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Protesters in Bnei Brak demand universal draft (archives) Photo: Moti Kimchi
Protesters in Bnei Brak demand universal draft (archives) Photo: Moti Kimchi
 
 

Not your suckers anymore

Op-ed: Civil war possible if haredim refuse to accept changes demanded by younger generation

Izhar Oplatka
Published: 02.03.13, 11:13 / Israel Opinion

For decades we seculars have watched with disbelief as you – those who do not serve alongside us in the army, do not celebrate Independence Day and do not teach your children the country's heritage – received so much funding just because our leaders were willing to sell us (the majority that works and loyally serves the country) out for Knesset seats.

 

For years you've benefited from the fact that we were divided into Leftist and rightist camps. This allowed your representatives in the Knesset to ensure that you would continue to be funded by the State. And we, the members of the secular and national religious communities, stood by, bewildered, as you received lifetime financial support to study at the kolel, exemptions from municipal property tax, discounts at day care centers, tax benefits and other benefits that allowed you not to work, not to serve, not to make an effort, not to be loyal to the country – and all this at the expense of those who work from morning till night.

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And your leaders were never satisfied. After every election we learned that your community would be receiving additional benefits, concealed in clauses and sub-clauses. But they all lead to one thing: You enjoy low-cost housing while we pay more for similar apartments; you are exempt from any contribution to the country while we are obligated to send our children to the army; you are exempt from preparing your children for the employment world while we have to pay a lot of money so that our children may receive academic or professional training. And how have you repaid us? By refusing to instill in your children a sense of loyalty to the country, by ridiculing seculars and by doing everything in your power so that members of your community would not join the army (including providing false data regarding the number of people who study in your yeshivas).

 

But the younger generation is not willing to think in terms of Left and Right, nor is it willing to enslave itself for your political support; the members of the younger generation refuse to be your suckers anymore. I'm not sure you are aware of this, but polls indicate that Israel's secular youth regard the ultra-Orthodox as the most hated and threatening community in the country.

 

If I were haredi, I would pray that all those who support your integration into society will succeed, because we are people of the same faith, and we will all meet a similar fate if this country is conquered. Many of you fear change, and this is only natural, but if this change does not come, if you continue to remain closed up behind imaginary walls, believing you are invincible, the next conflict between us may, God forbid, be bloody. Then you will discover you are not so strong.

 

If you continue along your current path, the public will soon become fed up with the democratic game that leads to injustice and discrimination against certain segments of the population. The undemocratic regime that will take over will look for a scapegoat to placate the people. What will you do then? Who will support you financially? How will you defend yourselves?

 

Today we can still prevent this, but tomorrow there will be two divided groups that are suspicious of one another - there have been similar situations in the history of the Jewish people. Pray with us for the success of your integration into the army, the workforce and your country.

 

Izhar Oplatka is an associate professor at Tel Aviv University's School of Education

 

 

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