March 12: Readers react to haredi politics

If haredim are suffering from poverty, can’t it be blamed on their leaders, who discourage them from learning basic skills in their schools and from entering the workforce?

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Sir, – Shas co-leader Arye Deri denounces the government for abandoning two million poor people, namely, the haredi population (“Deri: PM excluding poor, haredim from government,” March 11).
Isn’t it strange that Deri considers the haredim poor? Is there really no other segment of the population that is poor? If haredim are suffering from poverty, can’t it be blamed on their leaders, who discourage them from learning basic skills in their schools and from entering the workforce?
Sir, – I notice that once again Arye Deri is kvetching about the weaker sectors of society being hurt in the formation of the impending coalition.
One must ask why this particular sector is weak. The answer is that it refuses to integrate itself into normative Israeli society, refuses to introduce the state’s core curriculum into its school system, prevents its students from being subjected to periodic assessment tests required of the rest of Israeli students, refuses to prepare itself to join the workforce and earn a respectable livelihood to support its families, refuses to enlist in the IDF or perform an alternative form of national service like other sectors....
The list goes on, on and on.
This is why the Israeli public, fedup for so many years with a nonworking, non-contributing sector, went to the polls on January 22 and gave Yair Lapid 19 mandates.
Lapid is a man who, if he sticks to his principles, is going to bring about radical changes in this country, where all Israelis, regardless of religious stream, are going to serve, earn a livelihood, pay taxes and make sure their children study subject material that prepares them for the 21st Century.
Israel went to the polls to bring change, and change is coming. It will only benefit the haredim in the long-term.
Sir, – I have to agree with United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler, who says the exclusion of haredim from the government is “an emotional issue for people to exclude haredim, not a logical or intellectual one.” But the root cause of this emotional issue lies at the feet of the politicians and rabbis of the haredi world, who are perceived as narcissistic and concerned only with their community and their problems.
Rabbis who curse other Jews just because they don’t agree with them, and haredi politicians who think they are the only ones who are concerned with social issues have lost their standing with a majority of the Jews in Israel. It might be just perception, but that’s a vital component of leadership and kinship.
The haredi ghetto mentality whereby everyone who isn’t exactly like “us” is “them” – pseudo-gentiles – is a self-fulfilling prophesy of exclusion that is being fulfilled today.
Twenty-seven years ago my rebbe gave me a blessing prior to my making aliya. At the end of the blessing he added a warning: “Be on your guard. In America, if Jews, God forbid, learn to hate, they hate goyim. But in Israel, if, God forbid, Jews learn to hate, they hate Jews.”
Unfortunately, for many in Israel that, too, is a prophesy fulfilled.
Sir, – It certainly is sad that haredim feel the way they do in the wake of our last elections. But in a recent issue of your weekend magazine, a columnist said something very important (“Three strikes, you’re out!” Grumpy Old Man, March 1): “[T]he main thing is simply to back off. You can choose what is really important to you and then make compromises elsewhere.
But you can’t have it all. No one can – not, at least, in as fractured a society as ours. You can’t be greedy. Because in politics, like in baseball, three strikes, you’re out.”
The issue is not only being a burden on society. It is being a burden and then turning around and insisting that your values be the values of that society.
Sir, – The haredi parties are certainly bad losers and don’t have an inkling as to the true reason they lost (“Bad losers,” Think about It, March 11).
I am certain that if Shas and United Torah Judaism took a good look at themselves they would realize why they are not in the coalition, and not blame others.
They would realize that they do not feel any concern for any Jews except their own.
The burden of protecting Israel is nowhere to be found in their thinking. Ignored are the many boys and men who do not sit and study, and who protect them with their very lives. Budgets for haredi institutions and their flocks are all that concerns them.
Haredim who refuse to converse with or sit next to a woman now decide they have much in common with Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich. How far will they go to further their own people’s welfare? If they truly loved Israel and respected their fellow Jews, haredim would be sitting in the government. Time for them to wake up!
Sir, – In their zealous greed to get their hands on everything that isn’t nailed down, and their insistence on having their way without giving an inch, Israel’s haredi parties now find themselves out in the cold, and very unhappy.
Clearly, the so-called sages and their political flunkies are too mired in power plays to remember the Talmudic axiom: tafasta merubah lo tafasta (grab too much, you end up with nothing).
Or as they say on Wall Street, “Bulls and bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.”
J.J. GROSS Jerusalem
Sir, – I want to thank you for “Haredi outreach” (Editorial, March 11).
For many years I have been telling one and all that if the haredim do not like it here in Israel, they are free to move to Brooklyn. Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef threatens mass emigration? What bothers me most is the arrogance and hypocrisy of haredi leadership.
Pirkei Avot (5:23) tells us that the arrogant are students not of Abraham but of the wicked Bilam.
Moses did not tell the tribes to learn in the kollel; he commanded them to serve in the front ranks.
The Torah mentions no exemption from army service for kollel students. There is an exemption for cowardice. But they claim that their Torah learning protects all of us – so they should not be afraid.
Rabbis tell us that living in the Land of Israel is equal to all the mitzvot of the Torah. Now they threaten to leave. It leads me to wonder just what Torah these people are learning.
The final straw for me is that after supporting the settlements for years, the haredim are turning against them. Either they were right to support the settlements or they are right to oppose them. For a group that claims to speak with divine authority, this change of position reeks of a very human temper tantrum.
DAVID WILLIG Safed The writer is a rabbi
Sir, – Shas is out and Playboy is in (“‘I just read it for the Hebrew articles,’” March 6). The elections, which held such promise of unity, have instead turned into an ugly power struggle that lowers the former high expectations of the electorate.
Those of us who made aliya did so with glad hearts to be able to enjoy Judaism undisturbed, turning our backs on the crime and immorality that has infested other nations.
Why has it followed us? What is it doing here? We need to clean up our act before all that we cherish is stripped from us. We need to awaken and defend our heritage.
This is as great a threat as Iran, perhaps, greater. Iran can destroy our bodies and cities, but the creeping intrusion within our land threatens our soul and our Torah.
Would all those who love the liberal life of other nations please move there, allowing Israel at long last to remain Israel?
ADINA LEV Jerusalem.