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Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Unholy Union

Yesterday the Knesset passed a new law that, at first blush, seems to be a good thing:

Since the founding of the State, successive Israeli governments have been illegally funding haredi (ultra-Orthodox) schools with a wink and a nod.  Technically, in order to qualify for state funding a school had to conform to certain minimum standards including a mandated curriculum that included core subjects such as math and English.  But somehow this never happened and a parve sort of money laundering was allowed to take place.

The rationale for this illegal funding scheme was cloaked in the government's desire not to entirely marginalize the haredi community. By funneling funds to them through back channels, the government maintained a certain (albeit tiny) amount of political leverage with the patrons of beneficiary institutions, and could use that leverage for well-timed horse-trading whenever a hot-button religious issue came within government purview.

So, on paper, it made sense to try to do away with as many illegal and undocumented government expenditures as possible, and to improve the transparency with the way funds are distributed.  It also made sense to try to use a financial carrot to woo a traditionally distant sector of the population closer to the bosom of mainstream society.

However, rather than force some semblance of token compliance from the haredi sector in return for bringing government funding their schools out into the light of day, the government completely caved.  And they caved on such a grand scale that yesterday's vote comes off smelling far worse than most previous back-room deals (of which there have been countless).

First off was the fact that the government has normalized the state funding of haredi schools without any need for compliance with core curriculum requirements.  This means that these schools can not only continue to churn out graduates who are entirely unprepared to navigate the economic landscape of the society that enables their very way of life, but they can even continue teaching a curriculum that denies the very legitimacy of the country that supports/protects them.

Before anyone rushes to condemn me for being anti-haredi, let's test this formula on another segment of the population that is equally at risk.  Instead of looking at the  haredim, let's ask ourselves if the Israeli government should be supporting Israeli-Arab schools that refuse to conform to core curriculum standards, and which teach (preach) the illegitimacy, and even the need for the destruction, of the State of Israel.

Still think the government should break the link between funding and adherence to a government-mandated curriculum?

As if that weren't enough, it now appears that the Knesset Speaker, Dalia Itzik may have pulled a fast one with the timing of yesterday's vote. According to what I've been seeing, it is highly unusual for the final reading and vote on a bill to take place on a Wednesday when Knesset attendance is traditionally very low.  Such votes are usually held on Mondays, since that is the day when Knesset attendance peaks.

There are accusations that Speaker Itzik made a deal with Shas (one of the haredi parties) to hold the final reading/vote during a lighly attended Wednesday session since it would be highly unlikely to pass in the presence of the full Knesset.  This deal was allegedly struck as payback to Shas for it not having received a plum appointment in the latest distribution of cabinet largess.  It will remain to be seen how (or if) Itzik responds to the finger-pointing.

Even if the political maneuvering surrounding the timing of the vote turns out to be within the bounds of legality (however distasteful it may have been), the very idea that some government-funded Israeli schools will be required to jump through hoops in order to live up to Ministry of Education guidelines while others will be free to do as they wish, is (IMHO) a recipe for disaster.

At some point the government is going to have to face up to the fact that it can no longer allow two of Israel's fastest growing minorities - haredim and Arabs - to compete to see which can serve as the heavier albatross around the country's neck.

Israeli Arabs are becoming increasingly disconnected from mainstream society, and are becoming correspondingly radicalized.  The lack of oversight in their schools' core curricula, combined with a complete exemption from national service, practically guarantees that the next generation will grow up with no sense of connection to the state, and will be indoctrinated on a curriculum of hate and Jihad.

Likewise, the haredim, with their blanket exemptions from any sort of national service (note I didn't say military service) and complete autonomy (impunity) to dictate an anti-Israel curriculum devoid of marketable knowledge/skills… well, it's plain to see that the situation will only get worse, not better.

What we saw yesterday was an unholy union between players that are normally at odds with one another: Dalia Itzik (A ferociously secular Laborite) and the ultra-orthodox haredi sector, for whom Itzik's brand of secular Zionism is anathema (on both the secular and Zionist score).

I have a feeling that this particular bride is in for a rude awakening… and that the rest of the family (Israeli society) will suffer the consequences of this hasty, ill-advised union for many years to come.

Posted by David Bogner on July 24, 2008 | Permalink


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Still waiting for what could have possibly seemed good "at first blush."

I don't want my government funding to go towards financing an entire segment of society which holds itself to no societal standards.

I'm religious, and I have a lot of respect for religion, but I think it's extremely unholy to cut one's children off from the ability to someday hold a normal job.

