The secular Israeli world has long lumped the chareidim and Palestinian Arabs together, making it no surprise that MK Lieberman insisted that the ill-fated Plesner committee also deal with what in IDF slang are called “our cousins” when it came to finding a solution to “equally shouldering the burden.” The question is: 1) what actually comprises that burden; 2) whether the demand that both chareidim and Arabs shoulder a burden they perceive as not of their making might precipitate a chareidi-Arab axis.
The Burden to Be Shouldered
The burden under discussion is the cost of manning and maintaining a military-industrial complex in the barren dead center of the Middle East.
I’ve lived in Neve Yaakov (a northern Jerusalem suburb) over the Green Line for the last 30 yrs,. When I first moved here, I didn’t even know what the Green Line was, but I did note that as I drove to town daily to take myself to kollel and my boys to cheder that the local Arab population was and remains largely agricultural. This was all the more apparent ramping up to Shavuos when you could see Arab women in long dresses out in the fields following a man with a scythe, just like Ruth Hamoabia.
Part of the Arab-Israeli interface is that the local Arabs who perceive themselves as indigenous also see the Israelis as either part-time or potential soldiers.
We lived on Har Hatsofim in the Hebrew University dorms after our wedding and had an Arab neighbor that everyone used to talk to because she was riotously funny.
She and her black-mustachioed man lived on the edge of the campus in a one-room house that was running with small children. She was known to dispense words of wisdom such as, “Once you’ve had a couple of children, nothing matters.” On another occasion, while carrying an infant who was clearly just nursing, she offered him a huge Arab cookie, saying “Chuli, chabibi (eat it, sweetheart),” after which she broke into peals of laughter.
Shortly after my first child was born, Chuli Chabibi as we’d nicknamed her, ran into us coming out of the building with the new baby-carriage and its first owner. She had a kid in tow then too. But peeping in to have a look at our newborn, she declared, “Just look! He’ll grow up to be a soldier and mine will be a terrorist.”
A Different Point of View
Amir Mizroch, whom I have already praised in an earlier blog posting as an able editor, impeccable writer and valid Israeli intellectual, has taken the trouble to transcribe and translate an Israel Radio interview with a member of the Eida Hachareidis Yerushalayim concerning an ultra-Orthodox take on how they see the “common burden.”
In an nutshell, this possibly atypical member of chareidi, Israeli Jewry does not see the burden as common at all. To be more precise, he does not see it as his or his fellows’ burden but rather one that is being placed upon him by secular Israeli society who have themselves incurred it.
If you are ready for an understatement, Mr. Mizroch finds this enigmatic. But from an insider’s point of view, the correspondent’s responses are self-evident.
Should any Arab nation start raining down missiles on the Jewish State, chareidim will be as likely to catch them as members of the secular sector. But before the initiation of the State of Israel, Jews are reported to have faired far better in Arab lands. The present objection to maintaining a Jewish population in Syria, Iran and Yemen for example, has not been that they are Syrian or Iranian or Yemenite Jews, but because they smell of the Zionist entity.
Similarly, I’ve heard in the name of R. Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt”l that until the Palestinian Arabs realized that the Jewish Zionists intended to drive them into the sea, he walked unafraid in the Arab market where they poured coffee at his feet as a sign of distinction.
This means that though Esau hates Jacob, when the Arab population does not feel endangered by a Jewish presence the communities are capable of coexistence in what may be an unsteady harmony.
An Error in Lexicon
But to return to Amir Mizroch’s very upscale blog, he suffers from what I’d like to call an error in lexicon. Very simply, he has substituted the work integrate for assimilate.
How do you integrate a whole population whose entire purpose for being is not to be integrated into anything? Whose entire way of life is dedicated to staying just the way they are? And if they are not integrated into the state, if they don’t serve, and don’t work, and they grow in size, how will we all live together in this tiny, troubled country?
What’s interesting here is not the ultra-Orthodox reluctance to become part of the secular state as that unwillingness to assimilate is a long-standing norm that precedes the any Israeli declaration of independence by a long shot. Rather the focus should be on the secularist demand that the chareidim should or must be just like every other citizen of the state.
In a larger, more tolerant framework such stubbornness would be admired. Parts of America were colonized almost entirely by religious splinter groups and the Amish, for example are to this day rather admired. What is the justification for claiming some preordained difficulty as being able to “live together in this tiny, troubled country” just because the chareidim are different?
There are a couple of stock answers on hand, one of them — attributed to R. Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik zt”l, the Brisker Rov — is that the be and end all of the Jewish State is the destruction of the Torah. Not as far fetched as it sounds, this view can be attributed to the simple fact that the Zionist entity has no use for the sanctity of the Land of Israel and seems bent on desecrating it as much as possible.
A like opinion has been reiterated recently by no less than President Shimon Peres. Only a few days ago I got a press release from his office in which he is quoted as saying, “The State of Israel is the result of the hard work of people. Not water, not land, not natural resources.” And in a meeting with Eric Schmidt of Google just ahead of the President’s Conference on Tomorrow 2012, when discussing Israeli technological and startup success, Peres said, “It’s the people, not the land. We have nothing here, no other resources.”
Another good answer would be that Israel’s secular entity does not want to be reminded of the common, Jewish burden that its citizens are not shouldering. Every single Jewish male is required to set aside part of his day for Torah study; every man jack, woman and child in the non-religious sector is shirking his duty with regards to mitzvos divinely tailored to each of their abilities.
But probably the bottom line is that each and every member of modern Israeli society is aware of the fact that they are in the wrong.
While demanding that the chareidim join them in saving the Jewish state from the Arab residents who comprise more than 40% of the population, the scions of the Jewish state are fully cognizant of the fact that they themselves are the makers of their destruction.
By obviating every effort to preserve the distinct nature of the Jewish people they have paved a path to a point where there will be no need for a Jewish homeland for the simple reason that there will no longer be any recognizable Jews.
Accident of birth relative to a ruling minority scarcely justifies demands that the bankrupt Western world maintain a geopolitical outpost in foreign, enemy territory.
Au contraire, mon cher frère, not only are chareidi Jews an integral part of the state, medinat Yisrael cannot live without them.