely learning Torah is doing more for even those in Israel, much less all of us, than someone standing out at a guard post holding a gun?”

    If you’re right that it’s that simple, it would seem you’ve solved the problem –send thousands of kollel students to learn in areas where terrorists might infiltrate the border or on the front lines in case of a conflict. According to your approach, it would be the best of both worlds –the kollel students can learn full time and at the same time provide protection better than the soldiers. I wonder how many kollel students would sign up?

    I put it this way not to make fun of you, but to point out that your statement is grossly oversimplified. The relevant statements in chazal need to be understood, and they need to be applied on both a communal and an individual level –and there is more than one way both to understand these statements in the abstranct and to apply them. If you want to point out that there are sources in chazal that indicate that Torah study is an important ingredient in physical protection in certain circumstances, fine. And if you want to explain why you think that applies in a given circumstances, also fine. But don’t assume that a simplistic understanding of either the sources or their application should be self-understood by everyone else.

  • Michael

    Dovid Landesman: I said that chareidi children learn in memory of the victims of the churban. All of your 20 grandchildren (amen, keyn yirbu!) do that. But you implied that there is something wrong with the schools for not using the “holidays” manufactured by the modern state for Zionistic reasons.

    Just read Allen Katz’s comment and you’ll understand why they never will. No matter that the chareidi community was more affected by the churban than any other, if we don’t commemorate their manufactured holiday, it’s “insensitive.” To whom, ourselves? Because we want to think about the memory of our own relatives in a Jewish way?

    The holiday sequence, as Allen wrote, is no coincidence. “The marking of first Yom Ha’sho’ah, then Yom Ha’zicaron for fallen soldiers and then Yom Ha’atzma’ut is very powerful and emotional.” It was designed this way, it’s no coincidence that they chose the Warsaw Ghetto uprising — both because of the message that the true heroes of the Holocaust are those who fought with guns, and because of its timing.

    B’kochi u’v’otzem yadi, with our own hands we, like those heroes of the uprising, will be sure it never happens again by using weapons. It is very powerful and emotional — and wrong. “We’re going to have an army now and protect ourselves, and that’s why we won’t need G-d’s protection anymore.”

    That attitude has failed. Jews are safer in New York than Tel Aviv. The peace treaty with Egypt is as peaceful as the Cold War was, Syria is in turmoil, and Gaza is now a large training ground for young terrorists. Remove the protection of the yeshivos, and you think “b’kochi u’v’otzem yadi” will keep them away?

    Shmuel, you’ve built a strawman argument in order to completely evade the question. The truth is that what you describe actually happened, more or less. During the Batei Mikdash everyone abandoned the borders three times a year, and although this was no secret, there were no “Yom Tov invasions.”

    But under the present circumstances, no one is claiming that both are not needed. Now that we agree both are important, which is greater? Why aren’t you suggesting that more soldiers take time away from holding a gun to go learn?

  • Simcha Younger

    Ben Waxman
    April 10, 2013 at 1:12 am

    2. Stop taking money from the government.

    why? universities, kibbutzim, research institutions, private industries, cultural groups, hesder yeshivot and ein sof other groups have government support. if you want to say “acceptance of any government support will be dependent on meeting universal agreed-upon criteria, just like the above groups and no longer will you receive funding without government oversight”, that is something else.
    ————————-
    Pinny
    April 11, 2013 at 1:30 pm
    >> you really don’t see the hypocrisy in “You are EEEEVIL now give me my money!!!” <<

    Of course not. That is exactly what you would say to someone evil who took your money. Since the Israeli government does take money from the Charedim, I see no issue.
    =============================

    This is the biggest problem with government generosity. Everyone justifies taking all they can get because everyone else is also taking.

    The chareidi community is taking more than they are giving, otherwise they would be fighting for lower taxes and less transfers. Also, even though the government is evil and non-halachic and illegitimate, if what I am giving is reasonable to cover public spending (i.e. defense, infrastructure, etc.) then it does not justify taking government transfers.

    Our job is too make sure that people do not see us negatively, and not to keep reminding ourselves why they are wrong. Even if everyone else is on the dole, if they are looking down on the religious community for relying on the government, then we should make it a priority not to take the money.

    I also think that a lot of the other government transfers should be stopped, but the fact that others are taking does not justify maximizing what we get. The chareidi community would be in a much better position today, and much more respected, if they would have fought for low taxes and minimal government transfers instead of trying to get as much as they could.

