Sever Plocker

Israel's de-haredization plan

Op-ed: Current equal share of the burden campaign natural reaction to ultra-Orthodox coercion, political dominance

What began as a catchy campaign slogan is slowly turning into a national project. The common basis of Habayit Hayehudi, Yesh Atid and Kadima, as it is expressed in their demands from Prime Minister Netanyahu, does not refer only to the army service of yeshiva students, but to a comprehensive national plan which can be termed "the State of Israel's de-haredization plan."


The desire for de-haredization did not come as a surprise. It is a natural reaction of the non-haredi public top the de facto rule of an ultra-Orthodox minority in a Jewish state, which put the haredi political system in charge of this public's most important affairs. Now, finally, the State is waking up after seeing the results of this policy. "De facto rule" refers to the haredi factions' ability to veto and amend all decisions that are crucial for the State of Israel's future while the public it represents is not required to shoulder an equal share of the burden.


In the last century the State of Israel accepted the totalitarian rule of the haredi system within the ultra-Orthodox community, in hopes that this would satisfy its lust for control. But this lust only intensified and the ultra-Orthodox politicians expanded their jurisdiction to cover the core Israeli issues, without taking part in actual state-building.


At the same time, the non-haredi Israelis began to dedicate more time and effort to their personal affairs. The level of intervention of the haredi institutions got on their nerves and drove them crazy, and they responded with acts that were not meant to harm the ultra-Orthodox, but to merely make the life of the urban middle class easier. For example: Shopping malls that are open on Shabbat; Israeli airlines operating charter flights on Shabbat and holidays; non-kosher food chains and wedding ceremonies that are not conducted by haredi rabbis.


Therefore, the rise of centrist liberal-secular parties, such as Shinui and Kadima, was not a passing trend, even when the parties themselves dissolved and changed names. These movements expressed the middle class's fears from the growing haredization of the country.


As the haredi circles' capability to change the character of the State increased, their desire to change the country's character grew as well, as did the non-haredi majority's opposition. There was no "hatred of haredim" at play here, but a desire to prevent religious coercion and allow for free daily life in the state of the Jews.


A cocktail of expensive demographics and cheap politics intoxicated the ultra-Orthodox community and caused it to behave as though it ruled the country and was not just a small minority. Now the non-haredi Jews want to regain control of the country. Therefore, the coalition talks between Netanyahu and the Lapid-Bennett bloc are essentially about a comprehensive de-haredization plan, which calls for weakening the haredi institution's control over civil life in Israel – from housing to transportation, welfare, work and education. The list of ministerial portfolios Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi are demanding proves that the de-haredization plan is at the top of their agenda.


Lapid and Bennett are looking to emulate the model of the conservative and new-Orthodox Jewish community in the United States and Britain, which is both religious and moderate and combines mitzvahs, liberalism, education, work and faith. This model does not include any hatred for haredim, but many haredim, in Israel and abroad, hate it.


Israel's de-haredization project will have great national and historic implications, including bringing Israel closer to the Diaspora. Some believe this process is inevitable, but in the short run it is hard to imagine that Netanyahu, as prime minister, will implement it. For now, as long as the coalition talks continue, Netanyahu is acting as though he is willing to invite those who carry the flag of de-haredization to the chuppah. But Lapid and Bennett should be careful, because at the last moment Bibi may open the door of the train to the haredim and invite them to sit beside the driver.




פרסום ראשון: 03.06.13, 11:12
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