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

 

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March 16, 2016

Should the Haredi be an Israeli Priesthood?

 

There are a number of schools of thought on whether or not the Haredi should be permitted to study Torah and allow that to be their contribution generally to Israeli society. Some are demanding that the Haredi face mandatory enlistment into the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) exactly the same as the rest of Jewish youths. Some are in favor of just young men while permitting the women not need to be enlisted with some claiming they be encouraged or made to serve in alternate public service. Then there are those who desire to allow the entirety of Haredi population simply lead pious lives dedicated to learning Torah with the referencing the numerous Haredi who spend as much as twelve hours every day except Sabbath either in services or learning Torah. Some less observant Israelis have pointed out the appearance of Haredi young men apparently strolling parks or in other non-study activities as proof that such a deferment for Torah study has been abused by some Haredi with which they broad brush the entirety of Haredi. There are few who desire to force the true and studious Torah scholars to not be permitted their honest scholarly pursuits as thus too is an important service whether all understand or even believe such dedication actually serve the State. Any serious answer to this situation, this challenge to the leadership of both the State of Israel and the Haredi society must find a reasonable and sensible solution which also takes into account some obvious demographic realities of the situation.

 

The one problem is that the Haredi community is a growing sector which would eventually reach a critical percentage where they would exceed the ability of the nation to support their complete absence from the societal productive engines. Simply stated, at some point in the not far distant future the Haredi community will be required to become productive if only to offset any costs their entire segment of society places on the State. The claim that the Haredi cover their own costs may be accurate to a point but at some point just producing sufficient food and clothing would exceed the potential of the state to produce and/or import even if the Haredi pay for their consumption as should they become over half, if not merely a lesser percentage, the production of the remainder of the population could not produce sufficient without employing the entirety of the remainder at a pace to support twice their population. At some point the Haredi will be made to make a judgement of which of their population show a particular promise or special talent lending them capable of receiving support to dedicate themselves to Torah study and such deferment should also be provided for any Israeli judged and desiring such dedication. There should be similar requirements as exist for professors at universities and colleges or teaching at Yeshivas. Also the Yeshivas should also be teaching at the least a basic education in addition to Torah study and perhaps a Torah curriculum for the public schools could be taught by religious scholars not just at Yeshivas. Such dispensations could and should be pursued with a plan to utilize those best suited in Torah scholarship to pursue such ends while it will soon be imperative for parts of the Haredi community to join the workforce and also serve in the IDF in special units which would allow for their observant lifestyle and restrictions not be challenged either intentionally, as has been the appearance in some instances, or through misunderstanding. These units will also likely require that a percentage, if not majority, of the officers and command chain be Haredi such that the sensitivities of these units will be better accommodated and understood by their commanders. If Israel is going to be serious about incorporating the Haredi into the society as a whole and especially into the IDF then some accommodations will be required and some give and take will be necessary on both sides. This will even include some arrangements with employers which will benefit all religious Jews and give some additional freedom to secular Jews and Israelis who are not particularly or even slightly Jewish. These accommodations will necessarily include scheduling such that the Sabbath is a say free of work with the obvious exception should rotation require a Haredi combat or mission necessary unit be scheduled for a rotation which counters Sabbath as defense of the nation is an exception recognized under Torah and universally.

 

 

Haredi Soldiers Taking Time for Morning Prayers in the Field During Training

Haredi Soldiers Taking Time
for Morning Prayers in the
Field During Training

 

The accommodations in the workplace would be no different than the accommodations granted Islamic religious members of the workplace who require prayer five times each day with the times set fairly rigidly. There should also be a liberalized attire universally applied for any group which had certain requirements for their appearance and attire. As stated, such accommodations should be universal and inclusive such that every group is comfortable and not unnecessarily required to break with traditional attire whenever possible. Needless to point out, should the required attire of a workplace stand counter to one’s religious requirements they should not seek employ in such locations such as nightclubs, clothing stores with secular progressive clothing requirements, and any place equally obvious which would be stated up front such that those who objected to the requirements would know not to seek employment in such places. There has to be certain rights both respecting the employer as well as the employees. An upscale and modern liberal clothing store would not be a place where Haredi or Islamic attire would be an accepted uniform, of sorts, attire which would necessarily show off such attire as part of being a salesperson. Some things should be obvious even to the most casual of observers, and the law should recognize the right of an employer to have appropriate attire and acceptance of the cliental and activities. A disco might not be an acceptable place for a strictly religious person of many faiths to choose work and such a place could have expectations which would exclude such employees in the first place. Such things should be obvious, period.

