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Haredi Sector

'A haredi Yigal Amir won't rise because of plug pulled on stipends or because of draft law' Photo: EPA
'A haredi Yigal Amir won't rise because of plug pulled on stipends or because of draft law' Photo: EPA
 
Prof. Oz Almog
Prof. Oz Almog 
 
 

Incitement within bounds of Torah

Op-ed: Haredi zealots directing toxic arrows not just at 'evil government' but also at own flesh and blood

Oz Almog
Published: 07.31.13, 19:58 / Israel Opinion

My hands tremble as a type the following words: It's possible that as we speak, a "haredi Yigal Amir" is developing somewhere.

 

For those who read the ultra-Orthodox press, it's difficult not to compare those days to these times. If a leading newspaper creates an analogy between Minister Yair Lapid and Hitler, and none of the rebbes and great Torah sages cries "gevalt," this is incitement "within the bounds of Torah."

 

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The haredi establishment is in a state of hysteria, and when it loses its temper its media mouthpieces produce expressions with black flags waving over them. They "translate" the secular public's anger as "anti-Semitic hatred" and the new budget as "a religious war," "a desecration of the Torah," "the seed of evil," "a plot to uproot the Torah," "the coercion decree," "persecution of the haredi public in the Land of Israel" and "trampling of human rights."

 

The government (especially Ministers Bennett and Lapid) is referred to as an "evil government" which is "rising against us to destroy us," and the new draft law is designed in their mouths as a "decree against those who study Torah," which aims to "throw the yeshiva students into prison."

 

The Knesset vote on the law was described in one of the important haredi papers as "the day when those who curse God joined forces with skullcap wearers against the delightful flowers sitting in the houses of study day and night." I don't see that as criticism, and not even as plain lies. It's pure incitement – and it could claim a heavy price.

 

The murderer Amir was a crazy exception in the national-religious sector, which is mostly comprised of good and decent people who reject his way. But he did not grow in a social and political void. Amir was the edge of a radicalized scale, and an emissary of his own accord within a zealot sub-sector (known as "hardalim") which began developing in the "knitted skullcaps" camp in the 1980s. He grew as a weed due to a deep, prevalent feeling of humiliation, and especially due to a difficult identity crisis which erupted following the weakening of the "Greater Israel" vision.

 

Amir did not murder a prime minister in order to stop the Oslo Accords: He murdered because of agonizing ideological frustration, in a time of frictional change.

 

If, God forbid, a haredi zealot stands up and does the work of the devil, he won't be doing it because of the plug pulled on stipends or because of the draft law. Haredi leaders know that there is a need for a rehabilitating revision in the haredi sector. They also know that Lapid and Bennett reflect the wide Israeli public opinion, and essentially the democratic ethics.

 

Haredi leadership in state of insanity

The haredi establishment is not fighting for the existence of the poor and Torah study (massively entering the labor market will only save the yeshivot and strengthen the students' families), but for centers of power and control, and mainly for an identity built on bad scaffolding: The scaffolding of partition and alienation from the Israeli society and modernization.

 

On the ground, this partition is weakening and new norms are coming in through the back door. Haredim are gradually integrating into the Israeli society (in politics, in the labor market, in higher education, in the media and even in popular culture) and contributing to the State in many areas.

 

As long as these healthy processes took place "under the table" and the internal control centers in the sector were maintained, the haredi establishment did not raise hell. But after the haredi parties found themselves left out of the coalition and after the new government decided to repair the structural distortions of the past generations – the haredi leadership entered a state of insanity and is distorting reality.

 

The sector's zealots are directing their poisonous arrows not just at the "evil government" but also at modern haredim – their own flesh and blood – who are described as collaborators (in other words, traitors). This is a shocking incitement campaign which is receiving stuttering condemnation from their representatives in the Knesset and deafening silence on the part of leading rabbis.

 

The haredim who serve in the army and work for a living are referred to as "hardakim" – an acronym for "haredim lacking judgment," and essentially an obvious hint to the word "haidakim" (germs in Hebrew). And if that's not incitement, I don't know what incitement is.

 

 

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