'Seculars don't wish to change your way of life'
Photo: AFP
Photo: Prof. Ilana Shoham
Prof. Izhar Oplatka
Photo: Prof. Ilana Shoham

Letter to my haredi brothers

Op-ed: All seculars want is for you to live at your own expense, be part of this country

If you belong to those who were born in the State of Israel in one of the ultra-Orthodox communities and you studied in an educational system which emphasized on many occasions the foreignness of the country you live in and the miserable and promiscuous life, Heaven forbid, of the seculars, and taught you to live here and enjoy the country's delicacies but avoid identifying with the country in any way – in other words, if you belong to the 6,700 haredim whose conscription is postponed every year – this op-ed is directed at you.


And why should you be approached by a person representing "that" society with the "Hellenistic" customs, who is happy that your political representatives are no longer part of the government, the one the newspapers you read refer to as "malice" and "destruction"?


The answer is simple. There is finally a chance that those who made certain to keep you in a narrow and restricted world all these years, with no ability to personally choose the essence of your life, and did everything they could in order to prevent you from reading such columns, cannot carry on with these deeds in the coming years.


And no, my intention is not to see you leave the haredi world or adopt "secular" codes. It is just to explain to you the point of view of many in the country who feel it has been taken away from them by people like you, those who disregard everything they and their forefathers built here, and threaten the continuation of their life in this country as free and modern people.


Since I began writing columns for Ynet about the haredim and their influence on the State, I have been approached by many haredim presenting various claims about the secular war against the Jewish religion, as if the seculars' aim is to proselytize haredim, about universities which are a dangerous place for Judaism, as if they are trying to proselytize Jews there.


They complained about seculars' poor ethics, but do 18-year-olds who are prepared to die for their country represent a poor world of morals? They also spoke about seculars' deficient and terrible education, about the army which proselytizes devout Jews – as if the army is interested in changing a person's way of life – and about the persecution of haredim by the secular governments, as if the haredim did not dominate the government with an iron fist in the past few decades, while leaving the haredim poor and isolated in their own world.


On the other hand, many seculars see you as primitive and lazy people, exploiters, frauds and hypocrites, who trample human morals and expect prayer and forgiveness to spare you from punishment, who dodge work and military draft, who suck the state budget and live like the Tribe of Issachar which lives at the expense of the Tribe of Zevulun, without the seculars and national-religious agreeing to be your Tribe of Zevulun.


The fact that only 22% of haredi men have a matriculation certificate or a post-high school diploma only strengthens the seculars' opinion about you.


Social powder keg

There is no doubt that such attitudes mean only one thing – we are sitting on a social powder keg, which will lead to a civil war between us and you in the next generation if it is not neutralized.


Unfortunately, the seculars were the ones who did everything to satisfy the demands of your leaders, often surrendering their values for the sake of your integration into society, but to no avail. You continued to see the seculars as negative people and the national-religious as miserable. You grew up into an impossible reality in which you enjoy the country – in other words, the fruit of the work of many seculars and national-religious (a haredi family receives NIS 6,000 a month according to haredi newspaper Mishpacha) – but are unwilling to see it as your own country.


Many seculars voted this time for parties that promised to change the absurd situation which has them serve in the army, pay taxes, work hard for a living, while you are free of all that and enjoy more and more benefits – after all, only 39% of haredi men work for a living.


All they wanted was that you would go out to work like they do, without anyone expecting you to change your way of life, without anyone forcing you to change your faith. They wanted young haredim to join the military systems which match their way of life and contribute to the defense of the country they live in, because they can no longer do it on their own.


The seculars do not want you to become modern, Reform, national-religious or take off your skullcap. They simply want you to live at your expense and be part of this country, as haredim for all intents and purposes. The haredim who work show us that this is possible.


Izhar Oplatka is an associate professor at Tel Aviv University's School of Education



פרסום ראשון: 04.03.13, 10:37
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