Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Excellent summary of the Draft & Curriculum issues in Israel

Cross-Currents   The situation in Israel resembles a playing field upon which multiple teams descend at the same time, each one playing by different rules. What spectators in the stands observe is utter chaos, frustrating in its incomprehensibility. Consider this a half-time look back.

What do we know about what is really in store for our brethren in the charedi camp in Israel? Very little, since none of the opposing forces speak the language of the other. We can safely say that, whatever one’s feelings are about the coalition agreement on the charedi draft and the imposition of the core curriculum in charedi schools, our charedi cousins are living through a time of great angst and uncertainty. They deserve our solicitude and tefilos. It is part of our mesorah to treat pain with sympathy, regardless of the source or cause. 

The handful of postings on Cross-Currents have evoked much passion from our readers, and occasionally some real illumination. I will try here to summarize some of what emerges from pooling all that has been said here and published in other places, combining it with off-the-record conversations with unnamed Israeli government officials. I will make no judgments about the issues themselves, other than to reformat material about them that strikes me as plausible enough to be worthy of consideration. 

From what we can tell, the charedi community in Israel has split into two camps. One camp sees the proposed legislation as a gezeras shmad. It demonizes everyone connected with the effort, and refuses to talk of any compromise. They call it a war – and you can’t negotiate effectively while the bullets are flying around your head. Within this camp of absolute resisters is R. Shmuel Auerbach shlit”a, the Briskers, and many, many more. The press associated with this camp speaks in martial terms.

A second camp tacitly recognizes that things are going to change, and has expected the change for quite some time. People in this camp understood that one day, Israeli society would no longer wish to substantially foot the bill for a large group of people who had turned long-term full-time learning into the norm. Those in this camp, however – reportedly including Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman shlit”a – feel that a system that was regnant for so long and set in motion by Torah giants cannot be undone by lesser individual of a later generation. It will not resist as strongly as the first camp, but neither will they preside over the dismantling of a Torah-only society. So far, they have refused to meet with architects of the coalition agreement who wished to start a dialogue. The decision of the Peri committee to add criminal sanctions to non-compliance with a charedi draft shifted many people away from this group convinced great numbers of people that the first camp was correct, that charedim were targeted for a full-scale assault on their way of life.

The non-charedi world seems to have found its uniting slogan in shivyon hanetel, or the equal assumption of responsibility by all members of the State. (Almost equal. In good Orwellian form, all Israelis are expected to be equal, but some are more equal than others. The Arabs are left out of it. No one wants them for the military because of the security risk.) The Haaretz crowd cannot disguise its disdain for charedim, but it is not at all clear that the average Israeli wants anything more out of the entire effort than a bit of justice and a bit of financial relief. The hysteria whipped up by the Haaretz yefai nefesh is matched by the hysteria whipped up by the charedi press (in the US as well) in creating a public mind-set in which every bigoted, over-the-top remark by some secular leftist is lovingly embellished and sent on to the public as representative of the majority of secular Israeli society. This is simply unwarranted, and likely not true. There is a reason why everything is coming to a head just now, and it still seems to be economics. At least it was when it got started. Any apologia for charedim which does not address the present and future projected burden of an underemployed community on the national economy is inadequate.[...]

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