Time to wake up

We've let haredim take over everything about Judaism in public sphere.

By YIZHAR HESS
April 22, 2010 08:46
4 minute read.
haredim at the kotel

haredim at the kotel311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

Anyone who used public transportation to get to the Western Wall during Pessah was confronted with a new phenomenon. Attendants were on duty at all the bus stations. As each bus pulled in, one of them would approach and, using a megaphone, instruct the driver: “Driver, open the back door.” The drivers obeyed. The attendants continued relaying instructions to the crowd: “Men in front. Women in back.”

The women left the line of people waiting to exit through the front door and made their way to the back door. The orders continued – “Men in front. Women in back” – until the lines were rearranged. The attendants, wearing bright yellow vests, stood beside the policemen who are routinely posted to guard the bus stations in the area of the Kotel, so they appeared to be part of the security forces entrusted with keeping the peace.

Who was paying these attendants? On whose behalf and on whose authority were they there? No one knew the answer to these questions. The Egged bus company said that they had no idea who was responsible. The police were surprised at the question, as if it had nothing to do with them. The attendants themselves refused to respond. Their yellow vests bore no insignia of any kind, and there were no identifying markings on the small, state-of-the-art megaphones they held in their hands.

They worked for a security company, which had simply been hired them to be there. We can, unfortunately, reasonably assume that we are the ones who are paying the bill, in one way or another and that public funds were involved. It was a well-organized, trained force. A militia. The revolutionary guard, if you will.

If you had been watching a scene like this on a world news program, and the language emanating from the megaphones was Farsi, the language of Iran, rather than Hebrew, it would have been possible to gloss over this incident. But it happened in the capital of Israel, on the festival of freedom.

Without being aware of it, this has become the reality of our lives. We have let the haredim take over everything that has to do with Judaism in the public sphere. The Western Wall has become a haredi synagogue; the entrances to it – not the plaza itself, but the entrance gates – are segregated, with huge signs separating men and women; the mehadrin (segregated) bus lines are already plying more than 100 routes, and not just in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem; in many cemeteries around the country, women, including the daughters of the deceased, are not permitted to follow the biers as they are moved toward the graves. Only men are allowed. Women must walk behind.


This harassment has become the background noise of life here. Let’s take the past year, for example and look at all the points where we have been shown the haredi interpretation of “what Judaism is all about”: revoking of conversions; the decision of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv that haredim are not permitted to donate organs essential for saving the life of another person, but they may receive such organs from others; “the Nahari bill,” which obligated all local authorities to fund private, haredi educational institutions (and I wonder if any mayor would dare to defy this law and refrain from funding such local institutions given that the Interior Ministry is headed by Eli Yishai, the head of Shas); and of course the issue of the potentially enormous cost of relocating the new secure emergency room at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center because of some unidentified ancient bones. Link all these points together and you will get the picture of our lives. Sad, but true.

But, just a minute, let’s consider the
Barzilai incident as an example. Public pressure
helped. The decision is being overturned. Anyone
aware of the undercurrents that move the steaming lava of politics here has already noticed that something has changed. The public is waking up. The political party that succeeds in leveraging this trend of change right now will spearhead the courageous step of changing the electoral systems so that the power of the haredim returns to its true dimensions and position itself appropriately ahead of the next elections. It might even turn out to be a new political party.

But caution must be exercised. The Zionist vision of the Jewish state, a vision that was able to combine nationalism and humanism, is slipping away from us like sand through our fingers. It is no longer Herzl who is turning over in his grave, it’s Menahem Begin. Israel is changing. Like a stone tossed in the air, which imagines that it decides the path of its trajectory, we still believe that everything is under control. But it isn’t. Our hearing has become dulled, but the music is deafening.



The writer is executive director of the Masorti Movement in Israel.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

A Drone model on display at the booth of drone maker Israel Aerospace Industries, Singapore Airshow
January 21, 2019
Israel, Azerbaijan strengthen and expand strategic partnership

By ARYE GUT