Posted by: triLcat | Jul 24, 2008 12:26:07 PM

Not every hareidi group that Sha"s and Yahadut HaTorah represents is decidedly anti-zionist.
And there are more aspects to this deal: Sha"s and Yahadut HaTorah appealed to the Hight Court and they would have forced the government probably with a much worse deal.
Also, the funding is only 60% of those that institutions with a normal curriculum are entitled to. And even that doesn't mean that they will get any funds any time soon. Just because you are entitled to any funding doesn't mean anything here in Israel. Katuv al hakerach!

Posted by: david | Jul 24, 2008 12:58:54 PM

Speaking as a chareidi individual I am upset at the anti-chareidi turn this blog has had recently. Maybe I'm new here, but I never remembered this bitterness before, until the comments about the conversion authorities in Israel, and now this.

Aren't there enough divisions in Israeli society without you exacerbating them here? We aren't a bunch of Arab fundamentalists seeking the destruction of Israel, so I don't appreciate us being depicted as being tantamount to that, rather than as among the guardians of an important spiritual heritage that is, according to our religious texts, as key to the survival of it's nation as it's armies.

Posted by: Ploni Almoni | Jul 24, 2008 3:24:23 PM

I think you went a bit too far here David, in comparing the curriculum of the Haredi sector to that of the Arab. I don't think that every Haredi institution is anti-Zionist, and you must admit that their "sins" are those of ommission - no English, math, and science. The Limudei Kodesh that they teach is the same that your children, and mine, learn.

In addition, the Haredim do not receive an across-the-board exemption from the army. They must sign up that they are learning (Toratam Emunatam), in the same way that the kippa sruga/Dati Leumi men do who put off their army service to sit and learn (including hesdernicks!). If you haven't noticed, there are increasing numbers of young men in "our world" who are learning indefinitely, especially after the disengagement - so I would be careful about besmirching this option.

Another reader pointed out that they receive only 60% of the budget that schools who follow the state curriculum. I personally think this is fair.

I agree with you that there is a fundamental problem in their community, in that they are not prepared by their educational system to get what we consider "regular jobs". On the other hand, many Haredim work in private businesses, and work in their own educational system. I certainly don't envy their precarious financial situation.

Posted by: westbankmama | Jul 24, 2008 7:01:01 PM

So -- are the chareidi more like Branch Davidians, or the Amish? And, if they are don the Branch Davidian trail, are they all the way down that trail, like, say, down Jonestown way? If they are like the Amish, then like as not they are no imminent threat to Israel the nation.

As for gov't PREFERENCE of some types of schools over others... well... that's a slippery slope, over here in the USA. That's the ONE type of behavior the whole "separation of church and state" -- poorly summarized in that expression -- clauses in the US Constitution disqualify. We are not supposed to support, nor suppress, any particular type of religion.

Of course here we keep forgetting about the "not suppress" bits...


Did you say they don't teach MATH?! ...

Release the hounds! ;o/

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Jul 24, 2008 7:06:00 PM

If there was some sort of contribution back to the state (sherut leumi, army, paying taxes) I am sure that the Israeli public would be less hostile to funding the Haredi education system. In the absence of these contributions and without some sort of adherence to the regular curriculum (and given that communities that do not contribute in one of the aforementioned ways still receive all social services), these schools should be funded privately.
[NB. In much of the world, even schools that are funded privately must meet basic curriculum standards.]

As well, aren't Haredim all Jews? Perhaps we should expect these communties to be more connected to the Israeli mainstream than we should expect the Arabs to be (perhaps excluding the haredi groups that do not recognise the legitimacy of the State of Israel) . I hate to say it, but the Arabs may legitimately have dual loyalties. Does anyone ever remember the debate, "If the US/Canada/UK went to war with Israel, who would you support?" - and we were not used to constant wars between "our" two countries.

And for those who don't like what Treppenwitz is writing - this is a blog. It's the owner's opinion of what's going on in the world and his life. If someone disagrees with the content, the comment section is a place for rebuttals, or else someone can start start his own blog and write what he wants to see. I'm sure the owner isn't out to offend people but if someone is offended, that's his problem, not Trepp's.

(My 0.02 NIS.)

Posted by: Idit | Jul 24, 2008 8:22:51 PM


"they . . . continue teaching a curriculum that denies the very legitimacy of the country that supports/protects them . . . Likewise, the haredim, with their . . . complete autonomy (impunity) to dictate an anti-Israel curriculum . . ."

in one of my first comments on this blog, i wrote that "by their very definition the religious [i.e., haredi] parties are anti-secular." to which you responded that this "is a ridiculous statement. No party that I know of is calling for the overthrow of the present system in favor of a theocracy."

sure sounds that way to me.

