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Wednesday, May 01, 2013 

When national symbols are rejected, so too is army enlistment

An op-ed writer for YnetNews wrote about how some Haredis are taught to reject the modern Israeli state. It does have problems though with potential failure to distinguish correctly between some and others:
The scene repeats itself each year: A few haredim do not stand still during the Memorial Day siren in honor of Israel's fallen soldiers; they hang black flags in their neighborhoods on Independence Day and publicly display their condescending attitude toward the national symbols that are important to the secular and national religious publics in Israel – as if to say that this is not their country and it is not their army.

Last Independence Day, for example, ultra-Orthodox children in Bnei Brak enthusiastically tore off Israel flags that were hung on buses traveling through the city and then tossed the flags away as their friends cheered. An ultra-Orthodox attorney wrote in one of the haredi newspapers that to him Independence Day is a regular day and he feels nothing for the country in which he lives.

No, these are not examples of extremist haredim. And we, the citizens who contribute to the country and serve are shocked by such behavior on a day in which the Jewish nation mourns the soldiers who died for the homeland and on the day the nation celebrates its independence after 2,000 years in exile.

Why do the haredim, or some of them at least, behave this way? Why do they trample over the symbols that represent the return of the Jewish nation to its homeland? Why are they so alienated from the flag, the national anthem and national grief?

It would be easy to put another negative label on the haredim and use derogatory terms to describe the ultra-Orthodox community. But this would be wrong. Just like any other society, the haredi community consists of good and bad people, modest people and condescending ones. But they all treat our national symbols in the same manner, and many haredi leaders declare, in closed forums, that Independence Day is not a joyous day and that Memorial Day is a day of mourning for the secular and national religious population alone.

Could it be that haredi education, which the ultra-Orthodox are so proud of, is what causes so many of them to reject Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day? Could it be that the State is funding schools which teach students to mock and reject every national symbol as though they were living in a country of goyim?

The answer, unfortunately, is yes. Haredi schools do not teach students anything about the country's values and many of these schools insist on remaining open on Independence Day.
Not all Haredi schools, to be sure, but some of them alas, yes, depending on what sect or tribe is in focus, like the Satmar and Toldot Aharon. Others like Lubavitch do teach core skills like mathematics. There are, fortunately, some differences.

Interestingly, the article also says:
Haredim who turned secular say that it is forbidden to display national symbols or mention national values in ultra-Orthodox schools (it is absurd that Arab schools are obligated to wave the Israeli flag while haredi schools are exempt from waving it).
If this is accurate, then yes, of course it's sloppy to expect Arabs to maintain loyalty to the Israeli state while expecting less from the Haredis. It makes the state authorities look ridiculous and it could be used against them by leftists. That's why we gotta hope education minister Shai Piron adds that requirement to expectations for Haredi schools.

That said, the writer still has to make an effort to locate the distinctions between some Haredi sects and tell who's doing better than the other.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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