    The chareidi community is the only clearly identifiable group which made a public decision to rely on government transfers so that they are free to pursue their own interests. None of the other groups you mentioned explicitly take government money so that they do not have to work. (Obviously many individuals do, and I regardless am really not trying to justify those other transfers either.) Additionally, the chareidi representatives have created an impression of being a one-issue party which is only concerned about getting more money for their community. (Ok, they care about public shabbos observance also.) This may or may not be a fair impression, but it is the impression they created, and it will obviously cause a lot of resentment.

    Again, it is not really important if people are correct and fair in their assessments of the religious community. We need to make sure the impression is positive, and there is little value in constantly reminding ourselves why we are really right in everything we do.

    These are really secondary reasons not to take money from the government for learning. The primary reason is because learning is a holy calling and the primary expression of social religious dedication, and it must be kept clean and holy. If the money which pays for learning was given unwillingly, then the learning can no longer represent a higher calling, and becomes just an excuse to extract money from others. As long as the religious community is not imposing on others, but sacrifices itself to support the learning, then the learning is rightly seen as a higher cause, and as a Source which can teach people to rise above the secular life and to live by a higher standard. When the religious community insists that other people sponsor their dedication, then their dedication does not mean much, and the object of their dedication is degraded to a meaningless work which cannot teach anything about a better way to live. We cannot expect secular people to respect the value of our learning if we are demanding that they work to pay for it. The transfer does not just cause resentment, but takes away the value of the learning which the wider Jewish community was meant to respect, defeating its own purpose.

  • Ben Waxman

    That attitude has failed. Jews are safer in New York than Tel Aviv. The peace treaty with Egypt is as peaceful as the Cold War was, Syria is in turmoil, and Gaza is now a large training ground for young terrorists. Remove the protection of the yeshivos, and you think “b’kochi u’v’otzem yadi” will keep them away?

    In some ways Jews are more secure in New York than Tel Aviv, that is true. I don’t know if it is true about Jews living in London, Paris, Stockholm and other places in Europe.

    Regarding your second sentence: That is exactly the heart of the matter (or one of the hearts): No one really knows what is God’s heshbon despite all claims of yes knowing. All of this chest thumping that I’ve been hearing from the yeshiva world is just that, chest thumping. Rav Brody claimed that it was the learning in yeshivot (including the Grondo yeshiva even though they ran away to Beit Shemesh) that provided protection in the last war, not kipat barzel. However I have no doubt that if the people who made those statements had to chose between living in a town (under fire) without a yeshiva or living in a town without a of kipat barzel battery, they would chose the former.

  • Ben Waxman

    But under the present circumstances, no one is claiming that both are not needed. Now that we agree both are important, which is greater?

    If you agree that having an army is important, than why do you oppose learning mishnayot to the memory of those who died in the army? Even if the secular Zionists are hell bent on eradicating Chareidi Judaism (which I don’t believe but I am not arguing that point) why does that free you of any hakarat hatov?

  • Allan Katz

    Michael,
    You are missing the point I am making. Forget the haskafa, don’t rely on the classical outdated approahes to Yom Ha’atzma;ut , ha’sho’ah and yom hazicaron to the fallen soldiers and victims of terror even in present day Israeli context to guide your frum response or what Hashem wants from you especially if you live in Israel. I am not talking about officially commemorating but being in touch with the mood of the klal on these days and identifying with positive feelings , being grateful to hashem and doing heshbon ha’nefesh. This is what my role models in the Chareidi community do

  • Allan Katz

    I want to share – I daven mincha in a Chareidi Kollel – Ben Yehuda street , Tel Aviv. I approached a great grandson of reb Aryeh Levin , who is also a yiddish speaking Rov of a shul nearby with lots of new french olim. I asked him if he was going to have a busy week ahead. He asked why? I said , being a Rav of lots of new olim from France , yom ha’zicaron and Yom ha’atzmaut is important to them.He asked – is yom Hazicaron and yom ha’atzmuaut not important to you , are we not all Israelis ? !!!

  • Ben Waxman

    you really don’t see the hypocrisy in “You are EEEEVIL now give me my money!!!

    the groups that truly believe that the GOI is evil (by definition), meaning the eda chareidit, don’t take money, AFAIK. the other groups have a far more complex ideology.

