The haredi (ultra-Orthodox) world is built on a myth whose perpetuation not only paralyzes them as a group, but also cripples all of Judaism and the State of Israel as a whole.The foundational myth of haredi Judaism posits that it is identical with traditional Judaism as it’s always been practiced since time immemorial.It’s this belief that allegedly gives them the license to avoid the draft, stay out of the workforce, and reject the State of Israel as the beginning of the Redemption.This is why haredim attempt to impose their brand of Judaism upon the public.After all, if theirs is the authentic traditional Judaism, all other streams of Judaism are by definition impostors.At best, haredi Judaism is an attempt to preserve traditional Judaism as it existed before the onslaught of the Enlightenment and secularism, but it is not in any way identical to the Judaism that was practiced in the ghettos and shtetls of Europe.The haredim use “invented tradition” in order to legitimize their immoral practices of avoiding the draft and needlessly living off state funds, while fostering a sense of unity and create an “us vs them” mentality. These are survival tactics to preserve Judaism as they see it facing a world that is increasingly hostile to religion as a whole and Judaism in particular.It is also a vain attempt to reclaim and rebuild a world that was destroyed by the Holocaust.This is classic anthropology according to the late Mary Douglas.By fostering a strong sense of detachment from mainstream society – even a Jewish, albeit secular, society – the haredim have built a strong wall against it; strongly delineating who is in as pure and who is out as impure.This is the enclave which Douglas described perfectly. The enclave is then kept strong by “provoking attack from the outside. Then all the reasons for being together are revived. The more they are cruelly and unjustly persecuted by the outside society, the more the integrity of the enclave is saved.”This explains the mass protests that the ultra-Orthodox regularly pull off against slights to their way of life. It also helps if your population is not working and is sent by their rabbis from the yeshivot, instead of from jobs, to demonstrate.Before the Enlightenment, there was no such thing as sectorial Judaism. Judaism was defined more or less by certain beliefs and practices. Most Jews adhered, because that is what Jews did. Perhaps you weren’t particularly meticulous in your observance, or harbored doubts, but there was no room in the community for non-practice. Conversion to Christianity was seen as an abhorrent betrayal of your family, community and your very existence. Think Fiddler on the Roof.When the walls of the ghettos came tumbling down, Jews gave up their strict observance en masse. Assimilation became the norm, and baptism more prevalent. In an attempt to reverse complete assimilation, certain Jews decided to reform Judaism and make changes in its practices and liturgy.These assimilated and reformed Jews looked down upon their traditional brethren, labeling them “Orthodox,” which basically meant narrow-minded. In time the term ‘Orthodox’ was adopted by traditional Judaism as a positive moniker.But now that they were labeled, Orthodox Jews needed to start defining themselves.They needed to decide what differentiated them from Reform and secular Judaism.Orthodoxy adopted many tactics to this end. Most were very successful and the continued existence of Orthodox Judaism in the 21st century is proof of that. One of those strategies was haredi Judaism.Haredim believe that the only defense against secularism is to rebuild the walls of the ghetto even higher than they were previously. They created a line of scrimmage past which no more encroachments on their way of life would be allowed. This froze certain practices, language, as well as dress, in the manner of the 19th century, and then attempted to sanctify these practices by presenting them as the only authentic Judaism.One of the knee-jerk reactions of Orthodox Judaism to the reforms of liberal Jews was the myth that Halacha doesn’t change; a corollary of the central foundational myth.The old joke: How many Orthodox Jews does it take to change a light bulb? None! Orthodox Jews don’t change anything.However, Halacha does change, even in the haredi world. The change is evolutionary and sometimes barely perceptible, but by positing that Halacha doesn’t change, we fossilize it and risk making it irrelevant and unable to deal with the changing world around us.One of the meanings of the word Halacha is “going.” It is not the same as din, which means “law.” If haredim want to continue identifying themselves as rigorously halachic, they need to start moving beyond the 18th century.I write not as an anthropologist, nor as a historian – I am neither – but as someone who admires the haredi Jews’ fervor and total commitment that I often lack in my own Judaism. I write because the haredim behave in a way that alienates people from Judaism. This is something I cannot allow and the haredim shouldn’t allow either. The writer holds a doctorate in Jewish philosophy and teaches in post-high-school yeshivot and midrashot in Jerusalem.