Can We Do Anything to Lessen the Hatred?

letter-447577_1280

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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Ben Waxman
2 years 4 months ago

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.

shloi
2 years 4 months ago

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.

Chardal
2 years 4 months ago

>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.

L. Oberstein
2 years 4 months ago

“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.

yankel
2 years 4 months ago

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.