  • L. Oberstein

    “What kind of modern high-tech army would want to bring in soldiers who are less motivated or less technically qualified than necessary?”
    Bob Miller is correct up to a point. However, why should bnai torah be unmotivated and unqualified? Who made them into “miskeinim” ,nebach cases as you correctly describe them?
    Dov Lipman is being tarred and feathered by people who deep down share his values . Normal citizens of a country want to be part of their country. The real reason is that the ultra orthodox world is still unable to deal with the Holocaust and unable to acknowledge the miracle of Israel. They exhibit insecurity and fear that their children will go off the derech if they participate in the army or in the work force and that is simply not necessarily true. The State of Israel faces an existential crisis in that a large and growing percentage of its young men are not contributing and are not sharing in the responsibilities of the State. The people you describe are “Kofuei tova” ingrates. Why do they deserve the title “chareidim”, is their behavior really a sign of deep piety? I don’t think so.

  • Ori Pomerantz

    IIRC, 1949-1977 there were only about 800 exempt Yeshiva students.

    1. How did young Charedim handle it? Was the IDF any less secular then than it is now, considering that Dati Leumi were a smaller percent of officers?
    2. Was divine protection lacking? Israel won the wars in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973.

    I am not saying the Israeli model is good, I consider it extremely wasteful and a form of slavery (in the Tanakhic sense of a limited time slavery). But I haven’t seen Charedi leaders suggest a change to a volunteer, paid military.

  • Simcha Younger

    Ori,

    As I understand, there was an extremely high attrition rate from the chareidi community in the early years of the state. Many young (ex-)chareidim were in the army, and not particularly religious. (R’ Shmuel Auerbach has said that from his school class in Eitz Chaim, only one other student remained in the fold.)

    This initial failure contributed a great deal to the isolationist attitudes of the chareidi community. They saw that just about everyone who had anything to do with the state establishment became irreligious, or radically reduced their religious commitment. The only way they could see to protect the religious lifestyle of their families was by minimizing contact with the secular society.

  • yankel

    The Torah-Jews, based on the Pesak of the vast majority of great Talmidei Chachomim, rejected political Zionism. The majority rejected any Zionis, but there were enough supporters for Chovevei Zion to minimize the numbers. SOme characters threw off thier backs the yoke of Torah and decided to shlep everyone with them. They went to Israel around 1917 and started making trouble for the original Jews there. They fanned the flames of nationalism and created an Arab nationalism that was displayed in the pogroms of 1929. Before 1917 the institutionalized anti-semitism was pretty low and they only suffered from the regular problems of a backward society. Absolving Zionism for the pogroms of 1929 is revisionist history.
    This Arab nationalism, created and fanned by the Zionists, prevented the British mandate from allowing Jews into Palestine. After WWII the jews in DP camps were stuck with nowhere to go, thanks to the British limits on immigration to Palestine caused by the surge in Arab nationalism, started by the new kind of jewish nationalism called Zionism. When the State of Israel was declared, those Jews from the DP camps could finally go to Israel. But they had a new problem. Zionism had awakened an Arab nationalism that caused a tremendous hatred to Jews all over. This require an answer from the Jews for their own self-defense. However, the IDF had another, nefarious, purpose. The immigration of many different cultures and backgrounds of Jews to Israel created a sociological nightmare. How would they coalesce into one (hopefully secular) society. The army was a melting pot, and most religious Jews who joined the army became irreligious.
    The religious separated themselves from the Zionists, realizing the danger Zionism is to Judaism. Before the Zionists came in 1917, if someone wanted to work or open a business, he was only hampered by the backward society around him. Now the State created a war and announced that anyone who does not partake of the war is forbidden to work. This served to keep the religious in poverty, while assisting the growth of the Yeshivos. If not for the Zionists, the charedim would not have to live on hand-outs. They removed the opportunity to be self-sufficient and now they want a yasher-koach for the peanuts they returned.
    We cannot go to the army because it is a spritual danger for us. We cannot go to the army because we refuse to see ourselves as part of the Goyishe world or as part of the Zionist world. The kernel of Judaism is in the Beis HaMedrash and anyone is welcome to partake. When the secular refuse to be a part of the wider (Torah) world, they have cut themselves off from society and should not blame others for their wrongs.

  • Ori Pomerantz

    Simcha, did the high attrition rate continue all the way through the 1970s?

  • Ben Waxman

    As I understand, there was an extremely high attrition rate from the chareidi community in the early years of the state.

