The haredi community and Israel's future

The haredi total devotion to intellectual and spiritual activities turned Israel not only into the start-up nation, but also in a global spiritual center.

Giulio Meotti, | updated: 10:12

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giulio meott
צילום: עצמי

A few years ago, Israeli sculptor Yigal Tumarkin stated that “when I see the black-coated haredim with the children they spawn, I can understand the Holocaust”. I quote his infamous words to remind all the Israelis who care about tolerance and respect that a huge segment of their society is not without sins. The Israeli press returned to talk about the haredim after Benjamin Netanyah's failure to form a new government. I want to repeat here what I penned last week. 

During the Second Intifada, as in other hard times, many secular Israelis realized that their people needed a strong dose of haredi and religious Zionist stoicism to survive and thrive under the Israeli circumstances. No completely secularized society would have resisted for a minute. The believers'insistence that everything has a purpose pressures them to always see the positive even in the darkest hours. The haredi total devotion to intellectual and spiritual activities turned Israel not only into the start-up nation, but also in a global spiritual center.

The world of Torah was in the process of being destroyed by the Nazis during the Shoah. Some scholars even suggested that the Orthodoxy in the XX century would have been consumed by the Enlightenment, Zionist and Socialistic secular Jewish movements and it retook the center of the stage because of the Shoah that nearly incinerated the religious Jewish world.

That should make the secular Israelis reflect about the very meaning of the “Final Solution of the Jewish people”. The haredim and religious Zionists perpetuated the lost Orthodox Judaism after the Shoah and refilled the ranks of Torah scholarship destroyed in the gas chambers.

How  would Israel keep Judea and Samaria – its Biblical heartland and defensive shield – without the haredim, who are 30 percent of the whole Jewish population living beyond the Green Line? In Beitar Illit, fully 66 percent of the 70,000 residents are under the age of 18. Even if the Haredim didn't move there for ideological reasons, their very presence and demographic force are fundamental today for keeping those lands under Israeli sovereignity. The haredim and many religious Zionists visit day and night all the Jewish holy sites: Rachel's Tomb, Hevron's Cave of Patriarchs, Jerusalem's Kotel and Joseph's Tomb. I have seen their strength in those places with my own eyes. As I have seen that most of the victims of Hevron's pogrom in 1929 were Haredi Jews, those who kept a Jewish presence in that holy city for centuries.

Those who despise the Haredim usually don't stop there: they go on to despise modern Orthodox, religious Zionists, "settlers"... All those who go in the opposite direction the world would like the Jews to take. I have never found the Haredim narrow and dark, as the media like to portrays them. I met only humble and joyful people. 

Hundreds of thousands of Jews after 1948 came to Israel not because it is a liberal democracy, but because it is a shelter and it is Eretz Yisrael. Torah scholarship was fundamental in keeping the Jewish tradition alive. In Israel there are thousands of baalei teshuvah, or “returnees”. And that is also a consequence of the importance of Orthodox Judaism in the Israeli society.

If the Jews have a future in Europe it will only be due to the presence of Orthodox Jews, who will refuse to hide and go underground.

If the Jews have a future in America it will only be due to the presence of Orthodox Jews, who will refuse to assimilate.

True, the secular and religious division is causing lots of tensions in the Israeli society. But to reach a healing, both must overcome the differences and appreciate their respective and unique contributions to the Israeli enterprise. And the haredi contribution to Israel is immense. 




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