Haredim enraged by secular ‘days of incitement’

Debate over funding of kollel students, duty to serve in the IDF creates feeling that secular Israeli society is unjustly seeking to besmirch ultra-Orthodox.

By JONAH MANDEL
November 3, 2010 00:57
4 minute read.
Haredim praying at Kotel

Haredim at Kotel 311. (photo credit: AP)

The welling public debate over such issues as the funding of kollel students and the duty to serve in the IDF have created the feeling among the haredi population that secular Israeli society is unjustly seeking to besmirch the ultra-Orthodox.

Banners on haredi websites declaring these as “days of incitement” against haredim are prevalent, and the sector’s most eloquent speakers and writers are passionately making the case for their community.

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Yossi Elituv, news editor for the haredi weekly Mishpacha and a member of the Second Authority for Television and Radio, called on Tuesday for an encompassing evaluation of the haredi contribution to Israeli society through serious, level-headed dialogue, which he believes the secular media is preventing at all costs.

“We are approaching the day that the haredi minority and secular majority will have to open the books and place the cards on the table, to see who really is giving and who owes whom,” he told The Jerusalem Post.

“All the questions being dealt with as slogans are missing the essence,” he went on. “Do the haredim contribute to society? The results of such an inquiry are surprising, and the spokespeople of the despicable campaign against the haredim would surely not welcome them.”

He noted that “there is no haredi emigration from Israel, the sector has the highest rates of aliya, there are lots of investments and income from vacations as well – the higher the correlation to religion, the more vacations spent here. The less the religious affinity among the Israeli Jews, the more vacation money they spend on the streets of Rome and Paris.”

According to Elituv, “there is much to hold a discussion over, but no such discourse today, only exchanges of slander. The Israeli media takes the liberty to refer to haredim with terminology reserved for animals. We are approaching the moment where we will all have to sit around a table for a serious discussion, and all the instigators will have to go underground, because from hatred you cannot build a people. We are part of one people with a joint destiny, and must live together.”

In a recent radio interview on a similar theme, MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) made a clear distinction between the Israeli public, which he said was traditional and sympathetic to haredim, and the media. Elituv also endorsed that line.

“The media does not enable a serious discourse, and leads to emotional, verbal rampaging, since that is what will prevent the masses from speaking rationally. It is doing what the worst of the nations did, when they wanted to mortally attack an ethnic group,” Elituv said.

“They turn them into bloodsuckers, parasites, and after delegitimizing [and dehumanizing] them, let loose the machines of war. The media wants decisions to be reached in an atmosphere of violence, with known outcomes,” he asserted.

“Most of the columnists and tone-setters have an anti-haredi agenda. They want to turn Israel into Sweden,” he continued.

“And of course there is the desire to sell newspapers when not much is happening, even at the price of a civil war. The media is controlled by a small group of people who belong to the fringes of the extreme Left.”

He warned that “a state in which a minority is referred to with the terminology of [vermin multiplying] in headlines, a state in which the media teaches hatred, is in a very severe problem. All of the external threats looming over Israel are diminished in the wake of the threat of a civil war.”

In related news, Tel Aviv District Police on Tuesday informed the Israeli Forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden that they would not be permitted to conduct a protest march in Bnei Brak planned for Thursday, due to concerns that violent confrontations would erupt with the city’s residents.

The Ramat Gan Police, which are also in charge of Bnei Brak, had already given the forum and its partners, including bodies such Meretz, Hiddush and the Kibbutz Movement, their consent to allow the march. The desire to conduct the march, which aims to protest the fact that many haredim do not share the burden of IDF service, preceded the recent developments regarding the yeshiva student stipends.

A previous blow to the forum’s efforts came on Monday, when the student organizations informed it that they would not be marching in Bnei Brak so as not to appear anti-haredi.

The students are currently calling to improve their state funding, and taking care not to vilify the haredi populace to promote that end.

An outraged spokesman for the forum slammed the police for their “cowardly” decision to prohibit the march despite the organizers’ willingness to accommodate them by shifting the route and time of the event.

The spokesman told the Post that the group would petition the High Court of Justice to force the police to provide it the protection to march in the heart of Israel, as it allowed extreme right-wing activists in Umm el-Fahm last week and women’s rights groups in Mea Shearim recently.

If the petition is not dealt with in a timely fashion, the spokesman continued, protesters will nonetheless arrive in Bnei Brak on Thursday afternoon dressed in white shirts or army uniforms, expecting to be barred from the haredi city by police.


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