    As there was throughout the modern period when Orthodoxy met open Western societies, new ideas, new worlds. We didn’t handle modernism well, don’t blame it on the Zionists.

  • chardal

    yankel,

    It is sad that you have bought into the chareidi revisionism of Jewish history. The truth is that many of the Arab clans of Palestine and the surrounding areas were horrible to the Jewish populations well before Zionism became an organized movement. There were pogroms against Jews in Tzfat and Hevron in 1834. Just a bit north, in Damascus, the Jewish community incured the infamous Damascus blood libel of 1840.

    The old yeshuv of Yerushalim had to create its own militia to defend against constant Arab attacks in the 19th century. The common name of the organization was הגוורדיה but its original name, give by its founder R’ Hillel Rivlin, was שערי צדק which was used as an acronym for שמירה, עבודה, רפואה, ישועה, צורכי ציבור, דברי קודש.

    A book was published by the Jews of Jerusalem in 1934 called תקנות מאה שערים and in it the author writes regarding the period when this pre-Zionist self-defense organization was created:

    עד העת ההיא לא הרהיב איש יהודי את נפשו לצאת את החומה ולחוץ, כי אך עשרה צעדים אשר הלך האיש משערי העיר וחוצה הייתה סכנה איומה מרחפת על ראשו, וסביב ירושלים על כל מגרשיה הייתה תוהו ובוהו ונשקף על פני הישימון, ואך שודדי יום כמלאכי משחית נראו לפעמים על פני הכפים והצורים הנוראים אשר שממת עולם עליהם

    Until that time [when the militia was founded], A Jewish person would not dare risk his life to go beyond the wall [of the city]. Only 10 footsteps beyond the city gave, grave danger would be hanging over his head. And around Jerusalem and all its fields, there was terrible desolation and highway robbers would often be found like angles of destruction around that eternal wasteland.

    You can read much more about this in מוסד היסוד by אלעזר הורוביץ and in תולדות שכונת מאה שערים by יוסף יואל ריבלין. The old yeshuv had to engage in self-defense long before the Zionists came along.

    Your hatred of Zionism and the state is blinding you from seeing the historical record properly. The fact is, that the chareidi world dropped the ball as soon as Zionism came onto the scene, in true reactionary fashion, it started defining itself as simply the opposite of whatever forces were challenging it. Which is how we arrive at the present situation where the behavior of those brave chareidim of the old yeshuv would be extremely foreign to the modern chareidi mindset (and be considered worthy of great respect by religious and secular Zionists alike). The tikkun to your community will only come when they stop being reactionary and begin adopting a mindset of civic and national responsibility.

  • Simcha Younger

    Ori & Ben,

    I was not justifying the chareidi approach, or blaming the zionists. I was simply observing the sociological roots of the chareidi approach, in response to Ori’s question about the early years of the state.

    Ideologies have a very strong inertia, and a life of their own, independent of the circumstances under which they were born. The initial isolationism may have already been irrelevant by the 1970′s, but it made no difference anymore. It was already a dominant approach, and would run its course, irrespective of its continued relevance.

    I do not think that isolationism was the proper approach at any point, but for those who do support it, I would say it probably maintained its justifications beyond the 1970′s, but by the 1990′s the chareidi community was definitely large and stable enough that their isolationism could not be justified anymore on its own merits. But again, that is irrelevant, because once established it was no longer dependent on stimulus.

    While I have no credentials in history, I see the following sequence:
    It seems that the real crisis for the chareidi community, when they were having a really hard time keeping the next generation religious, was in the period between 1935-1955 (pre- and early- state). The next generation (coming of age 1960-1980) would have been raised by those who held strong in the first period. Their world view would be very heavily influenced by the experience and conclusions of their fathers. Isolationism takes hold in this period, 1960-1980, not in the earlier period.

    The next generation, coming of age 1980-2000, is dealing with setting where the strict isolationism is not compelling on its own anymore, but now is when it becomes an ingrained, long-standing tradition. Their parents are not teaching them their own life’s conclusions, they are passing on the teachings of the previous generation, and presenting their own generation as proof of the value of this approach. This period seems to have been the high point of the chareidi community. They are holding their own, not only stemming the tide, but also enjoying a large influx of baalei teshuva. Religiously, in practice and in Torah scholarship, they are far ahead of the national-religious community. Their approach has clearly succeeded.

