Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

28 Nissan 5763 - April 30, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The Real Damage from the Anti-Religious Government

by M. Shotland

Moves by the newly set up government and their results generated heaps and heaps of analysis in the general press as well as the chareidi press. Predictably the focus was generally on political and party repercussions, as well as personal repercussions which we are likely to hear about for a long time to come.

Breaking the barrier against ties between the Likud and the NRP and extremist, anti-religious elements led to a change in the longstanding power alignments. This change was not due to a strategic choice by Sharon and Eitam, leader of the NRP, and was not due to election results.

Naturally, remarks on the issue reflected a simplistic understanding of advantages previously held by the chareidi sector as a partner in the government, and the dangers to which it has now been exposed. All government spokesmen saw a need to explain their motivations in concrete terms. In his swearing-in speech, for example, the Prime Minister issued pious statements on the need for alternatives in marriage. Likewise the leader of the NRP, delineating the reasons for his stance, claimed nothing religious would be harmed. Even Yosef Lapid felt a need to pacify the chareidim, promising no evil would befall them.

In response, the chareidi press ran articles attacking these figures for their deeds or compromises, while simultaneously declaring the chareidi sector's might and touting its bitochon throughout many trying generations of having to confront various plots and plotters.

Yet in all of the confusion a matter of no lesser importance was forgotten, a matter that from a Torah- based perspective has always been the real issue behind the chareidi confrontation with authority in the State of Israel.

Alongside the political confrontations that came to light in government institutions, there were always additional considerations of the moral impact on the masses' attitude toward religious values and the respect these values should be accorded. On several occasions gedolei hador even subordinated political considerations for the sake of these moral calculations.

The most famous example was when Maran HaRav Shach, zt'l leaned toward forging ties with the Likud -- although its leader at the time, Yitzhak Shamir, did not treat the chareidim with decency -- because of the connection to tradition among simple, innocent Jews, most of whom are in the right-wing camp.

According to appearances the new government has caused the greatest damage in this area.


If we examine the machinations of religious persecutors in the State of Israel we find that they have always aimed their many psychological arrows at the religious consciousness that was the inheritance of the majority of Jews who came to Eretz Yisroel. Even during the first waves of immigration, new arrivals often encountered the malicious claim of the supposed irrelevance of religious observance. "Here in the State of Israel there is no longer any need for that stuff," they were told.

Then, efforts at secularization were run by the Labor movement as part of its paternalistic rule, which was backed by the prestige the party won through its early political successes.

Later when they lost and had to cede control to the right, which collaborated with the chareidim, the public's attitude toward religion improved, but the Left never ceased its malignant efforts. Although the Left was no longer running the government, it still made itself heard in the media and in other governmental bodies, such as the court system.

Throughout this period the chareidim were portrayed in the media as an extorting minority with excessive, illegitimate demands in the area of religious observance. Neither did the High Court stay out of the picture. Many still recall well- known remarks by the High Court President to the effect that a minority (the religious) imposes its opinion on the majority.

As long as the masses identified these elements as leftists whose conduct posed a physical threat in political terms, it was easy to rely on the public's sense of self-preservation (in a religious values sense) as an indication of the masses' attitude toward the Left's destructive propaganda. But now with a single stroke the connection between Shinui and the Right has erased from many people's minds traditional psychological barriers regarding Jewish values.

The media's elation at the change is apparent to all. Nevertheless skeptics who view this development merely as a natural extension of events taking place in the political arena rather than a struggle to lure the people's hearts toward hefkeirus and a casting off of tradition would do well to note certain remarks creeping out from between the lines of seemingly harmless news reports of two weeks ago.

Readers will recall that recently two topics dominated the news section: coalition negotiations and heavy storms. Every time the weather forecasts were mentioned, forecasts of good weather on Shabbos Kodesh were repeated over and over again, accompanied by recommendations for everyone to set out on trips on Shabbos, Rachmono litzlan. This trend reached its peak on motzei Shabbos with imaginative reports of one million excursionists--and in one publication even two million (more than Yom Haatzmaut went the claim)--made Shabbos into a weekday by taking to the roads.

These figures' detachment from reality, and the newscasters who got carried away with their descriptions, leave no doubt of the fact that in their unbridled takeover of Shabbos Kodesh they had the audacity to celebrate over what they perceived as a political victory over Judaism.

But this also contains a declaration of future intentions. Their hope now is that diminishing the political shares once held by the chareidim will lead to widespread abandonment of Jewish values, legitimized through political disassociation. This can be demonstrated by an equation that states that every move to disparage the chareidim will result in an equal decline among others whose attitude toward Jewish values will unknowingly be towed in the wake of their leaders' attitude toward the chareidim, i.e. more mechalelei Shabbos and porkei ol, Rachmono litzlan.


The Likud leaders are not the only ones to blame. The main complicity falls on those who paved the way, namely the NRP and figures like Yaakov Ne'eman, the first kippah-wearer to launch an accusatory campaign against the bnei yeshivos.

These politicians have long been engaged in efforts to cast the struggles on the part of Torah-true Jewry as sectarian endeavors in the name of political expediency for the sake of the chareidi public. They intentionally present chareidi demands for religious observance as political coercion aimed at gaining power. Mr. Sharon can lament over the inability of pesulei chittun to exercise basic civil rights, but he speaks for those who view Jewish values as a hobby, like a whim among environmentalists who should be treated with consideration as long as they do no harm to anyone else.

This is essentially Yaakov Ne'eman's approach to the issue of the Basic Laws. Recently the Prime Minister announced that, as a reward for his services, he would be appointed head of the committee set up to legislate them. Placing a kippah- wearer at the head of a committee charged with the task of making religion equal to other issues under legislative control was designed to demonstrate to dumbfounded onlookers the religious sector's supposed recognition of this devaluation. Ne'eman was given this responsibility and he will never be able to escape from it.

Similarly Effie Eitam can complain about the injustice in laying criticism upon him for his agreements with Shinui, but it remains plain as day that he and his associates would not have agreed to have figures like Ahmed Tibi, Yael Dayan or Yossi Beilin control the Ministry of Agriculture or the Ministry of Defense, for example, even for a second. Meanwhile they are willing to tolerate Lapid and Poraz in the Ministries of Justice and the Interior--which have an effect on essential aspects of Judaism--without batting an eyelid. For them religion is just a side issue of lesser interest or significance, not worthy of taking the kind of principled stance reserved for matters of policy.

Not only their deeds but Lapid and Poraz' declared intentions upon taking office and the atmosphere surrounding them have already had their effect among the bewildered public, which hears their pronouncements and takes in the destructive message described above.

This is indeed a real disaster and there is only one way to ameliorate the situation: every individual who holds Judaism dear to his heart must distance himself from these people and from everything they represent.

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