Beyond the Cusp

July 25, 2018

Modernizing the Israeli Haredi Community

 

The modernization of the Israeli Haredi community is not simply an objective but an absolute necessity. The problem comes down to simple mathematics. As the Haredi community has grown, they have become a larger and larger percentage of the Israeli population. If there is one thing we have learned, it is that there is a critical point beyond which the rest of the population becomes unable to produce sufficient wealth that they can take care of another portion of the community. Those numbers differ depending on numerous variables, but once the dependent populations clears 40%, let alone reach 50%, they become an overt and unbearable burden on the remainder of the population and other government services such as defense begin to suffer catastrophically. For this reason, the Haredi community needs to be pulled, voluntarily or kicking and screaming, into the mainstream working population. For a model of such one need look no further than the United States where the Haredi communities not only work, pulling their own weight, as well as studying Torah and are amongst some of the wealthiest and most productive Jewish communities. The same model can be duplicated in Israel and still permit for the top and most promising Torah scholars to study Torah as their work financed by the charity of others or the government, something which can be hammered out once the Haredi show their promise to have the majority join the normative society.

 

The initial step in this direction comes by including the Haredi in military service. This would begin by passing a draft law which would make Haredi men eligible to be drafted with a small but relatively sizable percentage allowed being exempted as Torah scholars. This percentage should not exceed 10% though initially it could be set as high as 25% and brought down from there. For those Haredi not exempted but adamantly opposed to service in the IDF, they can be given the standard option of National Service. This will require the IDF remain hospitable to religious soldiers and reverse the somewhat recent trend to impose secular standards upon religious soldiers. This has apparently come about as the high command appeared to be attempting to break the will of the more religious soldiers, something which should never happen within the Jewish Army. There could be combined religious-Haredi brigades or even a complete division. The catch is currently the religious Zionists when enlisting often request longer service periods in order to serve in the most prestigious special brigades such as the Nahal Brigade, the Paratroopers Brigade and the Sayeret Matkal as well as the other Special Forces units. It is unlikely that the entirety of the Haredi would desire to enter such units and their percentages in each area of service are more likely to mirror the rest of Israeli draftees.

 

Five beautiful, glorious and holy Torah Scrolls which carry near infinite wisdom and are the foundation of all Judaism and their culture and civilization is built around the Torah and the teaching of Torah

Five beautiful, glorious and holy Torah Scrolls which carry near infinite wisdom and are the foundation of all Judaism and their culture and the Jewish civilization is built around the Torah and the teaching of Torah

 

The difficulty in bringing this concept to fruition has been the simple political fact; the Haredi Parties within the coalition have the numbers to bring elections and thus can resist any draft law which requires Haredi service. This is one of the difficulties with parliamentary coalition governments; they are only as strong as their most disruptive link. The coalition system has presumed advantages though when scrutinized, the disadvantages appear to crop up far more prominently than any advantages. The Haredi parties demand as their entry into any coalition that their population remain deferred from service in the IDF or National Service because they must be free to study Torah twenty-four-seven otherwise peace will never come to the world. We really hate to break this to them, peace does not appear any closer with them pursuing only Torah study, perhaps some of them might be going about their studies with less than the required serious concentration necessary to bring world peace. This has been the problem as some of the Ministers of the Knesset have pointed out, they can drive through the Haredi neighborhoods, largely in Tel Aviv, and they see tens to hundreds of young Haredi men standing around on street corners smoking cigarettes and not apparently pouring over Torah manuscripts and the related commentaries deep in study and thought. The claim is these numbers are too large and persistent and are found almost any hour of the day to be laid on the excuse that these young men were taking a break. This may weaken the Haredi parties’ arguments, but it does not dilute their ability to force elections.

 

There is another means of slowly forcing the incorporation of the Israeli Haredi to join into the workforce, which is the actual reason for including them into the IDF and having required STEM and other basic courses be taught at the Yeshivas. As stated above, such is the norm for the Haredi in the United States and they support their own Torah greats in their studies from within their community and do not demand that the United States government support their Torah studies as the Haredi have done historically here in Israel. The other persuasive means is to not increase, or actually decrease, the amount of government support provided to the Haredi communities thus eventually forcing them to realize that their game is up. Again, this will run afoul of the Haredi parties who can threaten to force new elections. Eventually there will be a government coalition not requiring the Haredi parties to reach the required sixty-one Ministers, a majority of the one-hundred-twenty in the Knesset. For the Haredi’s sake, they had better pray during their Torah studies that such a coalition not be made up of the secular-left as they will have no pity and feel absolutely no guilt in cutting the Haredi communities off their support leaving them to beg and scratch to survive. At least if such a coalition is from the right-Zionist-religious-nationalist parties, then the Haredi will be cared for more gently but the writing is on the wall and they are going to by necessity be joining the normative society. Of this need there can be no rational argument as their numbers and percentage of the Israeli population continue to increase.