Posted by: Lion of ZIon | Jul 24, 2008 8:43:13 PM

triLcat ... The 'good at first blush' was the idea that the government was taking steps to bring something that was against the law into the light of legality.

david... So what you are saying is that I should be pleased at the outcome because the Haredi parties could have coerced a much more appalling one if they'd wanted? Exactly where is their ante in this game?

Ploni Almoni ... In the (almost) five years I have been keeping this blog I have published 1203 posts. Of those, less than 12 have dealt directly with the ultra-orthodox. If you feel that this makes my site anti-haredi you have just proved my point about the need for math in the curriculum. I have made no secret of my own issues with many aspects of the Haredi community, but I think that expressing my own personal baggage on this topic less than 1% of the times I sit down to write is pretty damned balanced, not to mention restrained. But since we're on the subject, my problem with the Haredim is that they do nothing in moderation. They do do wonderful, exemplary acts of kindness and Hesed... and they do the most shameful, unrestrained acts of hillul hashem. I admire people who always try to act with moderation. In Hilchot Dei'ot the Rambam differentiates between these two types of people calling the former a "Hasid' and the latter a "Hacham". Obviously he was not referring to modern Hassidim (way after his time), but his choice of words was actually quite prescient.

westbankmama ... Go back and read what I wrote. I never compared the two curricula from a content standpoint. What I said was that Israel can ill afford to have its two fastest growing minorities being funded by the state but not on board with the state's curriculum. I feel that some day soon even the dati leumi and secular schools are going to demand complete autonomy in making their curricula once this precedent is established in law... and this will b the beginning of he end.

Wry Mouth...None of those are apt analogies and it would take far too much time to bring you up to speed on this post. You and I will almost certainly have a phone conversation someday soon about our shared love of instrumental music. When we have that chat I promise I will give you the 'Jewish Denomination for dummies' talk. Deal.

Idit... Thanks. I appreciate you having my back (especially as I have been so busy that my responses have been fe and far between). However I really don't mind if people respectfully tak me or any other commenter to task. We're all grown pas and I hope that everyone knows that it is safe to unload their baggage here.

Lion of ZIon ... I would have to see the original context to know if this is a fair criticism. But let's assume for the moment that it is. I still maintain that for all my problems with the Haredim, they aren't trying to change Israel into a theocracy. They are simply pissed that Israel exists as a secular state and as such is touted by many to be the beginning of the redemption. That's their right... but don't come to me and ask this blasphemous state that shouldn't exist to fund your world.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 24, 2008 11:24:09 PM

Treppenwitz: in defense of my statement, I said "an anti-haredi turn this blog has had recently". "Recently" means in the last couple of months or less, during which I recall two such posts, rather than the entire five year history. So my math isn't so bad. Incidentally, I did take math, but I never lived in eretz yisrael yet. I have been considering aliyah, but attitudes like the ones expressed in this post make me very reluctant to go.

Also, I love your blog, but if you keep on insulting yeshivas and charedim I'll have to stop reading it. During the time commemorating the destruction of the beit hamikdash, so soon after a ta'anit commemorating the first time a Torah scroll was burnt, is it really the right time to insult Torah scholarship as it has been practiced for generations?

Posted by: Ploni Almoni | Jul 25, 2008 3:17:17 AM

I am shocked that you would compare haredi schools to the Arab schools. It shows that your hatred towards them is deep indeed.

And Wry Mouth we are talking about Israel here, not the United States of America so on this issue you have nothing that is remotely comparable to the Israeli situation. So perhaps you should remain quiet on this subject.

Posted by: Greg | Jul 25, 2008 6:45:14 AM

"I am shocked that you would compare haredi schools to the Arab schools. It shows that your hatred towards them is deep indeed."

Greg, I'm quite sure that David harbors no hatred toward haredi schools. Simply because he notes a few salient - and disturbing - similarities between haredi schools and Arab schools does not mean he hates haredim. It does, perhaps, mean that he is concerned about the relationship between the haredi community and Israeli society as a whole.

The way I see it, if the government supports your schools, then the government should have some oversight as to what is taught in those schools. Government assistance to religious institutions is a two-edged sword, whether you're in Israel or the US.

And I'm sure David himself can decide whether Wry Mouth has something to contribute to the discussion. He should keep quiet because he's an American? Nonsense. In the States, we have a very different society, but we also have to deal with the issues of government-funded public education versus parochial (private religious) schools. Some of the issues are different, but there are many commonalities.