    The next generation, maturing now, is taught the same message, but it is has lost a lot of its power. The focus on isolationism has also not served the community well at all in the recent period. Intellectually it has stunted the community and led to the ossification of the leadership, politically it has led to dishonorable representation, and economically it has brought widespread poverty. The religious state of the community is also not as compelling as it was previously, both because of internal stagnation (obsession with mehadrin and chumras, vaad harabanim, daas torah misused) and external developments, ( the growth of the Torani Dati-leumi community). While the isolationist narrative is still maintained quite strongly, it is hard to see it continuing for much longer. The current political changes might be the crises the community needs to re-evaluate its approach to the modern world.

  • shloi

    R.Oberstein wrote
    “They exhibit insecurity and fear that their children will go off the derech if they participate in the army or in the work force and that is simply not necessarily true.”

    Not exactly. They want every child to attain the highest possible level of ruchnius and see the Torah as the only true value. In this generation,the only way to do it is to keep the boys in Yeshiva and not be involved in non Torah occupations. Sending kids to work will not make them go off the derech, but they will be able to reach only a lower level of ruchnius. If you would scale the level of ruchnius from 1 to 10, in Yeshiva you could reach 10, if you work or go to the army, you will be able to reach only say 8. This is unacceptable for them.

  • Ori Pomerantz

    Simcha, thank you. It sounds like the pre-1977 Charedim looked for other ways to avoid military service, so as to maintain their isolation. This might explain why Begin didn’t mind granting more of them exemptions.

  • Ben Waxman

    If you would scale the level of ruchnius from 1 to 10, in Yeshiva you could reach 10, if you work or go to the army, you will be able to reach only say 8. This is unacceptable for them.

    This is interesting. For years, I have been living in Israel and heard multiple justifications for the army deferral. At first, the claim was “Talmud Torah, Shevet Levi”, claims of that nature. Then when significant numbers of guys who weren’t capable of staying in yeshiva all day started appearing, the additional claim that the IDF turns good frum guys into secular types and they (these non-learners) also need to stay out.

    Now there is a totally different claim. A guy can go to the army (or work) and remain dati, or even remain chareidi. But his level of spirituality will drop. Not that he will actually commit aveirot, but that he won’t be in top form. And the conclusion of this claim is that the rest of the world has to serve in the IDF, work, pay taxes, so that Yankel can maintain his high level of spirituality.

    And chareidim wonder why the secular and dati-leumim reject their demands.

  • yankel

    chardal – a civic security force is not a political establishment. Yes, there were dangerous times in the old Yishuv. A mostly lawless society is always dangerous. However, there was not the organized anti-semitism that started after 1917. Two cases in 70 years in a large swath of land from Tzfas to Damascus do not compare to the effects of Zionisim on Jew-Arab relationships. A person could create a belief system that says that the PLO would have bombed Jews without Zionism and presumably, the casualties of the Yom Kippur war would have happened anyway. But that would be a fantasy world and the real world of cause and effect and simple rationalistic thought would not accept it.
    My point is that the Yeshiva world does not owe a thanks for the money they get from the government. The government stopped them working and they owe it to them to help them survive. If they want to endanger the yishuv and risk their lives, let those who wanted the state pay for it, not those who never wanted it.
    Additionally, Ben Gurion needed a guarantee that the Torah-Jews would not block the state. That was done through a deal with the Torah-Jews that Beney Yeshiva would not go the army and they would not hinder the State from being established (through international lobbying etc). For the state to renege on its agreement now is dishonest. Our non-acceptance of the State should absolve us from the army because that was the original deal.

  • L. Oberstein

    “shloi”- why should the taxpayers of the State of Israel support a life of Torah learning for all children in a charedi family, including many who do not aspire to a life of Torah learning but are trapped. You write as if it had nothing to do with the rest of the country. If you are financially able to spend your life learning and never get a job, pay all your tuition bills, and be a giver,not just a taker, that is your situation.But, for you to tell me that you want to retire before you start and that I owe you a livlihood so you can sit and learn,whether you have any ability of not, is not just. The chareidi lifestyle is an aberation and the situation you describe is not what is really true on the ground. It is so morally reprehensible to spit into the well you drink from , to refuse to say a prayer for the soldiers who risk their lives so you can have your life of learning without working.
    The last time the lifestyle you advocate was normative was when we ate manna in the dessert for 40 years, and,even then, they had wars and soldiers were needed. Did they draft only the erev rav or were Jws also in Moshe’s army? Please let me know because my Chumash doesn’t say “kol yotzei tzavah applied only to gentiles or people like the mekallel and the mekoshesh eitzim.

