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Bring Back the Men in Black

My ancestor, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi, was nearly killed by Zionists. Anti-haredi animosity still drives Israel mad.

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Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters pray in Jerusalem’s neighborhood of Mea Shearim on July 8, 2009. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)
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Israel’s new government, inaugurated this week, is the first in a decade—and one of very few in the nation’s history—to include no representatives of the ultra-Orthodox community. This absence was the result of demands by several of the coalition’s parties and was gleefully applauded by many in Israel, exasperated with what they perceived as the undue influence of haredi Jews on the nation’s politics and policies. This is not an entirely unreasonable reaction—for decades, haredi parties have used their position as electoral tiebreakers to demand, often forcefully, everything from political power to oversized budgets.

But the contempt so many Israelis, left and right, feel for the haredis predates all of that backroom skullduggery; nearly a century ago, the same strand of hatred almost killed my great-great-grandfather.

Exactly 81 years ago this week, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld died. He was a difficult and brilliant Jew, a fervent anti-Zionist who ironically believed that the only proper way to be an anti-Zionist was to abandon his Austro-Hungarian yeshiva and move to Jerusalem. Once there, he quickly became the leader of the small community huddled mainly inside the walls of the Old City. Recognizing his constituents’ squalor, he founded a new neighborhood, Batei Ungarin, which eventually became the modern-day Mea She’arim. With his dearest friend and his fiercest critic, Abraham Yitzhak Kook, he rode a mule for days to visit the Zionist pioneers in the Galilee and urge them to abandon their socialism and embrace religion instead. He was widely respected—Thomas Masaryk, the illustrious president of Czechoslovakia, traveled to Jerusalem in 1927 specifically to meet with Sonnenfeld and ask for his advice. For all these reasons, he was the Zionists’ worst nightmare.

Sonnenfeld and Masaryk in Jerusalem, 1927
Sonnenfeld and Masaryk in Jerusalem, 1927. (Wikimedia Commons)

The rabbi, the early leadership of the yeshuv, or pre-state Jewish community, understood, was, ideologically speaking, the only other game in town. As they were running around and convincing foreign luminaries that the only way to address the needs of the Jews was to establish a sovereign Jewish nation in the land of Israel, Sonnenfeld was doing the opposite, arguing that real Jews, religious Jews, understood that the only one who could bring about the establishment of a Jewish state was the Messiah and that in the meantime any Jew attempting statehood was to be rebuked.

Naturally, such talk irked the Zionists: In the early 1920s, after Sonnenfeld met with an influential British baron and dismissed Zionism as the fantasies of a handful of heathens, members of Haganah, the paramilitary organization that preceded the Israel Defense Forces, burst into the rabbi’s home, guns drawn. Unmoved, and refusing to do so much as get up from his chair, Sonnenfeld allegedly tore his shirt open, and hissed: “I’m ready to become a martyr. Kindly murder me.”

For whatever reason, they didn’t, and Sonnenfeld, interrogated by British officers, refused to name any of his assailants. But several years later, his right-hand man, a Dutch poet and lawyer named Ya’akov Yisrael De Haan, was less lucky. De Haan was about to travel to London on Sonnenfeld’s orders to meet with British parliamentarians and speak against the Zionist movement. On June 30, 1924, shortly after having completed his daily prayers, De Haan stepped out to the courtyard of his synagogue on Jaffa Street and was immediately shot and struck three times in the neck. The assassin, Avraham Tehomi, confessed years later that the order to assassinate De Haan was most likely given by Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, who later became Israel’s second president. It was the country’s first political assassination.

The contemporary dislike for Israel’s haredis is nowhere near as murderous, but it blooms from the same sodden ideological soil. What we’re witnessing isn’t so much a struggle between a put-upon majority and a canny, powerful minority, but the clash of two conflicting ideologies, two alternate visions for Jewish life. In the 1920s, with their triumph far from a fait accompli, religious thinkers like my storied ancestor represented, to Zionism’s founding fathers, a possible, and maybe even probable, alternate reality. With Zionism now battered and confused—having achieved its national goals but at risk of losing its soul to the adherents of universalist values on the one hand and the exponents of messianic territorial visions on the other—it’s time for the minted contempt for the pious to pour out once again.

Considered candidly, there’s hardly a better explanation for this animus. All steely arguments, mainly the central one pertaining to military service, hardly sustain serious inquiry. As I had noted in these pages, the demand to force the haredis to serve in the IDF is silly: The Israeli army is already meeting its recruitment goals, has its pick from a vast cadre of well-educated and highly motivated youth, enjoys the fourth-highest ratio of combatant-to-noncombatant soldiers in the world—a sign of robust organizational health—and is generally not in need of new recruits, particularly ones who require extensive training to meet current technological standards and who necessitate adjustments that are nearly impossible for the IDF to meet, such as complete separation between the sexes. The army might have found solutions to this problem, if it was a problem at all; but as less than 20 percent of those Jewish Israelis who fail to serve are haredis, it’s hardly worth dispatching the military police to Jerusalem and Bnei Brak.