Posted by: Elisson | Jul 25, 2008 7:20:21 AM

You know, it's always something about the haredi. So now they won't get secular subjects - the watered down garbage they get now won't do them any good anyway. I'm haredi, from Los Angeles, and no school here (period) prepares boys for the future business world. In the secular high schools here, there's a 50% dropout rate, and they get all the math, english and science taxpayer dollars can buy. I'm opting out of the system because my kids are not yeshivaniks, learners, not because I disagree with it. Let the haredi do what they do best - learn and pray. Stop trying to make them something and someone else.

Posted by: nr | Jul 25, 2008 7:54:28 AM

Ploni Almoni .. OK, then I have a math assignment for you. Pick an arbitrary date with which you are comfortable and express the number of anti-haredi posts I've published as a percentage of the total number of posts from that date to this. I'd actually like to see the results of your computations but I'll jump the gun a bit and offer the following response: I am a human being with likes, dislikes, opinions and prejudices. Those things are in a constant state of flux and I am not comfortable just accepting them. I prefer to explore them and hear what others think of them... that is one of the reasons I share (many of) them here. You, on the other hand have reinforced one of my more serious dislikes about haredim in your effort to force me to fall in line with your viewpoints. I do not profit by your presence here beyond what I may learn from you. However by threatening to boycott my site if I continue to express my opinions honestly you are doing exactly as the haredi community in Israel dos when confronted with something that is not in their power to change... but they feel that it should be; they make threats. In this case your threat is an empty one since I would not notice your absence (although perhaps I would be poorer for not having your usually-interesting comments). I didn't address it in my first response to you but part of the problem is that the Haredim see themselves as the 'guardians of our spiritual heritage' in a very paternalisic and offensive way. The clear impression they give the rest of the Jewish community is that we have tossed aside this precious gift and they are preserving it for us until we come to our collective senses. Can you see how that would make the rest of us a tad less willing to hold hands and sing kumbaa? Yes, Israeli society (and the larger Jewish community) is very fractured, but at least part of the blame rests with the Haredi community that looks down its collective nose at the rest of us as if we were poor, uneducated relations.

Greg... You, like several other commenter's have ignored the basis of that comparison and jumped directly to an assumption about what you think it must say about the person making it. I see Haredim and Arabs as differently as night and day. But when an obvious aspect of their educational relationship (and/or lack thereof) with the state that supports them is as obvious as it is troubling (to me), I am within my rights to mention it. You, on the other hand are within your rights to disagree... but not to assume facts about me that are certainly not in evidence here. As to your response to Wry Mouth let me say the following. A significant portion of this blog's readership is made up of non-Jews who are interested in (or curious about) Judaism and Israel. There are also a lot of secular Jews who com here because it is a safe, non-threatening place to find out about how another sort of Jews lives his life. Wry Mouth is an extremely bright person whose comments I look forward to. And part of his brightness is his willingness to acknowledge that he doesn't know everything, and his not being afraid to ask questions to fill in gaps in his knowledge. In this case you had a choice of trying to educate him or remaining silent. Instead you overstepped your place and decided to take him to task. I think you owe him an apology.

Elisson ... Thanks, you expressed my thoughts better than I would have.

nr... When a father is asked by a son or son-in-law to support him while he learns in kollel (instead of joining the work force) the father presumably has some say in whether and how much support to provide... and for how long to provide it. The Israeli government is no different. They have made it clear that they view the role of the haredi community exactly as you've described it. But they also have the right to place some conditions on the support they provide.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 25, 2008 8:57:57 AM

I don't look down on you, but judging by your blog post and comments you look down on me. I am not threatening a "boycott", just engaging in self-censorship. Also, seeing the Jewish religion insulted by Jews is not why I read this blog, nor why I am on the internet at all.

Frankly, if it weren't for my involvement with computers in vocational sphere in the IT sector - see, chareidim learn vocational skills and not all of them study Torah full-time (or as some others would put it, are "parasites", I hope you are not among them) - I would not be on the internet in the first place, just as I do not watch TV. Not just because dirty pictures are available, though that is reason enough, but because amongst certain voices on the internet, hatred of Jews and those who adhere to the religion of our forefathers is celebrated. (And no, just because you are in the religious-zionist camp, I do not exclude you from amongst those who adhere to the religion of our forefathers, all your protests to the contrary about how I am paternalistic and closed-minded.)

Well, that's enough of a rant. I suppose it's your blog and you can do what you want, but it hurts me, not out of paternalism, to see fellow Jews express dislike concerning fellow Jews and compare them to outright antisemites such as most Arabs. (Well, not technically they are antisemites, but you know what I mean. Let's just turn the clock back 60 years and say "you know, those chasidim are just like the Germans; we should pull the rug out from them", see my point?)

Posted by: Ploni Almoni | Jul 25, 2008 1:05:43 PM

I could never fathom the hatred (not criticism) for the Haredim, especially from the dati-leumi camp. Could it be that you feel threatened by them since it's becoming more and more clear that the honeymoon between this secular, corrupt state and the dati-leumi movement is coming to an end?

