Post Script: Status quo nothing!

Things seem rather black right now, with 2011 being framed by the latest fracas in Beit Shemesh.

Anonymous protester, Beit Shemesh demo_311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Anonymous protester, Beit Shemesh demo_311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Can this be a happy New Year? Things seem rather black right now, with 2011 being framed by the latest fracas in Beit Shemesh, violent pictures of women being banished to the back of the bus, of being cursed and spat on.
It is said that the mob in Beit Shemesh represents a tiny faction within the haredi community. That could be. We all know, however, that it is representative of a wider problem, if one may be allowed to understate the case; that the “status quo” we all fool ourselves is in place, is not in place at all.
There can be no status quo with the haredi community doubling in size every six years or so, soon five, then four, and, like the plant in The Little Shop of Horrors, soon become insatiable. The state will not be able to support the phenomenon, and the haredim, already desperately poor, will become poorer, and more dependent.
Nothing here is standing still, which is what the term “status quo” implies. Instead there is a dynamic where the numbers are changing rapidly, accelerating and perpetuating a gross social and economic injustice, eating away at the heart of the nation.
The time has come to rationalize the problem, to stop pretending there is a status quo, to end some of the national fictions the haredim have chosen to create, whereby, for example, some haredi deputy ministers enjoy full ministerial responsibilities, with none of the obligations for the making of national decisions that come with it; or handle the purse strings of the state in the Knesset Finance Committee, and pretend Israel is not a democracy.
But more than anything it is time to stop the floodgates of hatred opening before our eyes, and find working solutions that will allow all Israelis to live their lives as equal citizens. This does not mean we have to become homogeneous. On the contrary, it means having respect for each other. If the haredim want segregated buses on lines that service their communities, so be it. They are welcome to set up a harediowned segregated bus company with buses owned by haredim, with qualified haredi drivers and conductors, who operate out of licensed and government-authorized facilities. This would create haredi jobs, open channels for haredi investment in the economy, and provide work for haredi accountants, lawyers, mechanics and computer technicians. They could control their own timetables, do what they want. But leave the general public’s buses alone, don’t impose yourselves on the national will, stop creating divisions, handle your own issues and problems.
A haredi bus company will not resolve much, yet it is an example of a simple change in thinking that will allow the people of Israel to live in greater harmony, take the edge off a very serious problem developing within us, that has to be resolved for the sake of all parties, other than the Palestinians perhaps. The sides cannot carry on screaming at each other with increasing volume, and expect this to develop into a normative society.
What was really frightening about the Beit Shemesh affair, was the thought that the haredim behaving like moronic idiots, screaming “whore” and “shiksha” at anything resembling a woman, was that each of them probably had five or six children at home. Think about the role models these children have here: daddies who spit at women and little girls alike; men who spend every possible hour of their lives procreating, yet shudder when the ankle of an eightyear- old is shown as she skips on her way to school.
These men obviously have too much time on their hands. Tens of thousands always seem readily available for a demonstration or a good funeral. While the Beit Shemesh screamers, as said, supposedly represent a fringe, we have not heard any serious haredim say “not in my name.”
No rabbis has spoken up. Not every nice Jewish boy was destined to become a doctor, and not every haredi was meant to study Torah forever. The fiction has to end, the spread of ignorance from the fringe in Beit Shemesh to the next generation has to end, and if the haredim do not all wanted to be painted with the same brush, they better help the rest of the public understand where the differences lie.
In the meantime, who is going to become the politician of the year in 2012 by doing the most important thing for the future of the State of Israel I see on the agenda for next year: Send up legislation that would mandate universal national service for all. That service can be with ambulances, in the armed forces, with the aged, teaching, whatever. The realm is limitless. Academic and other exemptions, for health or whatever reason, should be universally and fairly applied, regardless of religious affiliation.
Doing national service would give people professions and direction, it would mature them, it would lead to integration and mutual respect, it would take away hatred, and it would sort out the wheat from the chaff. There are genius yeshiva students who should not be taken out of the cycle of study, but as with others deferred on academic grounds, they can still make a contribution to the state.
I have promised myself that this is the last time I write on the haredi issue. The solution is so patently obvious – repeating it is starting to become almost as embarrassing as the shouts from the cultists in Beit Shemesh.