 

Military uniforms and other specific requirements for position are also understandable. An elite force which is designed to deploy places where the requirement might include wearing of a gas mask that people with full beards would have difficulties with such a mask and thus might not desire such an assignment or must be willing to remove their facial hair. As far as working in close proximity with women offending some stridently observant individuals, there should be accommodations and allowances whenever and wherever imaginable with a very liberal interpretation if such is possible. The scheduling women singing before a Haredi unit should never even cross the minds of commanders and if such were to be scheduled, then those wishing to excuse themselves should be granted alternate assignments and not just necessarily set free of any work related requirements. They might perhaps be assigned other duties such as cleaning communal areas or guard duty or other duty as seen fit in place of the setting they find objectionable. There is always something that requires doing in a military setting or they could be assigned policing the area of the performance after its completion. Such assignments would be at the discretion of the commanders of each unit.

 

The Haredi community should be granted generous liberties to define who amongst their community show and should be granted liberal special rights classifying them as a Torah sage or an astute and capable educator capable of inspiring students in the ways of Torah and the Written and Oral Laws. Whether or not a quota or percentile of the Haredi population will be permitted special observance privileges to spend their lives studying Torah or teaching Torah and the commandments and traditions in an inspiring fashion will largely depend on the responsible response and classification of their population between dedicated Torah scholars and teachers and those who will serve in the IDF or social services will, in the best possible of worlds, be left to the Haredi for as long as they perform these functions responsibly. Such a compromise needs to be reached such that both the Haredi and the general population are served through a mutual agreement and not through actual legislation, laws, court cases and general animosity. The reality is both the general Israeli public and especially the Haredi are majority Jewish populations and it would be nice to believe they could reach some accord which satisfies both communities. One can only hope that such an agreement is possible and can be attained with minimal if any acrimony as we are both majority Jewish, right?

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

February 9, 2014

Israel as the State of the Jewish People

One of the major hurdles that are causing an impasse in the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been the demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the State for the Jewish People. Under Islamic law, Sharia, any land that was once under Muslim rule must never fall under other than Muslim rule and if it should then forcing a reversion back under Muslim rule becomes an imperative for the entirety of Islam. But this tenet of Islam is only the excuse behind the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish State; their real motivations are simply the destruction of Israel as being Jewish and that is the driving force behind their refusal. The refusal by the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish nature of Israel is actually a secondary problem facing those who insist that Israel be defined as a democratic Jewish state. Their major difficulty is the secular Jews who do not view Israel as Jewish but simply desire that Israel be defined as a multiethnic pluralistic democratic state and to simply ignore any reference to the Jewishness of the majority of the citizens of Israel. Many of these Jews are simply secularists who happen to have been born of Jewish parents but who do not follow the commandments and traditions of the Jewish faith to a greater degree.

                          

This situation is far more than just a bothersome and tedious argument between the religious and/or Zionist sectors of Israeli society with the secular, post-Zionist sector of Israeli society; it is a struggle for the heart and soul of Israel as to whether or not it will be justifiably defined as the Jewish State. This dispute over how to define the nation of Israel has become more heated over the last couple of decades as more and more Israeli Jews are returning to their faith and roots and the study of Torah has become more mainstream. The original large majority held by the secular and often socialist Zionists who held the controlling hand in the formation of the governance after Israel was founded in 1948 has seen their majority dwindle away until they are facing the fact that Israel has become increasingly religious and Zionist. This is taken as a direct threat to the comfort of those who purport that the government should be purely secular and that in order for Israel to be considered a partner in what they see as the civilized world, they hold dearly to the principle that there must be a separation of the state from any religious influences. Unfortunately, their belief that there should be no religious influence on the government does not hold in the other direction, they also hold the opinion that the state should have the final say and ability to overrule and control the functions of religion within the society. Needless to say, they see absolutely no discrepancies in holding these two opposing views as they view religious observance and religious influences on the nation and the society as a detrimental effect fraught with superstitions and antiquated ideas and ideals. Their actions reflect a trepidation that the growing influence of religious ideas and ideals into Israeli society might rub off on them and corrupt their pure core concepts of good governance and its need to be completely removed and independent of the evil influences of religious principles, especially Jewish religious principles, as their fear is that the society will favor Jews over non-Jewish citizens. Much of this unwarranted fear stems from their lack of understanding of Jewish laws, traditions and the importance it places on equal treatment with an emphasis on equality before the law.

 

Any competent and complete study of Jewish law, Torah, reveals commandments that Jewish society is required to treat the stranger no differently that it treats another Jew. The stranger amongst the Jewish People has the same rights and actually a few additional rights stemming from not having to fulfill certain religious duties which a Jew is expected to fulfill. The stranger has every secular right that a Jew is allowed and is to be treated fairly by the courts, allowed security in their possessions, respect given their religious practices providing such does not cause Jews to break any commandments or violate the Noahic Code, and generally see no difference in any legal pursuit or action. These secularists also refuse to acknowledge that it was from Jewish societal laws that much of modern western civilized laws are based. This is even more true when one refers to the founding basis of the United States and its laws of governance and rights granted the people. It is also the basis for why in the United States any legal immigrant has near equal rights and responsibilities as an American citizen enjoys or is obligated. The ideas and ideals of a limited government comes from Torah which insists that any King of the Jewish People is forbidden from acquiring great wealth, horses, cattle, lands or other trappings of advantage or benefit over the peoples that they rule. Needless to say, these laws worked as well as the United States Constitution has limited the rise and overpowering of the Federal Government trampling over the individual States’ rights and powers. Any ruler of the Jewish People is also directed to spend inordinate amounts of time studying Torah so that they will be familiar with its restrictions and follow the law in an exemplary manner as an example for the population to also act according to Torah and keep the commandments. The secularists by attempting to reduce, if not eliminate, any religious influence over Israeli governance and also impede those who have strong religious beliefs from attaining high office, especially in the judiciary, are actually going against Torah and its guidelines of equality and acceptance of others who have different beliefs.

