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Why bait the haredim?

Posted By Obadiah Shoher On March 19, 2007 @ 12:25 am In Jewish matters | 20 Comments

Israeli attitude to ultra-Orthodox Jews parallels anti-Semitism of the Diaspora. The religious gap between traditionalist Israelis and ultra-Orthodox haredim resembles that between Gentiles and Jews. The haredim are disliked in Israel for being too Jewish. Traditionalist Israelis are humiliatingly second-rate Jews compared to haredim. In the manner of anti-Semites, other Israelis adopt “hate those who detest you” attitude. Thus appear typically anti-Semitic proposals of forced assimilation of haredim. The most prominent suggestion is forcing the haredim to serve in Israeli army. Many do serve voluntarily, and with great distinction. There are many hypocrites among haredim, as elsewhere, and some Jews join the haredim to skip the army, but most of the ultra-Orthodoxes sustain Jewish nation in the way more important than arms: by learning Judaism 16 hours per day. In a sense, haredim do for the Jews the work reserved in traditional families to females: males earn and defend while females maintain the hearth. Haredim preserve something more important than Israeli borders: strict Judaism. Jews could argue a lot whether the ultra-Orthodox vision of Judaism is correct or not, but it is most protected from external influences and closed to assimilation. Other Jews could embrace democracy, pop culture, emigrate, convert under threat – but not haredim. They would stay among hostile Arabs or other nations and proudly take their Judaism all the way to gallows. That could be worth the subsidies they receive now.

Even in the rationalist dimension, the current baiting of haredim is unreasonable. Soviet Union exempted university students from military conscription; haredim surely study the subject no less important than secular topics. The haredim could not be fairly asked to share the security burden created by leftists. Ultra-Orthodoxes don’t allow Arabs to settle in their midst, don’t provoke the Palestinians with endless concessions, and don’t condone Arab voting rights in the Jewish state; many haredim don’t even want a Jewish state, and for a good reason: Jewish autonomy in a Palestinian state [1] could be more Jewish that the leftist Israel. Haredim don’t recognize secular Israel but receive subsidies from her; if anything, remove subsidies rather than drug the haredim into the army. Subsidies are the government’s way to bribe the haredim into keeping quiet about the state’s anti-Jewish policies. They keep their part of the bargain and owe nothing else for the payments.

Other Israelis resent the situation when the haredim receive government subsidies but don’t serve in the army. That’s a valid concern, but start with the Arabs who receive much more than the haredim, don’t serve in the army or pay taxes, and are openly hostile to the Jewish state. To oppose haredim while tolerating Arabs is not just hypocrisy, but anti-Semitism.

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[1] Jewish autonomy in a Palestinian state: http://samsonblinded.org/said_end_peace_process/81racism_antiisraeli_incitement.htm