בתיה כהנא דרור
Batya Kahana-Dror
Photo: Ynet
Ultra-Orthodox men in Jerusalem clash with police over lockdown rules

Israel's ultra-Orthodox need a Haredi-free government

Opinion: Haredi politicians preserve their power by perpetuating the inability to earn a decent wage and ensuring they alone can provide state handouts to their constituents, but ultra-Orthodox communities abroad prove that work and pray is possible

Batya Kahana-Dror |
Published: 01.09.21 , 23:30
Israel's current blanket lockdown exposes the true relationship between Benjamin Netanyahu and the ultra-Orthodox politicians who are actually deciding policy on how to curb the spread of coronavirus.
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  • Evidence of this could be seen in the run-up to the Jewish High Holidays in September, with massive pressure and threats being used to prevent the differential closure being sought by then-coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzo.
    Ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem clash with police over lockdown rules Ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem clash with police over lockdown rules
    Ultra-Orthodox men in Jerusalem clash with police over lockdown rules
    (Photo: AFP)
    Now we have reached a third lockdown, with data showing that the dramatic increase in infection is mainly in ultra-Orthodox communities - something we already knew. But the proposal for a differential closure has not arisen.
    These ultra-Orthodox politicians have repeatedly displayed disregard, arrogance and threatening behavior - in the name of their constituents and the Almighty - over the decisions made by the coalition of which they were part.
    Meanwhile the government has repeatedly succumbed to them, paying the price with rising infection rates and economic ruin.
    Even so, the founder of every new party that has popped up in the last two weeks has, regardless affiliation, not shirked any opportunity to reach out to the ultra-Orthodox party leaders, hinting that they would be welcomed in a their future government should they be elected.
    Interior Minister Aryeh Deri of Shas, left, and United Torah Judaism's leader Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman in the Knesset Interior Minister Aryeh Deri of Shas, left, and United Torah Judaism's leader Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman in the Knesset
    Interior Minister Aryeh Deri of Shas, left, and United Torah Judaism's leader Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman in the Knesset
    (Photo: Aelx Kolomoisky)
    From Ofer Shelach on the left through centrist Ron Huldai to right-winger Gideon Sa'ar, the connection to the ultra-Orthodox was joyfully embraced.
    If for the average Israeli citizen, politics is only likely to have a limited impact on their economic security, but for the ultra-Orthodox who rely on state benefits, being in the coalition has a dramatic effect on their ability to survive and feed their children.
    Their way of life can only be preserved with ultra-Orthodox politicians sitting in the coalition; for without their control of the state budget via parliamentary committee, most of their voters would simply not survive.
    But this system is not writ in the skies. The ultra-Orthodox, even as an ideological group of Torah scholars who sanctify a conservative way of life, are first and foremost equal citizens of the state, entitled to food, a livelihood and good health.
    They should not have to rely on handouts bestowed by their political representatives in order to survive. This is a uniquely Israeli invention that has benefitted politicians from all parties.
    One only need look at ultra-Orthodox communities in the rest of the world, whose members do not receive government support, to realize that being a productive wage earner is not incompatible with a pious Haredi life.
    לוחמי הצנחנים וחטיבת הקומנדו מחלקים מנות מזון בבני ברקלוחמי הצנחנים וחטיבת הקומנדו מחלקים מנות מזון בבני ברק
    IDF soldiers distributing food to Bnei Brak residents during a lockdown of the city
    (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
    Israel's population is becoming increasingly uneducated, with a productivity level that is far below all other advanced nations.
    The Haredi politicians know all too well that by condemning their constituents to a life of poverty, they are perpetuating their reliance on government aid and therefore the need for political power to ensure its continued flow.
    This is a vicious circle.
    Regardless of who heads the government after the March elections, political leaders have already assured ultra-Orthodox politicians that they will be included in the coalition and will receive the same sweeteners given out by Netanyahu.
    Israel needs a broad coalition that will dilute some of the sway the ultra-Orthodox parties have held over governments for the past 40 years.
    The community must steer away from this political arrangement, for it may have benefited its leaders but it has caused untold damage to the country and its people.

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