 

There have been some notable instances recently which exemplify this struggle for the heart and soul of Israel. Not the least has been the arguments over how to include the Haredi in the mandatory induction of youth into the IDF or National Service. Despite his campaigning as a pro-Zionist, pro-settler and renunciation of his father’s animosity of the religious, Yair Lapid has recently made numerous statements of positions which are diametrically opposed to his campaign promises. Just as his father before him, Yair Lapid has shown contempt for the Haredi and spoken out against dedicated Torah study as an unnecessary and wasteful endeavor which has little place or service of the nation of Israel. His most recent rant declared that his Yesh Atid Party would leave the government, presumably forcing new elections, if any new enlistment law covering the Haredi youth did not include sentencing them to incarceration and not simply calling for a fine or loss of government benefits. Any law which called for a loss of government benefits on any Haredi refusing a lawful draft would actually be even worse than a jail term as it would preclude their ability to study Torah full-time, the argument at the core of this debate. The Supreme Court declared the Tal Law unconstitutional voiding it thus removing the automatic deferment for anybody who studied Torah full-time in a structured arrangement from IDF or National Service. The Tal Law had been in effect since the formation of the State of Israel in 1948 and had just recently been challenged by leftist organization on the grounds that it was discriminatory. I am unaware of any people other than Haredi who had attempted to utilize the Tal Law to gain deferment from service on the grounds of full-time Torah study but if such were permitted then the law was not discriminatory. The leftists claimed that the law discriminated against secular Jews and non-Jews unfairly but since nobody from either group ever attempted to have the Tal Law applied to them, there is no case of it being denied to any other than Haredi draft age youth. Perhaps there is the solution to drafting a replacement law for the Tal Law, simply pass a new Tal Law that is worded almost exactly the same but include specific guidelines which make the law applicable to anybody who desires to take up full time Torah study in a structured environment. By allowing such a deferment to go to any citizen of draft age would remove any discriminatory application. It might be necessitated that an additional allowance be included determining that Haredi Torah schools be opened to other than Haredi who desire to study Torah full time. I would hope that the Haredi would welcome the additional interest in Torah study and willingly allow such applications and look upon them favorably.

 

Israeli Minister of Finance Yair Lapid has also taken a pro-two state peace plan position which is diametrically opposed to his campaign statements of support for those communities east of the 1949 Armistice Lines, the Green Line. He has praised United States Secretary of State Kerry and Israeli Justice Minister and lead negotiator Tzipi Livni on their efforts to forge a solution which will be tailored such that Mahmoud Abbas and the rest of the Palestinian leadership will approve and sign said agreement. Yair Lapid has made statements degrading and ridiculing Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party, the same man with whom an agreement was reached that either both or neither would join the coalition and also agreed to back the Jewish residents beyond the green line and fully support a Zionist agenda. I wish I could say that this contemptible reversal by Minister Lapid is surprising but he appears to be following and walking in the exact same footprints as his father, Tommy Lapid, walked in his brief political career. Just like Tommy Lapid and his Shinui Party, Yair Lapid is leading his party in a path that castigates the Haredi community and compromises a true Zionist view for the rights of the State and people of Israel. The polls have reflected this similarity as his father’s party entered the Knesset with six seats in its first election and failed ever after from returning and Lair’s party had an impressive nineteen seats in his first elections and polls have shown a steadily decreasing strength over time to where they are indicating that the Yesh Atid Party would only receive half that number if elections were held today. One can expect that number to continue to dwindle if Yair continues to fall away from his campaign promises and aligns further to the left and post-Zionist positions.

 

The erosion of support for Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid Party is further proof that the people of Israel are returning to their religious roots and supporting a Zionist settling of all the lands of Israel and departing the leftist, socialist roots that ruled supreme for over fifty years after the founding of Israel. Where this will eventually lead has yet to be made clear. The optimistic side tells me that we will not need wait too much longer before we witness a change in the direction and attitudes of those who decide the path that the governance of Israel will take. The “old guard” will soon be replaced by a younger generation who appear to be less restrained in their enthusiasm and display an enviable level of energy and vigor. The future appears promising providing Israel can survive the remaining years of trial by fire and onslaught of an orchestrated drive to eradicate the Jewishness of Israel. Much of this has been aided by the absence of the full and unbridled support from the administration in Washington.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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