Mizruhnik? God forbid!
Photo: Haim Zach

The plague of sectarianism

We, the religious, are very good at helping needy, experts on organizing fundraisers and charity, and know how to mend the hearts. We raise our children on 'the love of Israel' and on 'All Jews vouch for each other,' but let us be honest: It seems that our own home leaves a lot to be desired

The Biblical decree calling on all Israelites to form a single society is merely a recommendation as far as the religious and strictly Orthodox are concerned. This is true for the relationships within groups, and twice as true when referring to ties among the various religious sects.


None of them wants the other around, not even as part of some utopian future. The fact that we all worship the same Lord (each in his own way, though), study the same books, and observe the same Shabbat is all very nice, but this is as far as it goes.


The "average" strictly Orthodox (Haredi) father surrounds himself, mainly his children, with a protective wall against the Mizruhnik (Zionist-religious) whom, in the best-case scenario, he views as being very lax on observing the Word of the Torah.


The Haredim view those who combine Torah and labor or Torah and Zionism as worse than the non-observant, as reformists who are worse than the lost "babe in the woods" who went astray. The way the Haredim view it, separation from the Mizruhnik is a must, required to save his children from its evil impact, God forbid.


Certain editorials in Yated Ne'eman on the differences between the "knitted" (yarmulkes) and the "faithful Judaism" show that the gap is greater than a chasm, that there is true alienation, not to speak of pure hatred.


This is not to say that the situation on the "knitted" side is much better. There, the average Haredi is often referred to as "draft-dodger" or "parasite," and some religious-Zionists can even be heard saying: "if I had to choose whether my son should be Haredi or secular, I would choose the latter." Yes, they are not all like that, but there are all kinds.


What about mingling with the secular Israelis? For the strictly Orthodox, this is unimaginable. This is why they built Bney Brak, Haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem and elsewhere, and those homogenous towns and settlements. Even the knitted yarmulkes moved to West Bank settlements at the time because, at least in part and next to the ideological cause, they wished to create a separate framework, a certain public atmosphere.


If you will, the religious construction company, Mashav, was established several decades ago to build exclusively religious neighborhoods as an expression of the desire to "close in and protect ourselves."


It should be noted that in recent years, the opposite trend could be discerned and, acting as if on a mission out of the desire to make a difference, "strong" religious families actually chose to reside among the non-religious.


In most cases, a group of "strong" religious families forms a nucleus to support each other in the secular setting. A similar trend may be seen in the desire of certain Hesder yeshiva students to serve in the IDF, but the fact that they insist on serving within exclusively Hesdernik units is again a kind of separation. Of course it can be explained away, but it is sectarianism nonetheless.


The case of Petah Tikva

To examine that sectarian trend, I would like to focus on the national-religious public, to which I belong. Education is where sectarianism is most visible, with schools falling under frameworks and sub-frameworks. One school will never accept students who have a TV set at home, God forbid, while another examines the size of the mother's head cover, and a third measures the hours that the father studies the Torah; and so on.


In Petah Tikva, for example, there are four different education systems for the children of the national-religious current alone: one is national, three are private. Sectarianism does not stop at the schoolyard. It is upheld and observed after school - with parents watching over who you visit, who you play with, who you talk to and, in most cases, what is your synagogue: do you pray with the hesder yeshiva graduates, or with the "modern-Orthodox"?


Take the youth movements, for example. Once, the national religious had one big Bney Akiva, where everyone could find their niche. Today, Bney Akiva is not that big anymore (though still the largest), and we have Ezra, which is viewed as "more religious," offering separate activities for boys and girls; Ariel, a movement for the national-religious ultra-Haredim; and the Religious Scouts, which was and remained a small and un-influential religious youth movement.


Even the national service enterprise, that once was a single movement, is now a three-headed operation, not to mention dozens of high-school yeshivas and ulpanas for girls, which are identical, but were formed only because the yeshiva head wanted his own separate education institution, which basically imposes a burden on the parents who pay tuition fees.


Sectarianism is also observed among the leading rabbis. It is generally believed that former Chief Rabbis Mordechay Eliahu and Abraham Shapira are the leaders of the religious-Zionists, champions of the right-wing struggle for the integrity of the Land of Israel and the struggle for it.


A few rabbis who dared not to fall in line with them and their followers - refusing, for example, to call on IDF soldiers to refuse the settlement evacuation order - paid dearly and lost status among the leading rabbis, so much so that heads of the other yeshivas ordered their students not to bring in even books that the opposition rabbis wrote.


In the Haredi current of the religious-Zionists, marriages follow specific patterns too: graduates of certain yeshivas will never marry graduates of certain ulpanas. Tell me who your rabbi is, and I will tell you if I can marry you.


If you ask me, the worst thing about all of this is the lack of patience and tolerance toward those who do share our views. The fact is that Major General Yair Nave was so severely attacked, that he had to go to synagogue accompanied by bodyguards.


We, the religious, are very good in helping needy, experts in organizing fundraisers and secret charity campaigns, promote educational projects, and know how to mend the hearts. We raise our children on "Love of Israel" and on "All Jews vouch for each other," but let us be honest, without taking the dirty laundry out: it seems that the level of tolerance in our home leaves a lot to be desired.


פרסום ראשון: 04.09.07, 13:38
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