There’s also the economic argument: The haredis receive far and away disproportionate sums of state funding. That is true, but so do the settlers, every aspect of whose lives is sweetened with tax payers’ money, and so, once upon a time, did the kibbutzim, and both these groups got—and, in the settlers’ case, get—not only to sit in the government but to dictate its agenda as well.

What we’re left with, then, is hate, the particular flame thereof that burns brightest at times of uncertainty. The new government’s anti-haredi sentiments are made even more visible against the pale white background of its limpness on all other issues: It has no idea how to extract Israel from the stalemate with the Palestinians; no notion of how to avoid another long and bloody conflict with Lebanon; no clue how to dilute the colossal NIS 39 billion deficit, which was double the target of Netanyahu’s previous and failed government; and very few ideological markers to tell its new members apart. Other than engage in creative acts of portfolio gerrymandering—the new Cabinet has a minister of finance and a minister of economy, a minister of foreign affairs and a minister of international relations, and other similar head-scratchers—this government has so far said little, in the very long time it took it to spring to life, that would help it define itself. Nothing, that is, except for the fact that it refuses to let the haredis in.

Or, for that matter, the Arabs. Yair Lapid, the black-maned kingmaker who was the leader of the anti-religious chorus, also expressed similar disdain for Israel’s Arab parties, calling them all Zouabis, after the combative legislator Hanin Zouabi. Both exclusions are equally illiberal, both are maddening, and both should be immediately reversed. The continuous and deliberate refrain from inviting Israeli Arabs to join the government—true of all Israeli prime ministers except Yitzhak Rabin—drove more than a third of that population to recently describe the conditions of their lives as “apartheid.”

This harsh fact wouldn’t have surprised my ancestor in the least. Writing for a Zionist paper shortly after De Haan’s assassination, he emphasized that he did not object to Zionism per se but merely to the form of Zionism that was “power hungry and eager to dominate minority community and imperiously run their affairs contrary to their wills and worldviews.” What the haredis wanted, he added, was “to develop according to the foundations of just law, which grants complete freedom to all denominations and religions for each to preserve its teachings and mitzvahs according to its desires and aspirations.” The same still holds true. It’s time someone listened.


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julis123 says:

That’s true, 2 conflicting ideologies:
Haredim-Don’t work, live off the Israeli taxpayer, try to tell the people that you live off of how to live their lives, don’t serve in the army, express contempt for the non-Haredi world.
Non-Haredim-Work, pay taxes, serve in the army, just want s to be left alone to live their lives.
Liel has really surpassed his personal best for ridiculous columns with this one

Poupic says:

I am getting sick reading this garbage. Ben Tsvi gave the order to kill one of those parasites? I thought that the creation of Phantazia was Israel’s neighbors disease. This one must have been infected by lying in bed with Arab terrorists they prefer to any Zionist. Why should a government of Israel make an effort to include parasites in the government? They have been part of most governments of Israel for one reason only. They were the small numbers needed to forge a coalition. This started with megalomaniac Ben Gurion that gave them the kitchen sink in order to join so he could be the first PM of Israel. They did and the rest is history. A long history of extracting more and more from Israel they hate.

alustiger says:

Liel has exceptional yichus: I am glad that due to his yichus the story of R. Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld and Jacob deHaan is being introduced to Tablet readers. DeHaan’s murder by direct order of the second president of the State of Israel is an integral part of the haredi narrative, one that is repeated annually in Yated Neeman and other Haredi media. It is important that both secular and religious Zionist readers understand this story in order to recognize the source of antipathy by the haredim towards the State of Israel. Unfortunately, however, the Hareidim mistakenly maintain that the vicious hatred of secular Zionists towards them continues to this day, an extrapolation that was disproven by Yair Lapid’s now famous speech to Hareidi law students in Kiryat Ono. Of course, making the argument that the State of Israel is a murderous entity while at the same time living off the largesse of this state is hypocrisy. Even more strange is the argument that the study of Torah by Haredim is what is protecting the State of Israel, when in the eyes of many of those same Haredim, the very state is illegitimate.

Rubin Roy Cobb says:

If the haredim cannot stop fighting to the last drop of other Jews’ blood, let them at least do national service and learn a trade or profession at the same time. It will benefit, and not be a burden to the whole country – and yes themselves as well.

