Readers react to Sunday’s mass haredi protest

Secular society is clueless about understanding the haredi worldview. Nevertheless, the burden of self-explanation lies on the haredim.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Sir, – With regard to “Hundreds of thousands of vocal haredim rally in Jerusalem against conscription bill” (March 3), most Israelis prefer monetary incentives rather than criminalizing draft evasion by the ultra-Orthodox, so the protest only served to further emphasize the imperviousness of haredi society.
Secular society is clueless about understanding the haredi worldview. Nevertheless, the burden of self-explanation lies on the haredim.
On Sunday we witnessed the enlargement of an already huge gap. Is God smiling down upon us? I think not.
Sir, – While there almost certainly exist yeshiva students who abuse the system by claiming to be in full-time learning while doing no such thing, I am sure they are a minority. That the haredi world does not recognize their existence and act appropriately is to be deplored, since it inflames antiharedi prejudice.
But the haredim see themselves as being the original Jewish presence in a land taken over by an alien secular “invasion” bent on destroying their way of life.
Before readers condemn this as utterly paranoid, they should remember the way the state treated Mizrahi Jews and others in the early years.
The haredi perception may not be entirely accurate, but it is sufficiently well based to make calls for “universal sharing of the burden” and “integration into the workforce” sound to them like Orwellian double-talk. Only once the non-haredi population understands their fears and acts to allay them will dialogue ever be possible.
Sir, – The recent demonstration saddened me. It would have been so much more meaningful if the hundreds of thousands of haredim had gathered together to say to say thank you to the IDF for protecting them, and thank you to the state for monetarily supporting them. At the very least, some expression of gratitude.
Sir, – Finally! An op-ed piece in The Jerusalem Post conveying the haredi viewpoint (“An ultra- Orthodox perspective on army service,” Comment & Features, March 3).
Daniel Gamson, a soldier in Nahal Haredi, tells the truth about what religious soldiers experience in the army. He also brings to light facts usually glossed over by the press, including that, yes, the majority of haredim not only work, but bolster the Israeli economy in other important ways, bringing in donations and tourism from the Diaspora.
I would like to see an op-ed piece by one of the leading rabbis involved in the protest. Your readers deserve to hear all perspectives represented.
Sir, – I am not sure who Daniel Gamson thinks should be protecting the country. Just as most ultra-Orthodox Jews go to the hospital to get medical care and don’t rely completely on God to take care of them or their children, the Israeli government needs to do its share in taking care of this country militarily, and not by relying completely on God.
The ultra-Orthodox community is not only unappreciative of the amazing job that is being done to protect them, but IDF soldiers are scorned and looked down upon.
Last year, my neighbor’s son went looking for a minyan in Mea She’arim wearing an IDF uniform; he was spat upon and cursed.
My son served in a combat unit for three years. Is his blood somehow cheaper than the blood of all of those young men sitting and learning Torah? I guess that Gamson and most in the ultra- Orthodox community think so.
Sir, – I was very touched by reader Kenneth Besig’s letter to the editor (“The haredi draft,” March 3) where he, as a religious Jew, expressed his deep embarrassment for the violence and attacks against Yair Lapid by members of the haredi population.
His letter displayed a sincere and humble understanding of what real faith looks like. If more of the Orthodox community would be willing to engage in open discussion of how Israel and its people are best served, it might be possible to come to some sane and useful areas of agreement.
Unfortunately, too many are closed off and unwilling to consider any reality different from theirs.
However, here are some questions for them to consider: Do you think any non-religious Israeli will be inspired by violent protest? Do you think we can sustain peace with our enemies without a vibrant army? Is it impossible to honor one’s faith while fighting for our land? Can a political leader call for mandatory army service and economic contributions by its citizens without being under threat of assassination? It may be time for some collective soul-searching among the ultra- Orthodox community to confess not only to God when they chant, “We have sinned before You, have mercy on us,” but also to the rest of the population that serves in the army, affording haredim the freedom to live in peace and prosperity.
It would also be a righteous thing for more religious people to take Mr. Besig’s cue and speak out against what clearly does not resemble godliness.
Sir, – I am not religious. What I am is an understanding Jew. I try to figure out what is fair, what is just.
I agree that the burden of army service should be equally shared, thus ensuring the continued existence of Israel and its army. I also think that the burden of Jewish learning should be just as equally shared, thus insuring the continued existence of the Jewish people.
I agree that the haredim should serve in the army and that all secular people, either before, after or during their army service, should learn for one year in a yeshiva or some other Jewish learning institution. What is the point of preserving a Jewish army in a Jewish state if nobody knows what Judaism is? LAURIE BENTNER Tel Aviv Sir, – The haredim should be ashamed of themselves for trying to stop 18-year-old boys from joining the army or taking part in some form of national service.
My son went into the army in the first Lebanon war and we did not know where he was, as there were no mobile phones at the time. We sat in London with no news of where he was until a week later he phoned. It was a relief that he was still alive.
Now, one of my granddaughters has finished the army. The other is in the army. My grandson goes into the army later this year.
If the haredim do not do their duty, none of their families should get money from the government.
STANLEY KERSEN Herzliya Pituah
Sir, – Several years ago, on meeting the dissident Yosef Mendelevitch after his release from a Russian prison and his subsequent aliya, I showed him an article written about his exploits titled “Jewish Heroes of the Soviet Union.” His reply was: “There is no such a thing as a Jewish hero, only those who observe the commandments and those who do not.”
Today he might say, “There is no such thing as an ultra-Orthodox Jew, only those who wear black hats and those who do not.”
CLARIFICATION In “Russian Jewish leader urges silence over Crimea” (March 4), the sub-headline should have been: “Alexander Boroda declares that ‘Jews and rabbis should stay away from politics.’” In addition, the statement in the same article that “[t]he Jews of the Crimea should emigrate to Israel, ‘which was created for Jews who are in danger in the Diaspora,’” and word of a self defense program in Kiev, should have been attributed to the World Forum of Russian Speaking Jews and not to the World Jewish Congress or its leader, Ronald Lauder.