I’m not talking about the madmen who charged at Tanya Rosenblit Friday, of course, or about the ones who beat up haredi women who came to vote for their Jerusalem neighborhood committee last week.
I feel for a large haredi camp that is stuck between the seculars and the radicals and watches helplessly as both sides engage in a mad dance on its back, not knowing where salvation shall come from.
Make no mistake about it: On the issue of the exclusion of women there will be no compromise and no negotiations. Women will travel everywhere, sing everywhere, vote, walk, be photographed, eulogize and work everywhere. Any other possibility is too despicable to even discuss.
Most haredim understand this. They also understand that the radicals within their camp crossed the line; that they are causing the entire community grave damage and bringing back to the fore precisely the kind of hostility they hoped to get rid of.
They can’t even explain to us – the seculars and masorti Jews – that the reason their radicals became so loud is precisely because the haredim are undergoing moderation processes.
The radicals see haredi women joining the workforce, haredi men filling colleges, the IDF’s Nahal Haredi battalion growing, the hundreds of haredim who join the Air Force – they see it, and they go crazy. Their solution, as always, is to become more radical, to threaten, to turn violent and to try and close the floodgates.
Secular point of no return
Every haredi I spoke with in recent days uttered the exact same sentence: “We’re against it, but are scared to talk.” This fear prompts them – out of convenience and by force of habit – to first of all try to silence the seculars, yet to their horror the haredim are discovering that it won’t work this time.
The perpetual suckers truly got mad this time. No speech by Knesset Member Moshe Gafni or the tired clichés about “Judaism truly respecting women” can work in the face of the ugly sights of female exclusion we’ve seen in recent weeks.
As it turns out, the seculars have no intention to give up this time. They reached their point of no return.
This means that if the sane haredim – and there are more of those than you think – wish to avert a culture war they can only lose, they will have to do the exact thing they have been able to avoid for too long: Turn to their own radicals and tell them: “No more. We shall no longer allow you to ruin our lives.”
They will do so with clenched teeth and with their backs to the wall. And they will not do so because they are renouncing the world of Torah, but rather, because they wish to protect it, and because they suffer from the radicals more than anyone else. It won’t be easy, but they have no other choice.
I do not envy them.
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