Pesele says:

That was then; this is now. And now the Haredi hold and use religious power to oppress any other interpretation of Judaism but their own. I’m an American Jew; my experience of Orthodox Judaism is one that is forced–by the nature of American religious pluralism–to co-exist with other interpretations of Judaism. It makes for a humbler, more self-reflexive approach, not a bad thing for any person or group. And it means that there is more room for understanding and dialog between Jews.
When I visited Israel for the first time, I understood where the anger toward the Haredi came from. It can be encapsulated in a repeated incident–walking through the crowded Old City and just about being run down by Haredi men, for whom I apparently did not exist and who had no concept of sharing the path. It was ONLY Haredi men who behaved in this way, not non-Haredi men, not Haredi women.
The kind of historical justification and defensiveness that Lail exhibits above reminds me of nothing so much as the American religious right’s fulminating about the “War on Christmas.” In both cases, taking the offensive enables the group (both fundamentalists of one kind or another) to avoid any self-examination.

Michael says:

Your “rabbi” ancestor was not Jewish in my book. You can argue he was until you are blue in your face but just being religious isn’t sufficient to define a Jew. Like Christians who aren’t religious by religion alone, and neither are Muslims or Buddhists defined by religion alone. In my book, Nationalism and Culture must go together to make a person Jewish while Religion is an option only. Your ancestor was a follower of a messianic stream, a messianic cult, like the Frankists before him. The Neturei Karta living in Mea Shaarim today (or elsewhere, like in London, Brooklyn or Montreal) aren’t Jewish either, they are Frankist continuity, a historical relic. By their own declaration of allegiance, Neturei Karta belong more in Tehran or Riad than in Jerusalem. I am glad to see the writer of this article has freed himself from this kind of subjugation, but he needs to disassociate himself from his ancestors who adhered to a messianic cult.

    elie says:

    saying nonsense is not a way to comunicate with people.1.nationality never defined jewish identity.2.rav S.was appreciated by people who were not on the same wavelenght:rav Kook, Benyehuda…3.your cult argument is pure fantasy!

      Michael says:

      Be shocked, as I am, from everything Haredi. Those are the abhorrent turkeys of this world, stupid and arrogant. Maybe this S rabbi is different, but I couldn’t distinguish it from the article. In any event, he sounds stupid and arrogant, so there you are, especially as a woman.
      P.S. Haredi = Ultra Orthodox Jewish religious.

      Michael says:

      Twisting and turning, but you know that “B’shana ha’baa b’Yerushalayim” always meant in the capital of a reconstructed and successful STATE of Yehuda and/or of Israel. Always meant that there will be in-gathering of the tribes, of the exiles. Where else would they in-gather if not in a STATE with Jerusalem as its capital? For three thousand years Jews were saying at Pesah that the STATE will be re-established, even if Yerushalayim could have had a symbolic meaning only. The Neturei Karta aren’t nationalistic and therefore they are not Jewish. If Ben Yehuda “appreciated” rav S., it did not make this rav pro-Zionist, which is what the article clearly says. Rav S. was an early vintage Haredi, repugnant even if he knew Hebrew for which he was appreciated by Mr. Ben Yehuda..

    Flo_J says:

    Lumping Rav Sonnenfeld together with Neturei Karta and Frankists shows shocking ignorance of history and current events.

      Michael says:

      Be shocked, as I am, from everything Haredi. Those are the abhorrent turkeys of this world, stupid and arrogant. Maybe this S rabbi is different, but I couldn’t distinguish it from the article. In any event, he sounds stupid and arrogant, so there you are, especially as a woman.
      P.S. Haredi = Ultra Orthodox Jewish religious.

        Flo_J says:

        Yes, as a Chareidi woman I know. However, I think that you have not done any research, and are basing your statements on whatever the popular media is feeding you.

          Michael says:

          I guessed you were Haredia and I realize how hard it is for you to lift your head. Popular media is the best I have. Haredim are hiding from the world and it is very hard to know what they are doing, much less thinking. Besides, they are divided and confusing. The only thing sure is that they hate everybody, even among themselves, but unite for belittling women. If you have something to recommend for me to read, accessible, I will be glad to do it.

    JulesF says:

    Michael raises a point that is well worth discussing: are the Haredim still Jewish or are they, like the Frankists and the followers of Shabtai Zvi in their time, in a process of withdrawal from the Jewish people?
    Following the Rambam’s teachings , one can make a case that they are no longer Jewish. If “im ain derech-eretz ain Torah” then the Haredim abandoned Judaism decades ago.

