Forging haredi-secular unity in the Galilee

Despite political tensions over issues of religion and state, haredi NGO highlights bond between religious, secular in Galilee town.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter meets with Ronen Plott
Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter meets with Ronen Plott

Despite current tensions between secular and religious Jewish Israelis, an attempt to bridge that gap was made in the town of Upper Nazareth (Natzrat Illit) on Wednesday, when Mayor Ronen Plott, a member of the Likud party, met in his office with Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter, the founder and president of Dirshu, a global Jewish education initiative.

The two discussed the growing haredi community in Upper Nazareth, as well as the city’s needs to support its burgeoning haredi population. Upper Nazareth was founded in the 1950s with the goal of increasing the Jewish presence in the Galilee, and creating a Jewish counterpart to the Arab city of Nazareth.

During the meeting Wednesday, Plott reaffirmed his administration’s dedication to this vision. The two were joined at the meeting by Deputy Mayor Alex Goffman and Municipal Directorate Hava Bachar.

During the meeting, Plott discussed the growing haredi neighborhood on Mount Yonah in Upper Nazareth and assured Rabbi Hofstedter that the municipality of Upper Nazareth values the haredi community and will do nothing to hamper haredi residents’ way of life. Plott added that his administration understands the motivations and characteristics of Upper Nazareth’s haredi residents and will continue to respect them. Plott even encouraged haredi individuals to consider moving to his city.

“I believe that the haredi population is important and is very much needed to settle in the land of Israel,” Plott told Rabbi Hofstedter at the meeting. “Your visit here strengthens us and provides us a sense of belonging to all the Jews of the world,” he continued, citing Dirshu’s work in Jewish communities worldwide.

Rabbi Hofstedter praised Plott for his record thus far and said that he greatly appreciates the fact that a non-religious mayor is so willing and able to understand the needs of the haredi community. According to Rabbi Hofstedter, such understanding and respect can only foster a closer relationship among Jews of all denominations.

After meeting with Plott, Rabbi Hofstedter visited the haredi neighborhood in Upper Nazareth, where he spoke with residents who described the many difficulties they face as ‘pioneers’ of a new religious community in the Galilee.

“I see your joy of life,” Rabbi Hofstedter told the residents, “and I believe that, thanks to you, we will be able to build a wonderful place here in the land of Israel.”

Rabbi Hofstedter also vowed that, through Acheinu, Dirshu’s social action branch, the organization will expand its activities among the settlers of Upper Nazareth.