And comparing Haredim who finish their education without "marketable knowledge/skills" after only (?!?!) studying Torah and the Talmud with Arabs who are indoctrinated to hate Israel is frankly so idiotic that it doesn't deserve a response.

Posted by: shohat | Jul 25, 2008 3:47:32 PM

Ploni Almoni ... Actually, I don't see your point at all. What I do see is a theme here. You say the haredim are the guardians of Judaism and that any criticism of the haredi community is a criticism of Judaism???! That doesn't sound a tad paternalistic and exclusionary (not to mention inulting?) to you? And the difference between a boycott and self censorship in this case is purely semantic. You said "if you keep on insulting yeshivas and charedim I'll have to stop reading [your blog]. Well, I criticize the Israeli government much more frequently than I do the Haredim. Does that make me anti Israeli? No, of course not. I don't know why you have appointed yourself the defender of the haredi community... but I assure you that this blog is not in any way shape or form anti-haredi. It is a place for me to voice my feelings about a host of subjects. If you don't want to risk being exposed to legitimate criticism of the haredi community, then I suggest you sell your computer because it could crop up anywhere.

shohat... You are being intellectually dishonest. I was never critical of the fact that haredim study religious subjects. My criticism is reserved for the fact that they don't study subjects that make them able to join the country's work force (except, perhaps, as religious teachers). The welfare trap within which the haredi community exists cannot continue to grow forever... they must equip themselves to support their families!!! You can call the state whatever names you want, but it's the state that puts food on the tables of haredi families who refuse to work for a living. If it was your father in law you would show the proper respect for the gift of being able to sit and learn without having to worry about parnasa. You should show the same respect to the state since it is providing the same kind of support. That you cannot tell the difference between criticism and hatred is problematic. But that you come here and call my opinions idiotic is just plain rude. You are welcome to go read blogs that are less likely to challenge your worldview if you find my writing so objectionable.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 25, 2008 4:45:39 PM

Elisson Wry Mouth can comment but he should be careful about the comparisons. One of the founding principles of America was that the government wasn't going to involve itself into church affairs and so we have this separation of church and state. But Israel has no concept of separation of church and state. That isn't how Israel was founded. So any comparison in this regard would be mixing apples with oranges.

Posted by: Greg | Jul 25, 2008 5:41:44 PM

"There are also a lot of secular Jews who come here because it is a safe, non-threatening place to find out about how another sort of Jews lives his life." - Treppenwitz, that would be me:)

I just wanted to thank you for writing, I hope you continue for a long time. I love reading this blog and I have learned so much about the "dati" point of view. Even though I consider myself a big "Zionist", it's made me want to be a bigger "Jew" (if that makes any sense).

Posted by: Ima in Texas | Jul 25, 2008 6:34:38 PM

"Wry Mouth we are talking about Israel here, not the United States of America so on this issue you have nothing that is remotely comparable to the Israeli situation. So perhaps you should remain quiet on this subject."

Greg: Just to clarify for the readers in general, I was not *promoting* the USA's understanding of "church" (murky at best) versus "state" (pretty good); merely painting the contrast. Your "apples and oranges" worked pretty well on that score; maybe I should have led with that.

I am interested in the Israeli system of gov't *precisely* because it is alien in many ways to the US federal system... I am -- admittedly -- looking for beneficial ways to make the US system *more like* the Israeli system, as part of my long-term plan to introduce mult-party coalition politics on the federal level here.

There; I said it.

I -- in no way -- was trying to be a know-it-all, or a no-wit-all. ;o/

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Jul 25, 2008 7:36:54 PM

Wry mouth: No, you do *not* want to make American politics more like Israeli politics. I think both I and Treppenwitz would agree with that assessment. :-)

Posted by: Ploni Almoni | Jul 25, 2008 8:07:12 PM

And you think that by making the haredim take secular subjects that the government is ensuring that will be able to make a living and pay taxes? Come on. The only way out is vocational - which many here are opting for - but unfortunately, yeshivas that offer vocational studies as well are often for boys with "issues," which is for sure the case in Israel. That's got to change. Learning yeshivas need to co-op with places like ORT, which is happening in NY with Chabad, to offer the learning in the morning and the vocational in the afternoon. We applied, but NY law requires students to be 17, and my son missed the cut off by 6 months. THAT'S THE ANSWER. Not the crummy secular studies that barely prepare you for college. I'm going back for my Masters and I can't even tell you how ill-prepared the secular kids are here.