Chaya says:

When the dislike is mutual, it is very easy to sustain. Denigrate everyone that works to support you and protect you and then demand that they obey you and continue to do that? The word chutzpah doesn’t begin to describe the arrogance. Top that off with throwing stones and dressing your women in burkas with stovepipes on their heads?

Not every shmendrick is bright enough to deserve to be supported to sit in yeshivah, and have someone else work to support his many children.

    elie says:

    1.who asked you to obey them? 2.burka?you dreamed last night! 3.yeshiva is not for married men with children. don’t need to be bright to fulfill the mitsva of torah study.

Mathias Aher says:

Liel’s piece on Sonnenfeld reveals an often neglected aspect of Zionist history, but the self-righteous and even antisemitic comments to his piece are even more revealing of contemporary intolerant attitudes towards haredim by non-haredi Jews. “Parasites” is a pretty loaded term in 20th century Jewish history (Poupic, I’m looking at you), and is a clear expression of the kind of vitriol that condones violence. And to declare someone “not Jewish” (Michael, that’s for you) is to essentially take up the rhetoric of the more extreme haredi voices. As a (mostly secular) Israeli who served in the I.D.F., I can testify to Liel’s accuracy. There is no point in training unwilling recruits; though there are certainly positions that haredim could take up and serve in with respect both in the military (for example, identifying the dead and watching over bodies), and in a kind of civil service corps (education, hospitals, etc.). Perhaps if the animus against them diminished, their leaders might be more willing to collaborate on solutions to inequality. There is no doubt that living off gov’t/taxpayer support is wrong and doesn’t help the haredi case, and certainly the imbalance between what a yeshiva student ‘earns’ from the gov’t as compared to a soldier is shocking and needs to be addressed. But so too do the outrageous mortgage benefits, security outlays, etc. of those proudly “national and cultural” Jews who live in the occupied territories–and who deplete Israel’s coffers, stain its reputation, and drain its military operational capacity.

    Pesele says:

    I agree with the first points you raise; name-calling just isn’t helpful. But raising the settler issue is changing the subject. It’s a good discussion to have (and I would agree with your position), but linking the two issues just ends up going in circles. Let this discussion be about the role of the haredi in Israeli society; take up the settler issue separately.

    Pesele says:

    I agree with the first points you raise; name-calling just isn’t helpful. But raising the settler issue is changing the subject. It’s a good discussion to have (and I would agree with your position), but linking the two issues just ends up going in circles. Let this discussion be about the role of the haredi in Israeli society; take up the settler issue separately.

    That said Mathias, if I remember correctly, one of the side benefits of the IDF was that it became a so-called melting pot for Israeli Jews of all stripes, religious observance, political affiliation, geographic history, to come together in a place where they were all equal. One would think that with this sort of communal building, including the Haredi community would be beneficial beyond the immediate need of force strength.

    That said, Haredi did fight, and you can see photos of them engaged during the 1948 war in Dan Kurzman’s book.

      elie says:

      melting their identity is one of the things hareidim do not want and you can’t force them to accept.

PhillipNagle says:

One group the haredim did out live was the socialists. As much as the haredim have been a drag on the nation of Israel, it is small compared to the socialists who held Israel down for decades. It is odd that many of these “enlightened” individuals who are quick to condem the haredim, heap praise on the socialists who held back the Jeshish for so man years.

gemel says:

My great-grandfather, grandfather and mother all lived in and were part of the Mae She’arim community, so I have familiarity with this topic. And while I agree with much of what Liel says, I want to point out that the Zionists’ antipathy towards Orthodoxy/Haredi was and is primarily among the left-wing and Haganah.

Begin and many of his allies in Irgun, Betar and the Revisionists had and continue to have a deep respect and appreciation of the Orthodox (though not in agreement with their anti-Zionist and anti-State of Israel positions).

In regards to the assassination, Ben Gurion’s sinking of the Altalana was a continuation of this sort of violence towards Jewish political opponents by the Zionist left of the Haganah, Ma’apam, Mapai etc.
The history being as it is, nevertheless, there are vital issues of the integration of the Haredi into Israeli society and economy, including educational reform, marriage issues, and many others that the exclusion of the Orthodox parties, or at least the limitations on their political veto, will make possible and which Lapid, Bennett and their allies may be able to institute.

Avi Hertzl says:

What a complete load of crap. Lapid’s demands (that so much of the Israeli public supported) did not root from “anti-Haredi” sentiment. They came from the fact that the Haredim control so many aspects of life in Israel – marriage, divorce, funerals, conversions, Kashrut, holiday observances, the Kotel, etc., the list goes on and on. There are a significant number of Israelis who felt that Haredi control over so many of these institutions should be eliminated. What’s so wrong with the Haredim being in the opposition for a while? And why are Israelis who prefer to loosen the grip of Haredi control over so many institutions “anti-Haredi”? Maybe they are “pro-freedom” or in favour of greater separation of religion from state.

