Photo: Dudi Vaaknin

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Secular Israelis becoming increasingly fed up with haredi recklessness

Part 1 of article


At first I was getting emails like this once a week. Then it became a daily occurrence. By now, it’s a barrage.


“Dear Mr. Lapid,” writes Moshe from Raanana, or Hanna from Ofakim, or Rickey from Haifa. “In light of the haredi unruliness in recent weeks, I urge you to consider the reestablishment of the Shinui party. The time has come to put an end to these shameless displays.”


These emails usually include an attachment containing selected quotes from the haredi media which the writers present in order to outrage me. Here are a few brief samples:


“Anti-Semitism did not disappear with the Nazis,” writes Prime Minister Prize winner Chaim Walder. ”It was internalized by many Jews…they simply decided to replace their persecutors and continue their work here.”


Meanwhile, religious newspaper Yated Ne’eman charges: “The ideological perverts also knows as seculars…are beasts. Sophisticated beasts perhaps, as their external appearance is human.”


And after Moshe or Hanna or Rickey are done with expressing their opinion (“Why doesn’t anyone sue them?”) they always note that their neighbors feel the same way and will be happy to offer support and paint the walls at the neglected Shinui branch in their neighborhood, in case I’m considering the matter.


I am not considering the matter, and I think that had my last name not been “Lapid,” the letters would reach a more appropriate address.


But perhaps the haredim should consider this matter.


I was not among the founders of Shinui, but I was watching from up close, and I can attest that the circumstances at that time were quite similar to what is happening right now. As opposed to the myths prevalent in Bnei Brak and in Mea Shearim, Shinui’s establishment was not promoted by hatred for the ultra-Orthodox. It won 15 Knesset seats not because they are haredim, but rather, despite the fact they are haredim.


The average secular does not hate haredim. They remind him to a large extent of his grandfather, and he wishes to live in a Jewish state where the family sits around the Seder table, where there are no cars on the streets on Yom Kippur, and where the State of Israel’s official emblem – the Menorah – is a duplication of the Menorah described in the book of Exodus; the one that was placed in the Temple.


Seculars know, even if they don’t think about it every day, that Judaism was preserved in the Diaspora thanks to the haredim. The fact that they insist on maintaining their reclusive customs in the Jewish State may appear weird, perhaps, but we understand the haredi fear of the secular world’s temptations.


As long as the haredim make do with this, we only have one disagreement with them: The fact that they do not serve in the IDF. In many ways, even when it comes to this issue, we can only blame ourselves. We were wrong to allow the debate about military service to focus on the question of whether they will be “wasting” three years instead of studying the Torah. Those lost years are not the problem of a young person who joins the army, but rather, the chance that he’ll return in a black body bag.


The issue here is that some people in this country may die for the sake of the State of Israel’s existence, while other people are exempt from this risk.


Nonetheless, we forgave. As long as the haredim were a quiet minority that merely seeks to maintain its separatist way of life, they did not bother anyone. However, in the years before Shinui’s establishment this balance was wrecked.


The haredim came out of the Jewish closet and decided to run our lives. Yeshiva and religious services budgets kept on growing, time and again we discovered cases of corruption and bribery, haredi protests became violent, they made pretenses of telling us where we’re allowed to park, when we’re allowed to shop, and what we’re allowed to eat.


Their blatant contempt for us became increasingly blunter, until the seculars got sick and tired of it, and Shinui was established.


Part 2 of article will be published Tuesday evening


פרסום ראשון: 09.08.09, 07:34
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