Posted by: nr | Jul 25, 2008 9:30:36 PM

What exactly is the curriculum like in Arab-sector schools in Israel?

I find it hard to believe that they sit the kids down and fit them for suicide belts while burning the symbols of the state and dressing up like Farfur.

Posted by: Alan | Jul 25, 2008 10:50:22 PM

Unfortunately Alan it is pretty close to that.

The Liberals in Israel think schools in the Arab-sector should teach the Hamas side of the Jewish/Palestinian conflict.

Posted by: Greg | Jul 26, 2008 10:39:20 AM

At a charedi relative's house this Shabbat I read through the latest "Mishpacha" magazine. There was a lengthy discussion of how the Zionists had cooperated with and encouraged the Nazis in the killing of the religious Jews of eastern Europe, all in order to make sure that the future Jewish state remained secular. When confronted with blood libels like that, is it any wonder why people become anti-charedi?

Posted by: Shlomo | Jul 27, 2008 12:36:32 AM

Treppenwitz: If you had stopped at saying "Charedi schools should teach secular subjects at the government's behest", well, then, you are entitled to that opinion, and there's nothing wrong with that.

On the other hand, you implied that Charedi schools are the same as Arab schools because they don't teach enough Zionist ideology, and that, by implication, Charedim are being trained to be a fifth column. That is where the insults began, and that kind of talk is indeed anti-Chareidism of the worst kind. May I point you at Agudas Yisroel publications in support of Jewish control of Jerusalem? We aren't like the Arabs at all.

Posted by: Ploni Almoni | Jul 27, 2008 9:20:03 AM

Shlomo: it is a matter of record that Ben Gurion said he'd rather have a Zionist cow in the state of Israel than a religious Hungarian refugee. Now, some of the other stuff is less independantly corroborated, but the early and even later secular Zionists were not saints. It is unfortunately clear that even some religious Zionists view Chareidim as some kind of enemy, from the comments here equating us with Arabs and l'havdil elef l'havdilim, Branch Davidians.

Posted by: Ploni Almoni | Jul 27, 2008 9:24:39 AM

when this was posted originally (last week) I couldn't come up with something better than "well done David", for pointing this out to us, and informing us. So, I took a break from adding comments. Now, I feel that I have to point out that I am of course 100% in agreement with David on this topic (for what it's worth), but more, now that David is accused of dividing the nation/people, I stand with him on this. Some of the commenters are downright nasty.
I'm just glad that the party I voted (and campaigned) for didn't make it into the Knesset, next time we will, I hope.

Posted by: asher | Jul 27, 2008 11:01:32 AM

"I'm just glad that the party I voted (and campaigned) for didn't make it into the Knesset" meaning of course that they're not tarred with the same brush.

Posted by: asher | Jul 27, 2008 11:42:59 AM

but then again David, if you think back to erev Yom HaZicharon, when you posted a political post, and tried hijacking Yom HaZicharon and claiming exclusivity on Zionism and Remembrance, reckoning that no-one, but no-one would dare disagree with you, now you're the one being accused (falsely I emphasise) of dividing us, there is a certain measure of poetic justice, don't you feel. In any case you'll agree with me that being labelled a divider is not a nice feeling, just because singing together is a question of who chooses the words and the tune. (There's a commercial on TV that gets me worked up)

Posted by: asher | Jul 27, 2008 11:55:57 AM

Greg - I am well aware of the difference between Israel and the United States vis à vis the separation of church and state. But thanks for pointing it out anyway. ;-)

Posted by: Elisson | Jul 27, 2008 3:13:22 PM

For clarity's sake David, or anyone, what welfare system is there currently in place that support Chareidim who don't work? The child allowances have already been slashed to some of the lowest in the western world. I live in a Chareidi yishuv, I do work, and I also see a lot of poverty, mostly among the "working poor". But seriously, what are these fat government benefits you speak of? I am not actually aware of any really.
If you are referring to Kollel stipends, they are usually less than 2000 NIS a month. And no more than a few hundred shekels of that comes from the government. I know, I used to be in kollel.
What constructive purpose does the vitriol you keep putting out here serve? As was mentioned above, it has become very commonplace for Chareidim to seek vocational training. There are whole schools just for that purpose. I seriously don't think there is even any factual basis for the types of accusations you are throwing out.
Does having zero secular education makes things more difficult to adjust to the Israeli workforce? Yes, but it is not universal that schools in the Chareidi world hold to that policy. That is one extreme. What was mentioned above about vocational training being more effective and practical than learning these things in school is also true.
Please back up what you are saying with more information about what government programs are supporting people, and with honesty about things that actually happen in the chareidi community. If your intention is for the good, I'd like to hear more constructive suggestions for how to improve things instead of sarcastic criticism.
Otherwise, I'll have to conclude that it is just baseless hatred fueling your comments.