With respect to the army, what Leibovitz ignores is the notion of equality and equal burden. Why should so many Haredim be automatically exempt from the army? And why is it contempt to disagree with this decades old exemption – that mushroomed from a much more limited exemption. Secondly – Liebovitz ignores the fact that the army does, often, help develop some employable skills. One of the biggest challenges is that the Haredi population is growing and it is underemployed and reliant on state assistance. Lapid’s ideas of ensuring that Haredim study secular subjects if they are to be state funded – and that they perform army service – are designed to improve employability among Haredim.

Cutting back on funding to Yeshivas, special housing arrangements for Haredim and all kinds of other economic benefits that the Haredi political parties have been able to wangle is hardly some kind of demonic plan. It is fair and appropriate and it is way overdue.

David Sher says:

The sword comes into the world because of justice denied. The Haredim are hardly innocent victims of the conflict…indeed their way of describing almost anyone who is not Haredi is dripping with acid. They believe that they are the only true heirs of Torah, and their unbelievably smug self righteousness towards their fellow Jews explains much of the source of the anger directed towards them. The famous (and likely apocryphal) story of Ben Gurion and the Chazan Ish is a fair proxy. In it, the Chazan Ish is said to have suggested that an empty cart (secular zionist jews) must move out of the way for a full cart (Jews that maintain all of the traditions). If I were Ben Gurion, I might have replied that his was the full cart because he at least could claim the potential to explore the entirety of Jewish tradition (ancient, modern, sephardi, medieval etc.) whereas the Yeshivish life is actually an increasingly narrow strand of Judaism. That said, even on their own terms the Haredim are wrong. Their desire to create a monk class is in direct contradiction with the longstanding tradition that work and Torah must accompany each other. Torah study as a profession was discussed by the Sages but in general not practiced by them. Indeed the greatest of them all worked for a living and served and interacted with general society, leading one to conclude that those who flaunt this tradition believe themselves to be greater than the sages.

    Indeed, the list of Jews who worked goes back to Avraham, Yaacov, and Itzack. Moshe Rabbeinu worked, Dovid Melech worked, Rabbi Akiva worked, Mordechai worked, the Rambam worked (and was a Doctor no less). Without bread, there is no Torah.

    Anonymous123 says:

    Is this Rabbi Sher from Frisch?

chayar says:

What a refreshing article to find on Tablet, or anywhere. I read it twice to be sure I wasn’t hallucinating–an article about haredi Jews in Israel that isn’t filled with hate.

Today it isn’t only non-Jews who forget that Jews have continuously lived in Eretz Yisrael before the creation of the modern state. For over 3000 years, it was Jews that would be called “haredi” today, that lived in Eretz Yisrael.

True, many returned over the centuries, leaving the homes of their exile: Spain, Italy, Persia, the Mahgreb and Arabic lands, Turkey, Eastern Europe and so on. But many had simply lived in Eretz Yisrael since the Second Temple times–they had never left.

These Jews hung on, and even thrived, as the land was taken over and over again by various nations, some more anti-Jewish than others. They lived in many areas, but were especially concentrated in Tsfat, Hevron, Tiveria, and Yeruashalayim. They wrote the great post-Temple mystical, legal, and other scholarly works that Jews today still treasure.

There is no doubt that today they would be called “haredi.”

    Pesele says:

    Actually, there is great doubt that they would be called haredi. Haredi are as much a response to modernity as Reform Judaism is; neither would be recognizable to the Jews you describe above.

Ariram says:

Lapid did not speak against the Israeli Arabs when he spoke about the “Zouabis”. He spoke about those Arab members of the parliament who share Zouabi’s views – denying the right of Israel to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people and supporting the Hamas.
And in 2007 Raleb Magadla, an Arab member of the Labor party was appointed minister of science.
Without the secular Zionists there would have been no Israel. To this day many of them oppose the “Zionist state” but do not mind getting millions from it. They refuse to serve in the army, refuse to work and claim that they must study all their lives. Thus ignoring the Rambam who said that those who do not work and expect to live from the Torah are in fact violating the Torah.
And do not forget what they do to women. Forcing them to seat in the back of the bus not allowing women to sing in public and other nonsense like that.
Who said that Haredim can not study science and then contribute to the state and themselves. The Rambam was a physician, His work did not prevent him from writing
some of the most important books in the Jewish religion.
And do not forget the Naturei Karta supporting the PLO and even taking part in its government. And supporting Iran.
I hope Israel will cut all financial support for all the yeshivot who do not teach English,
Math, etc. And I hope the law will not allow keeping women as second class citizens.

