Coalition deal worries haredi leadership

Haredim fear what coalition deal will bring; secularist group accuses Lapid of abandoning promises on religion and state.

Shteinman370 (photo credit: Yaacov Gross)
(photo credit: Yaacov Gross)
Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, spiritual leader of the haredi world, spoke out on Saturday night against the proposals for haredi enlistment in the coalition agreements signed on Friday.
Many of the clauses within the deals directly affect the haredi community and would, if implemented, lead to drastic changes in ultra- Orthodox society, including stipulations to institute the teaching of core curriculum subjects in haredi schools; conditioning state benefits on being employed; and increasing haredi enlistment into national service.
“Suddenly this great trouble has come upon us, a terrible trouble to destroy the Jewish people and the Torah,” Shteinman said at a conference in Bnei Brak.
“For many generations we were able to learn and teach Torah to our children, and the Torah increased and yeshivot increased... and we are asking for mercy from God that he will enable us to continue learning Torah all our lives,” the haredi website Kikar HaShabbat quoted the rabbi as saying.
Shteinman said that the haredi world must strive to increase its study of Torah which would provide spiritual merit to the community and lead God to provide for the community.
United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush said that anyone involved in the drafting of the “wretched” coalition agreements would be “remembered for eternal disgrace.”
“When we say in a few days in the Passover meal, ‘In each and every generation they rise up to destroy us and God will save us from their hand,’ it will have all the greater significance,” Porush added.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, haredi journalist Yisroel Cohen said that the feeling in the ultra-Orthodox world was one of concern and fear that their situation is changing.
“It’s clear that the rules of the game have changed, the haredi parties are on the outside, they’re not in government, they don’t have their hands on the taps anymore, they don’t have the influence or power, so this makes it harder to act,” Cohen explained.
He said, though, that the haredi leadership was waiting to see what will happen and if the various stipulations of the coalition agreements will be implemented.
If the terms of the agreements were implemented in full, they would be unacceptable to the haredi community and the rabbinic leadership, Cohen said.
And it is not only the planned reforms to haredi enlistment that is worrying the ultra-Orthodox world, but also the provisions calling for core curriculum subjects to be taught in haredi schools as well as the reforms to eligibility for state benefits.
The agreement between Yesh Atid and Likud Beytenu stipulates that the next budget should include a plan for the gradual introduction of a system whereby all state benefits will be granted only if a person is employed, actively looking for employment or unable to work. This will include subsidized housing and child daycare.
Such measures would have a serious impact on the finances of the average haredi family and would seriously complicate full-time yeshiva study.
Teaching of core curriculum topics in haredi schools is perhaps as sensitive an issue as that of enlistment.
The independence of the haredi education system was something that the community leadership insisted on in its agreement with David Ben-Gurion in 1947, which was needed by him to demonstrate the unity of the Jewish community in Mandate Palestine to the UN ahead of its vote on partition.
A United Torah Judaism official described the haredi education system as “the basis of haredi society” and the tool through which members of the community gain their identity.
He described incoming education minister Shai Piron of Yesh Atid as “the most dangerous man in Israel” for the haredi community because of his and his party’s insistence that secular subjects be introduced to the haredi school system, where they are barely taught at present.
Cohen said that the measures on state benefits and education would cross red lines for the community and lead to serious civil opposition from the ultra-Orthodox world.
But it was not only haredim who were displeased with the coalition agreement. Secularist activist group Free Israel expressed dismay that the deal includes the provision that all parties must agree to legislative changes on matters of religion and state.
Because this includes the national-religious Bayit Yehudi party, Free Israel said that Orthodox interests and groups would still have a monopoly on the religious status quo and that all that had been achieved in terms of reform to matters of religion and state was “to change the the kippa from black to knitted.”
The group accused Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid of abandoning his promises on bringing religious pluralism to Israel.
Before the election, Lapid promised “to do everything in my power” so that all Jewish denominations in Israel would be placed on an equal legal footing, and vowed to institute civil marriage.