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Saturday, February 23, 2013 

Haredi parties are desperate

The Forward wrote about how the Haredi political parties up in arm over the wish from the wider public that they share the burdens of public service:
On a cool winter evening in 2012, a senior delegation of ultra-Orthodox rabbis and politicians — members of Israel’s Ashkenazi religious party, United Torah Judaism, and the Sephardic religious party, Shas — convened in Bnei Brak, a predominantly Haredi city near Tel Aviv. The host was a 98-year-old rabbi, Aharon Shtainman, spiritual leader of the Ashkenazi Haredi stream. The objective was to form an Ashkenazi-Sephardic bloc to prevent the conscription of yeshiva students into the Israel Defense Forces following the expiration of the Tal Law, which currently exempts them from these obligations.

Exiting the meeting, some of the delegates announced that they were willing to go as far as to sacrifice their lives to ensure that Haredi students may continue to study the Torah instead of joining the military.

This extreme rhetoric might sound like an expression of strength and confidence. But it’s not. These ultra-Orthodox parties are, rather, at a point of desperation, concerned about the future of their political power within Israel. Pressure, rather than theology, is the element that has united these vastly different parties in recent months — the result of last January’s general elections for the Knesset, growing public pressure to integrate Haredi men into the military and the labor force, and trends within the Haredi world itself.

The election sent a clear message to Benjamin Netanyahu, insisting that he form a coalition to address the middle class demand for social and economic justice and equality. It’s a task that would become easier without Haredi parties occupying key positions in the coalition and working to secure Haredi financial interests.

With 19 Knesset seats claimed by Yair Lapid’s centrist party, that part of the Israeli population who want the social and economic burdens more equally shared now have a significant counterbalance to the two Haredi parties who won a combined 18 seats. There is a chance that the Haredim will find themselves out of the next coalition.
And if they do, I honestly couldn't care less, with the way they're acting. They don't have a genuine respect for the Torah if they're going to oppose defense of the country, nor if they're going to be so disrespectful to women's status. There are Torah/Bible studies available in army-based classes just as much as in the common yeshiva, so I don't think they have a leg to stand on; they just don't want to share the burden. The time has come to send them a clear message that they're going to have to turn over a new leaf and start integrating better into wider Israeli society. The insular way they're dealing with things simply will not do.

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