 

The truth is there are some very successful Haredi run companies within Israel. What makes these companies all the more outstanding is that they have nary a man in the building. These are companies started by and populated with Haredi women. To read about a select group of these companies we would like to provide links to the following this article, this article, this article, this article, this article, this article and this article. These are proof that the Haredi believe in working and if the men desired, they could very probably follow their women’s example while adding a difference where each department within the company was given special time in which to devote themselves solely to Torah. This would serve two purposes. The first is that it would permit every Haredi with time to study Torah and second, we would not be deprived of a miraculous contribution to the commentaries on Torah coming from the most unlikely of former students. People always bring up the fact that Albert Einstein did not do well in his early studies, especially where speed was required in answering any question. Thus, the claims that even the most brilliant diamond is but a lump of rock when pulled from the earth is an analogous comparison. The countering argument is equally valid in that not every Haredi is a real and treasured brilliant Torah scholar and thus every Haredi is not necessary for the advancement of Torah and the Law going forward, a percentage including the most promising students should be permitted deferment from IDF and even joining the workforce and possibly receiving a stipend from the government. But the teachers at their Yeshivas and their participants in immersive Torah studies should ideally be supported by the Haredi community just as they are in other countries. Most of the synagogues and especially those attending regular services provide sufficient charity to the Haredi to pay for much of this work being performed in a most serious manner. Finally, working and supporting oneself was ideally meant to provide additional insight into the human condition and thus deepen one’s ability to understand Torah and the Commandments and allow for a deeper interpretation of Torah relevant to the lives of the people.

 

This is all well and good but it does not get us past the Haredi parties blocking, or attempting to block changes in the current system by threatening to force new elections. The Haredi parties do not fear elections because their voting block supports their candidates because their rabbis tell them to do so and thus their representation remains rather constant between nine and thirteen seats. This often makes them the kingmakers as their numbers can make for a stable coalition capable of having four or even seven Ministers not vote with the coalition and still have their legislation be passed and prevent new election crisis. Often they are required to form a coalition and in these instances their power is greatly increased, making changing the rules very difficult. This requires that the Haredi be persuaded to accept these changes which lead to painfully slow progress in these areas. One can only hope that the Haredi leadership, preferably their leading most rabbis, will simply state what is true; Torah scholars are meant to also work as a means of remaining humble and appreciative of how those who depend on them to interpret Torah such that it is made meaningful for them are served. Even the prophets of old were required to work for a living with only the most brilliant and righteous having as their position to advise the Kings. Otherwise, the prophets in antiquity would have starved to death and along the way become too weak to think straight. We understand that some of them did not particularly think straight all the time even with food and good employment. The fact they were required to perform something of monetary worth in addition to their relating the desires of Hashem is the important point. Surely, the Haredi do not place their Torah study above the revelations which came from the prophets, or do they?

 

When the day arrives that the Haredi see the light of day or are not required and a coalition is formed without their participation, then the Haredi will know what it feels like to be depending upon the kindness of others exclusively. On this day, the future of the Haredi community will be decided free of their input and this fact alone should place the fear of Hashem into the leaders of these Haredi parties. They would be far better served to be participants in a logical, acceptable and understandable transition towards reaching a final goal and in defining that final goal. Should the Haredi continue to endlessly demand that the system not be altered, they run the risk of when the system is altered that they will receive absolutely no special privilege from the government. Would it not serve them far better to receive support for 10% or at most 20% of their adult population being permitted to spend their time as Torah scholars producing the standards of Torah for the whole of the community? This is the overbearing question which they should be thinking and not plotting to force no change taking place because doing so will soon lead to their being resented by the population at large, and that would spell danger for the Haredi as a whole. There is a final bit which requires addressing, and it involves the fanatics within the Haredi community. They must be brought within control of the greater Haredi community. Their attacking other Haredi because they serve in the IDF is behavior which should be treated as being beyond the pale and unacceptable. The same goes for their riotous reaction when people not meeting their ideal dress code for modesty are seen within their neighborhoods. The Haredi need understand that other people with different standards exist and have equal rights to be respected and not become the victims of a self-professed modesty police. Such actions are part of societies which are ruled by a theocratic dictatorship. This is nowhere near the ideals of the State of Israel where we cherish equality and that there are differences between people. The principle problems concerning the Haredi community and its incorporation into mainstream Israeli society will come at some point in the not too distant future. The final reality strike will come when there will be no means of supporting the Haredi within Israel and also budgeting for the IDF and other necessary government services such as road repair, utilities and all the other necessities which people rely on the government to provide. This brings up the concept that perhaps everyone need be reminded that the government should be limited and not providing services to the people which the people can provide for themselves, and that goes for all people.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

    Like

    Comment by OyiaBrown — July 29, 2018 @ 8:07 AM | Reply


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