Posted by: Yosef | Jul 27, 2008 6:07:54 PM

I'm glad he makes such posts seldom, as he says, because, considering the comments of non-Jews who read this blog and take what he says about Chareidim at face value or worse ("are they Amish or Branch Davidians?"!) it is truly a chillul Hashem, sinas Chinam, and a terrible thing to do this time of year.

I've already removed his blog from my blog feed reader, and I don't plan to follow it as much as I used to - simply because it pains me to see such hatred expressed towards the segment of the Orthodox public I belong to. Unless of course he issues an apology or at least some sort of clarification for what he meant to say that clears the air a bit.

I kind of doubt he'll do that though, he is certain he did the right thing, by practically calling Yeshivas schools for jihad and an unbearable burden on the Israeli public - unless, of course, they become fellow religious Zionist day-schools, with a similar curriculum that incorporates plenty of arithmetic classes and properly vetted politics. Because the state is the "father-in-law" of all kollel students, who has a right to tell them how to learn.

Then he accuses us of being "paternalistic" and wanting to control other people's lives?! The chutzpah!

Posted by: Ploni Almoni | Jul 27, 2008 7:38:55 PM

Trep: I think you've made a point there - a bit like cutting the branch you are sitting on.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Jul 28, 2008 12:20:44 AM

Ploni -- having seen you refer (at least twice) to my commentary as something that hit deeply and insulted you, I will offer you, publically and unconditionally, on this same site, my whole-hearted apology. I take full responsibility for my -- carelessness. I cannot say "thoughtlessness," but I can say "careless." I offer you no excuses or justifications, although I am sure I can whip up plenty. Mea maxima culpa. If Trep sees fit, I would not object in any way to his excising my comments from this thread, to avoid future insult to others who might some across this post.

Including, of course, this one.


Posted by: Wry Mouth | Jul 28, 2008 2:15:00 AM

Wry mouth: that's very kind of you, and your apology is accepted. I personally don't want the censorship (despite the stereotype that Chareidim want to censor everything!). I had taken your comments to be out of ignorance, no offense, not out of malice.

Treppenwitz: I am sorry also if I posted anything to offend you. I'm not sorry for the contents of my criticism of the contents of your message (if that makes any sense), anyone who runs a blog who allows comments should expect that a bit, but I am sorry if I attacked you personally; I may have crossed that line.

I really shouldn't have shared my own decision to cut back on following this blog, that was wrong, and does look like the "boycott" approach that you critiqued. Anything else that looks like it may have offended you, let me know.

Posted by: Ploni Almoni | Jul 28, 2008 6:45:53 AM


"And no more than a few hundred shekels of that comes from the government."

a few hundred shekel is a few hundred shekel. and you are ignoring that the haredi sector gets other forms of assistance besides direct welfare payments to families.


i respect your decision to cease reading this blog. there is nothing wrong with "boycotting" it if you want to.

i only hope that you are as principled when it comes to shutting out those within your camp when they speak of non-haredim the way you accuse david of speaking of haredim.

