Coalition collapse won’t stop haredi enlistment
Haredim are more than just black and white.
Haredi man overlooking IDF ceremony Photo: Marc Israel Sellem
How predictable! The largest political coalition in the state’s history
collapses in little more than two months. Ninety-four MKs could not agree on the
only meaningful issue for which they joined together. But don’t be fooled by
what looks on the face of things like a huge lost opportunity.
reality is that with or without the coalition’s success, the legal process
around the replacement of the “Tal Law” is simply another stage in the process
of change that we are already experiencing.
Simple justice demands that
the situation created more than 60 years ago, under circumstances that are very
different to today, whereby blanket deferrals are given to an entire community,
be remedied. This remedy should not be created through back room deals and
opaque political acrobatics, but by having an honest and open discussion among
the groups that find themselves on opposite sides of the
Underpinning this lays a much more complex societal reality,
which requires greater understanding than the current political mess affords: 1)
Balancing the blame: All sides are equally to blame for letting this situation
become the huge shadow hanging over Israeli society. It may have been convenient
for haredi society to pretend that the same social contract created when they
were 2 percent of the population could work when they are now 15 percent of the
population and rapidly growing. At the same time, governments of all political
persuasions have found it convenient to ignore the long-term challenge in favor
of short-term political gain. Everyone must act today to ensure we remedy this
problem in a genuine and sustainable fashion.
2) Haredim are more than
black and white: There is a great dissonance within the haredi community itself.
Rather than suffering from multiple-personality disorder, it is going through a
series of very complex changes alongside continued growth. On the one hand there
are leaders desperately trying to sustain a century-old war with Zionism. On the
other hand there are thousands of young haredim serving in the army and getting
a university level education. And while some spiritual leaders (or their
representatives) issue ever-harsher decrees and stringencies in an effort to
keep their flock in line and under control, a growing portion of the haredi
street is no longer really paying attention to their rulings. This dichotomy
demands a more nuanced approach to what we broadly refer to as the haredi
3) Think long-term to succeed: A problem left to fester for 60
years cannot be solved overnight with any legal magic wand. Instead, changes to
legislation must be accompanied by investment in social
Discussion between community leaders must take place. Dialogue
and consensusbuilding takes time, and without it we risk an even more
dangerously divided future.
Let me be clear, I am not suggesting we let
things remain as they have been.
However, we can learn something from the
classic debate between two schools of thought within the philosophy of
One is represented by Karl Popper who suggested that progress is
made in an evolutionary manner, whereas Thomas Kuhn claimed that progress comes
in a non-linear fashion with more radical shifts than through smooth
When we look at the question of how the haredi community (or
more accurately communities) will look in the future, both in relation to
themselves and perhaps more important their bilateral relations with the rest of
Israeli society, we are caught between these two competing views.
clear that change is afoot, both behaviorally and culturally, within the haredi
world. At the same time it is frustrating to watch this develop from the outside
at what feels like too slow a pace. We naturally feel obliged to attempt to
accelerate this process or processes, either with carrot or stick, and yet at
the same time we are rightly concerned that this social intervention may end up
leading to the opposite of the desired result. Most of all we are outraged by
the manipulation of politicians, from all sides, as they play out a script that
we all would have been capable of writing for them.
I am deeply
optimistic about the developments that we are witnessing, while having to
control, like you, my anger at the thought that injustice will continue. It will
take time for the situation to change, but in life we can really only worry
about the things that we have some control over.
So to encourage the
changes already under way, without undermining their momentum or tearing our
young nation apart, we must each take responsibility.
Israel and the
Jewish people must build a better understanding of one another and the role we
each play in our future as a people. Every one of us must find his or her way to be
involved in the great debate on how Israeli society should look in 15 or 20
years. We are a privileged generation, but we are called upon to understand more
fully the meaning of our own Jewish and Israeli identity and to take control of
where it is heading. We simply cannot afford to sustain the status
The writer is chairman of Gesher and managing partner at Goldrock
Capital, a private equity firm.