Let’s get real! The men in black hate women, treat us badly though we are Jewish and discriminate against us in education, marriage, and all other matters. Can a woman seek a divorce (a Get) from a man? A big F to all Haradi men. Remember their exclusively for men meeting against computers in Madison Square Garden! And the oppressive social pecking order in Haradi communities is something I want to expose.

Monkish says:

It’s worth pointing out that the vision contained in the last quote – “to develop according to the foundations of just
law, which grants complete freedom to all denominations and religions
for each to preserve its teachings and mitzvahs according to
its desires and aspirations” – is a deeply conservative and
communitarian one premised on the idea that it is COMMUNITIES and not
INDIVIDUALS that are the proper bearers of rights. It’s the spirit of
the Ottoman millet system which continues to undermine religious freedom
in Israel: every law and moral injunction, no matter how detrimental to
individual freedom and well-being, can be justified if its basis is
communal religious law and doctrine. Sorry Mr Leibovitz, your
illustrious ancestor was just like every other self-proclaimed religious
leader and entrepreneur: fiercely protective of his “god-given” prerogatives and inclined
dictate to the members of religiously bounded community every aspect of
their lives. Here lies liberating aspect of Zionism that you elide: the
combination of universalist, secular, positive law with a strong Jewish communal identity and solidarity. One of several end points of the great movement that was the Haskalah.
I’m surprised that as a Jew living in the country that has done more to
enshrined individual rights than any other, you adopt such a
rose-tinted view of someone who is, by your description, a staunch
opponent of the autonomy and emancipation of the individual. Whether religious or leftists, Anti-Zionism was, and continues to be, a deeply illiberal position.

Dovidmelech says:

Leil Leibovitz, read Shira Rubin

No one is seriously talking about jailing the Yeshiva students. They are talking about cutting off paying for young men to continue to father children, without making any effort to support them. In the secular world, we jail these fathers until they find some way of supporting their family, but what do goyim know. Let’s look at Jewish sources. The Rambam condemned anyone who made a living from his Torah studies, citing the sages of the Mishna and Gemara who worked menial trades to earn a living. He ruled that BEFORE one married, he should earn a living. The Mishna says that every father is OBLIGATED to teach his sons how to earn a living.

What people are talking about is cutting off funding for institutions that do not meet minimum obligations in teaching math, and English, let alone science and history. The fight with the Chareidim is all about MONEY. What disturbs me,as an Orthodox Jew, is the lack of Hakoras Hatov, elementary gratitude, to the nation that took them in after WW2, when all the gates were locked all over the world. Did any Rabbi scream Yehoreig V’Al Ya’avor, better be killed than comply, when the Tzar drafted 12 year old boys for 25 year terms. How many Rabbi’s were executed, or even went to jail. But in Israel they feel free to scream.

It is about money. The more students they have in Yeshiva, the more money they make. And All the Yeshiva’s are family businesses. When is the last time that one Rosh Yeshiva was not succeeded by his son or son in law. Enough. They have created a massive CHILLUL HASHEM.

And events went to prove Herzl and Ben Gurion correct and R’ Sonnenfeld and his friends wrong. God speaks through history. See Rav Y D Soloveichik’s Kol Dodo Dofeik.

Jacob Arnon says:

Give me a break Liel. Israel just installed and non Orthodox dominated (through veto power) its first secular government. Let them do what they were elected to do. It won’t hurt haredim to go to work and stop mooching of non Men in black who pay taxes..

It’s hypocritical for non haredim who don’t live in Israel to speak for haredim. When you have to pay for them and risk your life to defend men who are able to defend themselves but chose not to then you can speak.

Jacob Arnon says:

btw: as for your Great-great-great-great-granfather his chances of being killed by a non Jew were a hundred fold greater. I don’t know what happened in his case, but many early zionists were in more danger from Jewish orthodox in Jerusalem who had most of the power in the Jewish community. So chill out, buddy.

I am completely flabbergasted by this piece of distorted — can I still call it history or is it mythology? He even brings up the De Haan assassination, and maybe through sheer ignorance outside of what the rebbe tells him, names the instigator of that assassination when it is widely suspected that the source and reason for the assassination came from elsewhere, from people who were more vehemently opposed to a bi-national state which De Haan worked for.

