Time to stop bad-mouthing haredim and to open a dialogue

There are many non-accusatory questions that both sides should ask, because without the answers they will remain forever at odds.

July 10, 2012 22:46
3 minute read.
Haredim enlist in national service

Haredi national service enlistment 390. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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It’s time to stop repeating the false mantra that implies – or blatantly states – that the haredim (ultra- Orthodox) are bloodsucking draft-dodgers who take everything they can from the state without giving anything in return.

This may be true of some haredim. It certainly isn’t true of all of them.

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While some of them don’t work, a lot of them do. While many avoid army service, there are haredim who have served in the IDF and others who are currently serving in the IDF, even though there may be some conflict with their principles.

To say that haredim do not contribute to the community is simply an outright lie. Non-profit organizations such as Hatzola, Ezer Mezion, Ezra LeMarpe and Meir Panim are among many organizations that were founded by haredim, are largely funded by haredim and have a large corps of haredi volunteers, while the services provided by these organizations are not limited to haredim but embrace the whole population regardless of religious or ethnic affiliation.

In addition, every haredi community has several gemachs – charitable foundations that provide wedding dresses for poor brides, household goods for a newly married couple in economic distress, baby wear, meals, new shoes for children just before Pessah, housing at symbolic rentals, and any number of other services.

Walking through haredi neighborhoods the passer-by can often read gemach notices in which people are asked to contribute furniture and clothing they no longer need to people who can make use of them.

The wider public may be unaware of these things because haredim are so frequently maligned in the media, in the Knesset and even in academia.

WHAT IS the main reason that leaders of the haredi and Arab communities are fighting the draft whether it be for military or civilian national service? It isn’t because they don’t want to contribute.

It’s because they don’t want to be forced to contribute under a direct or indirect military framework.

Arabs are obviously reluctant to join the army in case they will be called upon to fight their brothers. Many more would willingly do national service in a civilian framework if the army was totally removed from their national service call-up. In other words, if a specific national service unit for minorities was set up in consultation with the minority communities so as not to compromise their values, the national service issue for minorities could probably be resolved.

Something similar could be done with regard to haredim, with the exception that they be given a choice as to whether they want to serve in the IDF or whether they prefer civilian national service. It should also be explained to them by people from their own communities that they or their parents or grandparents would not have come to Israel in such large numbers if the Zionists whom they despise so much had not paved the way.

How many haredim lived in the Land of Israel under the Turks and under the British? Why were there so few compared to the tens of thousands who live in Israel today? Whether they like to admit it or not, it was because the Zionists made it relatively safe for them to live here.

What would happen to them if there was no IDF to safeguard the security of the nation? On the other side of the coin, secular Jews should be aware that without the proof of Biblical history, Jews have no specific right to this land. Would there have been a Balfour Declaration or a vote by the United Nations in favor of a state for the Jewish people without the backing of the Bible?

The Dreyfus case, pogroms and the Holocaust were insufficient reasons in themselves for the world to accept the establishment of a Jewish State. Jews are not the only people who have been the victims of horrendous genocide – but in the overwhelming majority of cases, survivors of such genocides do not set up a sovereign state of their own.

The Constitution of the Jewish people is set down in the 613 statutes and precepts in the Bible.

Even though they may not practice any form of religion, secularists have to be aware of what gives them the right to be here – and that extends way beyond a United Nations resolution.

Without dialogue, the two sides will never learn to understand and respect each other.

There are many non-accusatory questions that both sides should ask, because without the answers they will remain forever at odds.

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