For many years, ever since I’ve been designated as a favorite religious writer by the seculars, I’ve been keeping a sort of inner log aimed at summing up Israel’s religious-secular conflict. As this issue is dear to my heart, and as I live and work in the news world, it’s as though I always have at my disposal a ready-to-use summary of the conflict’s events. I presented this introduction before ruling that the cursed year that just ended may have been the worst year in the past decade in terms of religious-secular relations.
The number of times where beards and black hats were featured on news shows was incredible; bones of contention pertaining to religious affairs emerged almost every week; haredi figures were constantly appearing on the news; and above it all we saw that ancient hatred towards haredim – the hatred we believed had passed from this world by now.
All the conflicts we saw this past year shared one thing in common: They came in bunches. One event followed another; one conflict followed another. The Shabbat demonstrations in Jerusalem, the debate on the core curriculum and IDF service, the so-called “starving mother” affair, the emergency room construction and protests at Barzilai Hospital, the struggle around income supplements for yeshiva students, the protests against Jaffa excavations, the Emmanuel High Court case, the Daylight Savings Time debate, and so on. Numerous issues, and they all came in bunches.
These conflicts also shared another common denominator: Virtually all of them were incredibly needless, pointless, tasteless, and exaggerated; they were taken out of proportion, gave rise to hatred and animosity, and ended with a big nothing.
When we combine these two realizations, we reach an unavoidable, terribly simple conclusion, which we would do well to remember this coming year: What we have here is not a sequence of events, but rather, a clear and simple process of cause and effect. Oh, how accurate that is!
Every time the haredim intervened in a dispute they should have had nothing to do with; every time they took things out of proportion, cooperated with their dangerous radicals, responded in a disproportional and illogical manner to incidents that could have easily been ignored – every time this happened, it prompted a much greater incident, which ended up hurting the haredim unfairly.
Simply put, this is called crime and punishment.
Most haredim gentle, beautiful people
The haredim committed a longstanding, ongoing sin by embracing the radical elements of the Eda Haredit sect in their needless struggles against the parking lots in Jerusalem, in their silence in the face of wild acts in Mea Shearim, in their inability to totally shun these bad, dangerous elements - even though a clear haredi majority has nothing to do with Neturei Karta, shuns violence of any kind, and espouses a pleasant approach.
And what’s the result? The average secular Israeli cannot distinguish between the average haredi and his radical cousin, hence fully supporting the wicked decision on cutting income supplements to haredim.
The haredim also sinned by foolishly and needlessly embracing the so-called “starving mother,” a nameless woman who in any case was not worthy of any protection. And the result of that: An incredibly harsh anti-haredi campaign over the question of haredi loyalty to the State and its institution.
The same was true all along the way: When the haredim sinned by defending violent offenders, they were punished by the wicked, disproportional High Court ruling on the Emanuel case. When they sinned with their needless protests at Barzilai hospital, they were punished at the justified Jaffa protests, and so on.
This has been a bad year for haredi-secular relations for a few other reasons. First, it was a year that saw no significant security incidents taking place, thank God. This is how things work in Israel: When there are no wars and terror attacks, there are issues with the haredim. Secondly, it’s only natural that the growing haredi power, their high birthrate, and accelerated process of their integration in and effect on society would prompt these kinds of conflict. Yet the third and major reason is the one outlined above: Crime and punishment.
An overwhelming majority of haredim are a beautiful, gentle crowd that only seeks goodness and loves Israel. In the past decade, more than ever before, the haredi community has developed and improved, expanding and raising generations of decent, glorious sons. In many ways, they are the finest people in this country.
However, for more than 50 years now, these wonderful people are captive in the hands of a handful of radicals, forcefully drawn into the commotions the latter initiate, find themselves having to defend them and cooperate with them - and while doing that the haredim lose points and assets and reputation, almost always for no reason.
All of this will not be changing in the coming year if some people out there don’t regain their senses. The truth is that we’re off to a bad start: The Standard Time conflict is a needless one, and the haredim should not get involved in it. Who knows what punishment will be handed out for this latest sin? It’s a good thing that we had Rosh Hashana in there. May our Lord erase all our debts and write us up for a good life and for a happy, sweet year.
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