Meaningless dates
Photo: AFP

Why haredim don't honor Memorial Day

Ultra-Orthodox don't participate in national Memorial, Independence Day not out of spite, but because these days mean nothing to them

The folklore that accompanies Israel's national Memorial and Independence Days, includes the perpetual question: What's the ultra-Orthodox's opinion? Will they stand for the moment of silence? Do they respect the memory of the fallen? Do they celebrate Independence Day? Do they rejoice in it?


The ritual question, which finds its expression through the images of those haredim who walk during the memorial siren, or through the heated statements of young haredim in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem, sparks a seemingly unexpected outrage among the state's secular residents: "Why don't they care?" "Why don't they stand up during the siren?" "Why are they indifferent towards Independence Day?" And so on.


And the truth is, dear seculars, that you're totally right. The haredim don't care. Memorial Day and Independence Day are not part of their historical chronology. The ultra-Orthodox don't stand up in silence during the siren, not because this is a "gentile custom"; they don't stand up in silence because this day symbolizes nothing to them, because on this day young haredim also don't recite Mishnayot or hold other religious ceremonies in memory of the fallen.


The haredi street does not celebrate Independence Day not because haredim think – like the eccentric minority that calls itself Neturei Karta – that this is a sad day, but because Independence Day, which for many is a national day and a highly important historical date, is for them a day like any other.


Many of the sector's members barbecue on Independence Day not because they wish to take part in the joyful holiday spirit, but mainly because it's an opportunity to light fire on a day off that's not a Shabbat.


Do the haredim do so out of alienation, disgust, or even wickedness? It appears not. The haredim do not celebrate or mark these holidays because they feel no connection to them. Most of them have never served in the army, and their parents did not take part in Israel's wars. Very few are the fallen, the injured or the combatants among the haredi family or neighborhood. So who have they got to remember and commemorate?


The ultra-Orthodox have never been involved in the crucial decisions of Israel's history, whether because they didn't want to be or because nobody asked them. Israeli democratic processes, which for the secular teenager seem trivial – such as party institutions, courts, primary elections, or even a student union, are alien to the haredi adolescent. What have they got to celebrate?


The two poles, which are so far apart during the rest of the year, aspire for unnatural synthesis on holidays and festivals. The haredim ask the seculars to be sad on Tisha B'Av, abstain from bread on Pesach, and study Torah on Shavuot. The seculars, who are, justifiably, unable to produce sorrow on the merry days of July-August and wail the destruction of an ancient house of ritual that means nothing to them, practically demand of the haredim to produce joy or sorrow on days that the haredim have no relation to.


So, dear seculars, get off our backs on memorial and Independence Day. We truly have nothing against them. We have no reaction to your grief, and we do not despise your joy, but however – they mean nothing to us.


פרסום ראשון: 04.27.09, 15:31
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