The Yediot Ramat Gan Hebrew newspaper ran a special article on tours of the haredi community of Bnei Brak over the weekend, in light of the increasing appreciation for tradition and religion among the Israeli public, as well as a growing curiosity about the haredi lifestyle.
Veteran Israeli journalist Yaron London, the host of the "London and Kirshenbaum" program on Channel 10, sat down with Yediot Ramat Gan to offer his own views on the tours of the haredi community.
"My grandfather was a rabbi and learned in Slobidka, and I like to remember that legacy." London said. There is one thing that I have known for years about the haredi sector, but it amazes me every time [I see it],and that is how unbelievably modestly they live."
He said that haredi leaders do not live in the same conditions as other leaders. "Once I visited the home of Rabbi Shach. The poverty that this leader as well as other haredi leaders live in is unbelievable. They live with no material temptations. Most of the leaders of this sector resign themselves to lives of restraint, like monks. They are all dedicated to the service of the community 24 hours a day until their heads fall on their chests. It is unbelievable."
London is considered hostile to the haredi community. However, he said that "despite all the reservations that I have about the haredi sector, their cutural heroes are the Torah sages. The heroes of secular culture [by contrast] are stars and models."
"It is not that the secular sector has no Torah scholars of its own. The universities are full of intelligent people. But they are not cultural icons. When a gossip columnist writes about the haredi sector he writes about visiting the rebbe. For us, the secular population, it's not like that." he said.
London said that it pains him to see how prevalent poverty is in the haredi sector and that so many people deliberately choose to live what he considers to be lives of hardship, but he also sees in the haredi lifestyle a response to the rampant capitalism and materialism of the secular world.