Posted by: Lion of ZIon | Jul 28, 2008 9:46:57 AM

Lion of Zion,
What are these other forms of assistance that chareidim get? In the years after I was first married when I was learning, I never received any such benefits. I still don't receive any now, as much as I could certainly use them!
What exclusive financial benefits do chareidim receive?
As far as the few hundred shekels, this is the money given by the government to all educational institutions. I'm sure you know that of course yeshivas receive less than other schools. This few hundred shekels was from the institution, passing it's government funding along to the students. The teachers make next to nothing.
You seem to imply that societally supporting the study of Torah is inappropriate in any form. Whatever financial support is there for yeshivas is minimal, and is furthermore there for any institution regardless of ideology. There are plenty of Religious Zionist yeshivas in the exact same boat.
Historically, Jewish communities always publicly supported the learning of Torah by talented individuals. Within the Jewish tradition, the merit of the Torah protects us and is the essence of what gives us our right to be here in the land in the first place.
Despite the widespread assumption on the "Israeli street" that "all the chareidim" sit in kollel, this is anyways not the case. It is very common for young couples to spend some time in kollel in the first years of their marriage. Few stay there long term, though it is those who do from whom great Torah scholars come. There would be no more Rabbis of any religious stream if this type of study didn't exist.
The mainstream perception is that "the chareidim" are parasites who are supported by the state in exchange for nothing. I have seen no demonstration of this support at any point in this comment thread. I have seen no demonstration of this support in the community I live in, despite the fact that many families don't have enough food to feed their children.
Also, it must be pointed out and repeated if necessary that the Old Yishuv was all Chareidi. The first Jews to return to the Land of Israel in number were the students of the Gaon of Vilna and the Baal Shem Tov, the "First Aliyah". When the next wave of secular Zionists came years later, there was continuous bad blood between them. The secular Zionists repeatedly tried to strongarm changes to the Chedarim and religious schools even back then, and generally did things that were extremely provocative. There was tragically years upon years of bad blood between these groups. Most anti-Zionism you see in Israel today stems from the wounds of those years that became engrained in the culture, a "siege mentality" if you will.
Hopefully that reality is no longer true today, but today's climate has complex roots, in no small part fueled by modern Israel's hatred of itself. There has certainly been dysfunction in all aspects of Israeli society, including Chareidi, but I don't think most of the sentiment expressed on this topic is sincerely helpful in its intent.
We are all here together and blanket generalizations and condemnations help no one and only poison not only the atmosphere, but our hearts against each other. And BTW, I do get very agitated when this type of commentary is directed at anyone, including secular Jews and Zionist, religious and secular.
I continue to read this blog because David is an extraordinarily talented writer, and I seriously just enjoy his sense of humor, often touching sensitivity for the society he lives in, and his eloquence is expressing some things that desperately need to be expressed (like his famous post during the last war in Lebanon). I hope that he continues to use his talents for the good of us all, as he usually does. The pen is, after, all, mightier than the sword, and one who humiliates another in public is as though he shed his blood.

Posted by: Yosef | Jul 28, 2008 4:42:31 PM

Yosef wrote

Also, it must be pointed out and repeated if necessary that the Old Yishuv was all Chareidi

and I add that they survived on the monies of the Halukah

Posted by: asher | Jul 28, 2008 4:51:52 PM

You're right, they did. And at the time those who gave their tzedakah for that purpose felt it was a worthy cause to support, for hundreds of years. The secular zionists were also funded from abroad. In fact, even today so much of modern Israel is funded from abroad. Everywhere you go, hospitals, parks, etc., you see that someone donated the money for it. What is your point?

Posted by: Yosef | Jul 28, 2008 6:35:26 PM

"The mainstream perception is that "the chareidim" are parasites who are supported by the state in exchange for nothing. I have seen no demonstration of this support at any point in this comment thread."

Has nobody yet mentioned that charedim universally* refuse to serve in the army, while everyone else in the country from dati leumi to secular to non-Jewish Russian does serve, endangering their lives to protect charedim along with all other Israelis?

There is a reason charedim and Arabs get mentioned in the same sentence. If it offends charedim to hear it, they can easily change that impression by enlisting. But somehow I don't see that happening anytime soon.

*Nachal Charedi is the exception that proves the rule. The vast majority of its soldiers are Chabad, Breslov, dati leumi, or else shababnikim - none of them considered "real" charedim by the mainstream charedi population.

Posted by: Shlomo | Jul 29, 2008 9:57:45 PM

Did I forget to mention that many of the charedim who get draft deferrals due to being in yeshiva are not actually in yeshiva, but really work on the black market while simultaneously receiving a yeshiva stipend (small as it is)?

Posted by: Shlomo | Jul 29, 2008 10:00:02 PM

More and more chareidim are starting to serve in the army, which has become possible with the advent of Nachal Hareidi, despite what you say. The fact that Rabbi Shteinman has publicly expressed support for it contradicts what you are saying here.
No one gets a p'tur if they aren't in yeshiva. If this has ever been abused, and it probably has, this isn't something happening on a large scale. The majority of those who use the deferral are in fact learning in yeshiva. This option exists for any religious Jew. There are many Religious Zionist boys who do the same. The hesder program is similar, at least in terms of shortening the length of service.
The main historic reason for the ambivalence of Chareidim to the army has more to do with the Army's culture than anything else. Things like the mingling of men and women, coarse language and sexualized culture, intolerance of religious sensitivities and practices, kashrus and shabbos problems, etc, made it a hostile environment.
Nachal Hareidi is unique because it is the first time in the history of the State of Israel that an attempt has been made to create a genuinely religiously friendly option for those who otherwise would want to serve, and as such is and has been a major step forward.
The trend is towards integration with these issues.
The army in the past didn't want the chareidim, despite the virulence with which people slandered the chareidim for "not doing their part". This is similar to the same lashon hara people say about chareidim being parasites and not working (reality be damned), while it is also true that many businesses won't hire chareidim anyway.
The criticism is not coming from a sincere place, and the proof is in the pudding. The loathing precedes the "issues" raised.

Posted by: Yosef | Jul 29, 2008 11:37:03 PM

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