I’ve never hated the Xaredim, but I do feel pity for them because they are the ossisified examples of Judaism Toynbee spoke of, and they do not certainly comprise the most vital members of the Jewish people, like those who went out and settled the land and took up arms to defend it — and unlike those who are kept away from such mundane necessities of living in Israel as defending the country. I do hear the Israelis calling them leeches because of the financial demands their lifestyle creates for the Israeli taxpayer who not only defends them, but because they are “too holy” to get their hands dirty crawling towards an enemy position and putting themselves in the way of getting killed defending Israel.

Guest says:

Is this Rabbi Sher from Frisch?

The author conveniently forgets to mention what De Haan really was. Look it up.

His point about the draft is completely irrelevant. What has people upset is the unjustness of people being exempt purely because of what sort of hat they choose to wear. Would he object if the IDF identified a demographic of similar proportions and exempted them and drafted the charedim? The problem is not what he says; it’s simply that 65 years on, the charedim still refuse to admit that they live in the country they live in.

And I can’t take seriously anyone who would write “Yair Lapid, the black-maned”. First, who writes like that? Second, Yair Lapid famously does not have black hair. Finally, “anti-religious” is an odd phrase to use for someone whose number two is a rosh yeshiva for whom he risked everything to get him a ministry. Or are only some people “religious” in your book? What, Shai Piron’s kippa is too colorful and his face too smooth for you? Who’s the bigot here?

    JayfromBrooklyn says:

    Fine, so De Haan was a Baal Tshuva, who earlier was a Zionist and gay poet. That’s not why he was assassinated by the Zionists.

herbcaen says:

the anti-religious chorus, also expressed
similar disdain for Israel’s Arab parties, calling them all Zouabis,
after the combative legislator Hanin Zouabi… Israeli Arabs are to Israel what the Sudeten Germans were to Czechoslovakia. A permanently hostile minority dedicated to the murder or expulsion of every Jew in “occupied Palestine”. One of the reasons that Israel and the Czech republic get along so well is mutual understanding of dealing with a 5th column in their midst. In the next major war, it is likely that Israeli Arabs will join along Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Reptilian2012 says:

“The clash of two conflicting ideologies” is a good way of describing the situation: on one hand is a group of people who are not interested in fulfilling their national duty or even work, and on other is a majority that is sick of carrying the burden.

As for Israeli Arabs, their reps hold 12 seats in the current Knesset. It’s also notable that the one third of Israeli Arabs that your report cites don’t move to any of the 22 Arab states that are available to them – I guess voting, equal rights for women, jobs, national insurance, subsided healthcare and affordable higher education are worth the stay. Funny the blacks in South Africa didn’t get any of that.

Lastly, regarding the noble Haredim’s pursuit for the rights of their follow human beings, how come I can’t buy any bread right now? It’s because the Haredim in Israel force grocery stores and large retailers to stop selling hametz for a week. They also force businesses to shut down for the weekend. And let’s not forget the Shabbatmobiles with their built-in megaphones that circle every major city on Friday and prevent my kids from taking their after-school nap.

Alan says:

The issue is not the army alone. We are talking about a population whose male employment rate hovers around 60% because, even if haredi men want to work, their education system does not equip them to work in a modern economy. Since the haredi population is growing, the rest of the country must support them in growing sums.

Further, we are not just talking about allowing a population to live according to their way of life. The position of Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi draws from increasing imposition of ever stricter haredi demands on the rest of the country. I refer to separate seating on buses, on spitting at eight-year-old girls in Bet Shemesh, and a host of other issues.

Religious Zionists have been ignored and blacklisted for years by haredim. As Rabbi Druckman recently asserted, are our rabbis’ books in the haredi Bet Midrash? Do their news media refer to our rabbis as “harav” when every haredi political functionary is automatically called Rabbi.

Liel Liebowitz ignores this either because he does not live in Israel or because he has an ideological ax to grind. Israelis are sick and tired of supporting a population which constantly imposes its most extreme notions on the rest of us.

lumiss says:

Liel, I find your opinion poorly informed and simply disgusting. The Ultra-Orthodox are not only an economic burden on the state- they are as much a threat as the Muslim population is on the state’s Jewish identity (Jewish as I would like to see and define it- civil marriage and women at the Kotel Jewish, not black hat and rocks on Shabbos Jewish). As to the Arab parties- please stop playing naive- they won’t sit with any Zionist government and that’s out of principal.

The haredim want “complete freedom to all denominations and religions
for each to preserve its teachings and mitzvahs according to its desires and aspirations”? Tell it to the agunot, the women arrested for praying at the Kotel, and the Reform and Conservative rabbis denied recognition by the Jewish state. Apparently no absurdity is too laughable for Liebovitz as long as it can be used against Zionism.