  • Chardal

    >chardal – a civic security force is not a political establishment. Yes, there were dangerous times in the old Yishuv. A mostly lawless society is always dangerous. However, there was not the organized anti-semitism that started after 1917.

    Not true. There was always implicit antisemitism in any Muslim society. Sharia itself is discriminatory against Jews. Organized Arab secular/nationalistic antisemitism was developed at the same time that its European counterpart, in the 19th century. Yossef Bodansky, in his book “Islamic Anti-Semitism as a Political Instrument” lists the following organized political pre-zionism pogroms in the Arab world:

    Aleppo (1850, 1875), Damascus (1840, 1848, 1890), Beirut (1862, 1874), Dayr al-Qamar (1847), Jaffa (1876), Jerusalem (1847, 1870 and 1895), Cairo (1844, 1890, 1901–02), Mansura (1877), Alexandria (1870, 1882, 1901–07), Port Said (1903, 1908), and Damanhur (1871, 1873, 1877, 1891)

    Of course, smaller “lawless” individual antisemitic acts were common fair. To blame Jews for organizing politically and militarily in order to defend themselves is just blaming the victim and is not a worthy argument for a Jew to make. It is like blaming the black civil rights movement for the existence of the KKK.

    >Two cases in 70 years in a large swath of land from Tzfas to Damascus do not compare to the effects of Zionisim on Jew-Arab relationships.

    See above, I was just listing two examples and you took them as the whole story. Zionism is a just movement on its own right. The fact that antisemites get angry when Jews demand to be treated fairly does not mean we should stop demanding that Jews be treated fairly. You are accepting the antisemitic narrative by doing this.

    >A person could create a belief system that says that the PLO would have bombed Jews without Zionism and presumably, the casualties of the Yom Kippur war would have happened anyway. But that would be a fantasy world and the real world of cause and effect and simple rationalistic thought would not accept it.

    Of course you can not have a state in an area where people hate you without having wars. And of course those wars are tragic, but the blame is with the hateful enemy, not with the people trying to claim the same rights as any other nation has in the world. And the argument is fallacious in many other ways as well. Tragic as these wars have been and as much as we mourn the fallen, they simply do not compare to the state of Jews in most of our exiles. Need I remind you about the history of Jews in exile being led like sheep to the slaughter? It is true spiritual and national weakness that could lead a Jew to prefer exile over sovereignty.

    >My point is that the Yeshiva world does not owe a thanks for the money they get from the government. The government stopped them working and they owe it to them to help them survive.

    No one is stopping them from working. They are welcome to participate in the state and they are welcome to leave if the state is so evil in their eyes.

    >If they want to endanger the yishuv and risk their lives, let those who wanted the state pay for it, not those who never wanted it.

    Pretty much every chareidi participated in one form or another in the war of independence. Even the head of the Edah Chareidis at the time, R’ Dushinsky, called for the participation of all Jews in the war effort as one of the residents of the old city, Yaakov Gellis wrote in his journal:

    לנוכח המצב החמור שבו שרויה ירושלים, אשר היא פרוצה מכל צד, ועתה בעיקר עם נפילת עטרות ונווה יעקב, גויסו הרבה מבני ירושלים לעבודות ביצורים… גם מרן מהרי״ץ דושינסקי שליט״א פרסם צו קריאה להשתתף בעבודות הביצורים בשעת חירום זו. הקריאה הזאת עשתה רושם רב והראתה על חומר ורצינות המצב, והרבה יהודים, ואף זקנים התנדבו לעבודות אלו״.

    The attitude you have was not the mainstream attitude of the chareidi street even in the pre-state days. R’ Avraham Ravitz z”l described once what motivated him to join Lehi:

    “נער הייתי וגם למדתי בתלמוד תורה ׳סיני׳, שהיה סמוך לרחוב מזרחי ב׳, אשר בתל אביב הקטנה. כן, ילד תל אביבי קטן רגיל. באחד הבקרים בחודש שבט תש״ב, ביום לימודים רגיל, שמעתי בכיתה עם חבריי הנערים כמה יריות. זה היה בעיצומה של מלחמת העולם.
    הנועזים שבינינו עזבו את הכיתה, רצנו לרחוב דרך המדרגות ומצאנו שם מהומה גדולה. שאלתי אנשים מה קרה, וכולם ענו: המשטרה הבריטית הרגה שודד ורוצח יהודי. חזרתי לכיתה ושם שאלוני חבריי מה קרה, ומלמלתי להם את אשר שמעתי ברחוב.
    הרבי, שהיה המורה שלנו, פרץ ואמר – ואני זוכר את זה עד היום – ‘אבריימ׳ל, לא רוצח ולא שודד. יהודי הם הרגו. הם רצחו גיבור יהודי בעל מסירות נפש’. הרבי הזה היה הרב יצחק ידידיה פרנקל, שלימים היה רבה הראשי של תל אביב”.
    “החרדים האמינו גם הם ברעיון גירוש השלטון הזר, וזו הסיבה שהם לחמו בלח”י. מתוך עיקרון אידיאולוגי נטו״, פוסק יאיר שטרן, בנו של מפקד הלח״י.״היו בלח״י חרדים עם פאות, כובעים שחורים וזקנים שהשתמשו במראה החיצוני ובדימוי שיצרה התלבושת החרדית ככלי עזר, ובזכותה לא חשדו בכך שהם לוחמי מחתרת.
    מתחת למעילים השחורים הם החביאו רימונים, העבירו חומרי חבלה, כרוזים, כלי נשק ודברי מהפכה, ואף אחד לא עצר אותם כי בחור חרדי בדרך לבית־הכנסת היה הדבר הכי רחוק שאפשר לחשוד בו”.

    “When I was a child, I learned in Talmud Torah Sinai, which was next to Mizrahi St. in small Tel Aviv. In one of the mornings in Shvat, 1942, during a normal school day, my friends and I heard gun shots. This was during the second world war. The brave among us left the class and ran to the street through the stairs and found a great commotion there. I asked people what had happened and everyone answered: “The British police killed a Jewish robber and murderer. I returned to the class and my friends asked me what had happened and I repeated what I had heard on the street. The Rav, who was our teacher, interrupted me and said (and I remember this to this day) – ‘Avraimelle, he was not a robber and murderer. They killed a Jew. They killed a Jewish hero who had great messirus nefesh.’ This Rav was R’ Yitzchak Yedidya Frankel, who would later become the chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv. The chareidi of that time also believed in the idea of expelling the colonial power, and that is why [many] fought in Lehi. Simply from ideological reasons. The Lehi had chareidim with Peot, black hats and beards that used their external appearance and the impression that the chareidi dress evoked as subterfuge, and because of that no one suspected them as being fighters in the underground. Under the black dress they hid grenades, explosives, propaganda, and other weaponry and no one would stop them because a chareidi on their way to shul was the least suspicious thing you could imagine.”

    This was a very mainstream attitude in the chareidi world, and yet you condemn the Zionists for the very same attitudes.

    >Additionally, Ben Gurion needed a guarantee that the Torah-Jews would not block the state.

    I have no idea where you get this. evidence? The chareidim at that time had no ability to block anything, why would ben gurion be concerned about them?

    >That was done through a deal with the Torah-Jews that Beney Yeshiva would not go the army and they would not hinder the State from being established (through international lobbying etc).

    evidence? Ben Gurion’s negotiations with the chareidi establishment about army service was done after the state was already established.

    >For the state to renege on its agreement now is dishonest. Our non-acceptance of the State should absolve us from the army because that was the original deal.

    There was no such deal. Ben Gurion, AFTER the state, made a deal to excempt 400 yeshiva students. That was it. I have in my possession part of a correspondence between Ben Gurion and R’ Herzog about this issue that shows that Ben Gurion wanted everyone in the army. I don’t know where you get your history but you can not just make claims without backing them up with some historical sources.

    The most frightening thing, however, is not the lack of historical method you are presenting but rather the fact that you accept the antisemitic narrative that Jews have no right to organize and protect themselves. And that if they do, they are to blame for their enemies’ hatred (as if id did not exist before). Truly, a slave mentality not worthy of a Jew in our era.

  • shloi

    R.Oberstein

    I was not expressing my personal opinion for or against. I just wanted to explain what is my understanding of the situation. According to my understanding, the rabbis will not compromise to anything less than the maximum, even if in practice the actual number of people who will reach the maximum is very small.

  • Ben Waxman

    the rabbis will not compromise

    there has been a truism in the last 100 years in the middle east: those who demand everything end up with nothing.