"Say, is she really haredi?" a non-religious colleague asked me yesterday. "The one from Meretz, the one who said Shulamit Aloni was a great Torah scholar, you know, the one who's a member of B'Tselem and everything, it says that she's haredi. Is it true?"
I gave her a lame excuse to avoid answering the question, because the truth was I wasn't certain myself.
The question of "Who is a haredi" once again occupies the ultra-Orthodox public these days. The swearing-in of Tzvia Greenfield to the Knesset this week as Meretz's sixth MK brought back to life an ancient debate. The "Tzvia Phenomenon" (there's no other way to put this,) has already baffled quite a few Israeli citizens, haredim and seculars alike. The incomprehensible combination of a heretical agenda and a God-fearing haredi is hard to digest.
Greenfield being sworn-in at the Knesset this week (Photo: Dudi Vaknin)
Many people, including me, fail to understand how it is possible to bridge the gap between the views shared by Meretz voters, who believe that the Bible is a collection of folklore tales, and haredim who believe it is the divine word of God.
But on the brink of the abyss between the two sides stands Tzvia, one foot here and the other there, and with impressive skill manages to feel like she is part of both sides at the same time.
It appears that a PhD in philosophy, like Greenfield has, is necessary in order to bridge this impossible gap.
To be honest, I do not presume to be able to put together complex sociological tests and determine the criteria for being a haredi. So, what was it that bothered me so much about Greenfield and made me label her a stranger to the haredi camp?
Well, I could live with the fact that she owns a dog as a pet, although with us fish and birds are more popular. I can also forgive the television set at her house. Many good haredim own one, although I will never let one cross my doorstep. I can live with her definition of the Zaka organization as "necrophilia lovers." Why be petty? Even her impression that haredi women are "ignorant creatures, baby-making machines" is insulting but not impossible to swallow.
But neither I nor you, Tzvia, can sanction, in the name of God almighty, the desecration of the Shabbat, bringing illegitimate children into the world, homosexuality, abortions, and any other bone of contention between believers and heretics. Issues that are an inseparable part of your party's platform, and let me give you a little hint, Tzvia – they don't quite adhere to the Torah's views on these matters.
We are both bound by the same set of rules. Realizing that there is a limit to your judgment and accepting the authority of those greater than you in wisdom and the Torah is the essence of being a haredi. Those unable to abide by this cannot call themselves haredim.
Sorry, this is how it works - ultra-Orthodox Judaism is an "all inclusive" deal.
So, seeing that with you things work differently: The Halacha can be flexible and Torah students are just unnecessary pawns, tell me, Tzvia – which haredim exactly do you represent? Where is your constituency? Meretz-haredim like you who don’t want to see dominant rabbis? Haredi women who prefer to raise a dog rather than a child? Where exactly can those Spinoza- and Sartre-loving haredim be found? In what secret place do they live? I've never heard of them; maybe because they simply do not exist.