Flo_J says:

Never thought I’d agree with Liel, but he’s right on! Plenty of hareidi boys DO serve in the army — many in Nachal Chareidi. Are there bad apples in every community? Yes. But these should not be used to just the whole barrel. My fantasy for solving this whole snafu is to have the chareidim go into the army en masse, and send the “chilonim” to learn in yeshivot full-time!

THERE IS SO MUCH WRONG WITH THIS ARTICLE but I only have time to address one issue. The Arab parties are not left out of coalitions because they are Arab, but rather because they insist on publicly supporting individuals and groups devoted to the destruction of the State of Israel. This is very sad, since they could achieve a lot for their constituencies if they would devote their energies towards improving the lives of Israeli Arabs instead of trying to out-do each other in fawning over terrorists and dictators (remember those embarrassing photo ops of Arab MKs with Gaddafi?)

Yoel Mechanic says:

>The haredis receive far and away disproportionate sums of state funding. That is true, but so do the settlers, every aspect of whose lives is sweetened with tax payers’ money, and so, once upon a time, did the kibbutzim,

This argument is completely unsupported. First, he doesn’t even say what this “disproportionate” funding of the settlers even is (kibbutzim is a thing of the past, so will not comment). Since he left it unsaid, I have to guess what he probably meant so as to point out the absurdity. The settlers do receive IDF protection, perhaps other subsidies by the government as a *security* policy since the government believes it is in the state interests to hold on to the biblical homeland of the Jewish People. Elsewhere we can have a conversation about the wisdom of this policy, but here lets look at the economic contention. There is a fixed cost to have the IDF protect these areas, and it is substantial. And if the IDF was redeployed within the so-called Green Line to protect Israel, the cost might very well remain the same. Since the actual number of Israeli citizens residing outside the Green Line is small, if you compute the cost per resident you arrive at a very high cost per resident. Of course this figure is irrelevant to whether you want to protect these areas or not. You must decide if this part of Eretz Yisrael is deserving of retention and protection or not. If you feel these areas help protect Eretz Yisrael as a whole, you would protect them no matter how many, or how few live there. Therefore to bring in per-capita funding as a debating point is totally misleading. Moreover, security concerns of West Bank-sic settlers is totally irrelevant to social welfare funding of settlers who live in Benei Brak or Mea Sharim. These issues really are unrelated, and I am sorry to see such red-herring-bait-and-switch illogic used in and article that is trying to pretend to be reasonable.

Natan79 says:

I knew Liel Leibovitz at Columbia University in New York. He impressed me as stupid, arrogant and most definitely a complete liar. Whatever he says is a lie. Even if he says “Good morning”, you can be sure it’s not morning.

Utter bullshit, these are parasites living in a fantasy world & think they have the monopoly on morality. They invite & deserve contempt. says:

If Jews cant break Zionism, the Muslims will break them

Wow that was infuriating to read! Well I guess he’s in a tough position defending the chareidim.

Sonnenfeld, who I am sure was acting for what he believes is right, moved to Israel to sabatage zionism as the jews were fighting on several fronts to establish a state with impossible odds. If Israel had been established sooner the holocaust could have been less severe. The jews in Israel were fighting for their lives and he went there against them. I am not surprised he found his life threatened. And also this is not a good proof as to why chareidim should be in the government.

I guess since they are against the state that’s why they should be exempt from the army and national service?

Fine, but then how do they demand welfare? The author points out that settlers receive money. The difference is the settlers are on the front lines building a stronger Israel (at least in the view of the government) At the minimum they are doing what they believe will strengthen the state. Not like the chareidim who are against the state.

My favorite part of this article was his critsism of the current government that they are at a stalemate with the palestinians and have no ideas to reduce the deficit. Listen the palestinians are not an easy issue and no one is going to just make peace with them, this government reflects the will of the majority of the people with this matter I think. And as for how to reduce the deficit? hmmm, let’s see…. how about instead of giving chareidim welfare they serve in the army and get jobs like everyone else.

At the end of the article the author says all chareidim want is a free open society basically. Well that’s what they got. Since Israel was established they get to live there as jews practicing religion however they want not having to work on shabbos and with a government that protects them, instead of being murdered in eastern europe. And yet they are against the state. Then complain when they are excluded from the government.

Truely the chareidim are in a position to spread torah through out israel if they took a positve perspective regarding the state. Instead what they do with their negative attitude and receiving welfare on top of it is turn people off to the idea of torah judaism.

They believe what they are doing is right and this is what God wants, but as Rambam says the boor can not be a chachum (or something like that) and vice versa. You can tell the chareidim are boorish because even if they are idealogically against the state, they still take, and demand handouts. These are not the action of bnai torah. To take from the jews who saved their lives and currently defend them, unneccessary charity. If they really believe what Israel does is wrong they can leave.


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