PUBLIC ADVOCACY: What about the Ultra Orthodox?

What about the Haredim? They are the ultra orthodox caught in a time warp not of their own doing. Sure they have big families and the men study Torah while the women work, support the family, have children and maintain the family.

They are 5% of the population and 20% of the children attending school. They are the working poor. Their welfare from the State has been cut drastically by society. They survive by Community enterprise and gifts from relatives in Israel and abroad. But the money available to them is barely enough to keep them out of poverty. How did this situation occur? They are reviled by the secular society for contributing to the decrease in funds available to the larger populace, yet, if they all worked they would only add 1% to the national GDP.

Why was this form of Judaism encouraged? After WWll , when most of the Torah scholars were annihilated, in the Holocaust, Ben Gurion, brought 400 families to Israel to maintain the Jewish faith and scholarship of the the Jewish people. According to Amos Horev a Retired general of the Palmach, this decision was supported by the fledgling State to keep Torah , Jewish scholars, and the Jewish people alive.

The same is true for the West Bank settlers, they were encouraged by the State to settle there, as security for the Israeli people. They were the original out posts. I remember bringing a steel chest, filled with tools, to the son of one our orthodox congregants in Lawrence, in 1979, when my son was Bar Mitzvahed at the Kotel. We were proud of this brave young man , who founded a settlement, and we were willing to help him and his family.

Times change, the political and economic goals of the State change, and these once brave individuals are now the bane of Israeli society. Is it their fault they haven’t changed with the times and the new political reality? I don’t think so. Compassion is the answer not hate. For generations they carried out the will of the State and now the goal post has been moved and they are stuck in time. Unable to free themselves from a past that haunts most of them.

The solution, persuasion to join a less insular society. Community service rather then military service. More not less contact with the greater Israeli population. An intermediary step between orthodoxy, modern orthodoxy and secularism. The conservative and reform movements are more important to Israel then I originally thought. These less adherent forms of Judaism maintain Jewishness in a Jewish State.

Funny, as a Reform Jew in America, I thought why should I impose my views on an Israeli citizen? But logically speaking, giving Israel an alternative to both extremes in Jewish thought , Orthodoxy vs secularism, is a way to maintain faith based Judaism and the Jewishness of the Israeli State. Like most Jews, I have asked and answered my own question. What do you think?

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