Blue and White manifesto hits haredi sensitive spots

The issue of core curriculum studies in the haredi sector is one of, if not the, most explosive issues for the haredi public.

March 4, 2019 20:01
2 minute read.
Blue and White manifesto hits haredi sensitive spots

Moshe Ya'alon [L] Benny Gantz Yair Lapid and Gabi Ashkenazi [R] . (photo credit: YESH ATID)


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Blue and White’s emerging election manifesto is certain to evoke the consternation of the haredi political parties with policy proposals that touch on some of the most sensitive concerns for the haredi rabbinic and political leadership.

According to reports in Yediot Aharonot and Channel 12 news on Monday, Blue and White’s manifesto will include public transportation on Shabbat for cities that are interested in it, and the repeal of the mini-markets law that gives the interior minister the power to reject municipal bylaws which might increase the number of commercial stores open on Shabbat.

In addition, Blue and White’s manifesto will pledge to legislate the law for haredi enlistment to the IDF drawn up by the Defense Ministry and advanced by Yisrael Beytenu during the last Knesset, as well as bring back a law for obligatory core curriculum studies in haredi schools.

The issue of core curriculum studies in the haredi sector is one of, if not the, most explosive issues for the haredi public and leadership, as the education system of the haredi community is seen as the most important agent in forming haredi identity.

Yesh Atid and former education minister Shai Piron pushed through a law during the 33rd government which conditioned the budgets received by haredi schools on the teaching of at least 11 hours per week of English, math and science.

Implementation of the law was never enforced and it therefore never took effect, but its very inclusion in Blue and White’s platform will be seen as a serious threat by United Torah Judaism (UTJ) in particular.

The enlistment law may be less of an obstacle, since both Shas and Degel Hatorah, the non-hassidic half of UTJ, were willing to live with the law proposed by the defense minister, although they backtracked somewhat on that position when Agudah, the hassidic half of UTJ, opposed it.

Nevertheless, the rabbinic leader of the non-hassidic Ashkenazi haredi world Rabbi Haim Kanievsky said that the law was “the lesser of two evils,” meaning that the enlistment bill itself may not be as big a problem for Blue and White’s relationship with the haredi parties as might be thought.

Issues surrounding Shabbat, including public transport and commercial activity, have proven especially problematic from a public image perspective for the haredi parties amongst their own communities.

Hardliners in the haredi community, and the rumbustious online haredi media, have piled on the pressure on UTJ and Shas to oppose all public desecration of Shabbat, and has led both parties to take more radical positions against such activity.

Fights over infrastructure maintenance on roads and railways on Shabbat nearly brought down the last government, while Shas leader Arye Deri proved reluctant at least at first to deal with the increase in commercial activity in some cities.

UTJ and Shas will be forced to oppose any efforts to allow public transport on Shabbat, even in a limited format, and to repeal the mini-markets law, causing Blue and White further problems if it seeks to bring the haredi parties into a future government.

The Blue and White Party said it would not be commenting on the platform until it is formally released.

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