Satmar hasidim (archives)
Photo: GPO
Ohad Shaked

Lapid's plan will alienate haredim

Op-ed: Lapid's core curriculum demand will force ultra-Orthodox sector to seek support from hasidic sects such as Satmar

Before everyone lashes out at the haredi who is writing the article, let me make it clear that I am a ba'al teshuvah (one who has embraced Orthodox Judaism), I work full time, study Torah in the evenings and I completed full army service (as a secular. Had I been ultra-Orthodox at the time, I probably wouldn't have served in the army). Now I'll begin. Yair Lapid's war on the haredim is an old war. His father, Yosef "Tommy" Lapid also tried to fan the flames, and he got burned. We believe this Lapid will also get burned. The question is how much damage will be caused to the country. Not to us haredim, but to the country.


Let me explain. Two men survived the Holocaust in the same country. One, the late Yosef Lapid, became famous and served as justice minister and chairman of Yad Vashem. The other, who was just as famous, was Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, the admor of Satmar. The Satmar doctrine may appear radical to many, but it has been embraced by more than 100,000 hasidim around the world, mainly in the US. You will not find one Satmar hasid who disagrees with this doctrine, and, as times goes by, the reality indicates that the rebbe's theory may have been right.


Rabbi Yoel refused to recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state (as a state yes, but not as a Jewish one), and claimed that Jewish institutions must not take any money from the Zionist government in Jerusalem. The Satmar institutes, mainly in Jerusalem, have never been supported by the State. Interestingly enough, these institutions are just as rich as other institutions which belong to the rest of the haredi public in Israel which does receive State funds, and on some level feels it is part of the State (members of this sector pay taxes, are represented in the Knesset and take part in the public discourse).


However, there is one thing the haredim will find very difficult to accept (most of them won't), and that is the demand that at least 55% of school hours in all State-funded educational institutions will be dedicated to teaching the core curriculum. From the haredims' standpoint, this demand means that Finance Minister Lapid wants to cut Torah studies by half. No rabbi will ever approve this.


The significance of the proposed reform is that ultra-Orthodox institutions will no longer be funded by the Education Ministry. The more severe problem, which will cause damage to the country, is that these institutions will fall right into the loving, wealthy hands of hasidic sects such as Satmar - in the US, Europe and Israel. These sects made their fortune after the Holocaust from real estate deals all over the world.


Outside funding for haredi education institutions that are currently in the center of the map and are the vast majority in Israel (97%), will lead in less than five-six years to a shift in ideology among the haredim and will completely tear them away from Israeli society. If today the haredim are a part of society (when it comes to the job market, education, and mainly the recognition of the State of Israel as a Jewish state), the reforms will lead to the full control of the yarmulke by sects such as Satmar. This poses a grave danger to the Israeli public.


For example, today higher education institutions designated for the haredi public are full. When the budgets will come from Satmar and other, similar sects, the rabbis in Israel will automatically be forced to follow their doctrines and will be opposed to any study of the core curriculum subjects.


Moreover, imagine that a haredi finance minister would demand that 55% of school hours in Israel's high schools be dedicated to teaching the Talmud, Mishnah and Torah. Would you agree to this? No, you would protest, and justifiably so. This is religious coercion. As far as the haredim are concerned, they are in the exact same situation.


While the waves of incitement of the recent months have made it difficult to stop and think, try, unlike Lapid, to think one step ahead. Think of how this reform will damage the successful integration of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israeli society over the past decade. Such a move will take the haredi public back at least a decade, and, in the worst case scenario, it will lead us back to the days of the struggle in Hungary between the Reform Jews and the ultra-Orthodox.


Ohad Shaked is a history and civics teacher, as well as the editor of the "Shabbat Table" journal on Facebook



פרסום ראשון: 04.30.13, 10:27
 new comment
This will delete your current comment