On 29th Teveth 5765 (10/01/2005), a dastardly thing occurred.

The political leaders of the Haredi world in Israel chose to ignore the plight of their brothers in Gaza and Northern Samaria. They chose to ignore the fact that by voting for the morally illegitimate ?national unity? government of Ariel Sharon ? a government which defies the will of Israel?s voters who resoundingly rejected Shimon Peres? policies ? they were lending their hand to the expulsion of ten thousand Jews from their homes and the snuffing out of their livelihoods; the unlawful appropriation of their land and property; the destruction of their yeshivot and the desecration of their graves. (Not to mention endangering the continued existence of the Jewish state, and at the very least creating a new bridgehead for military operations against Israel).

All this for the promise of funding for Haredi educational institutions.

We might well ask ourselves: Do we have the right to be surprised? Have Haredi parties not made similarly calamitous decisions in the past? Was it not Shas who twelve years ago abstained on the crucial vote on the Oslo accords, thus ensuring its passage?and facilitating the carnage, misery and despair which have been the hallmarks of our existence ever since?

Make no mistake. The vast majority of the Haredi public hold right wing views. So what went wrong?

The problem is an apparatchik called Ya?aqov Litzman, a follower of the Gerrer rebbe. This man rules Agudath Yisrael, and all are forced to follow his lead for fear of causing a split in the so-called United Torah Judaism alliance. (The Council of Torah Sages of Aguda exists only on paper; in effect it is a one-man production).

The Haredi parties? policy on foreign and defence issues is not to have a policy. Why? Because they see themselves as guests in the land of the secular Jew ? the ones who replaced the goyim of yesteryear ? and if the truth be known, they would rather let such issues be decided by the secular Jews. After all, it would be unseemly for the guest to tell the master of the house what to do.

It is this chronic lack of vision ? the inability to view themselves as free men living in their land, in charge of their destiny and responsible for the entire nation and not simply their immediate community ? that allows small-minded men like Litzman to carry the day.

When the Knesset originally voted on Sharon?s planned retreat under fire, UTJ?s representatives explained that they voted against the plan because they dislike (sic!) the idea of expelling Jews from their homes. (There was no money on the table, so why not?) But they quickly added that no pronouncement was made on the matter ?because Sharon had the votes anyway, so we voted with our hearts but not necessarily our minds?. Thus UTJ can vote both for (now) and against (then) PM Sharon?s policies. How convenient.

The bare truth is that the Haredi party leaders prefer it that way: ?Let the ?goyim? decide. Give us our yeshivas and leave us alone. Whose idea was this state anyway??

The Haredi leaders consider the state of Israel to be a new form of exile. Their aim is to function and survive as Jews did in Europe for centuries ?until the Messiah arrives? ? and in the meantime lead the life of a ghetto Jew, a disenfranchised nobody wielding no real control over his own destiny. Elementary self-respect ? the sine qua non of wholesome and honourable human enterprise ? is evidently not an issue.

It is this mentality that animates the Haredi political leadership ? and this is precisely why they cannot possibly provide the Torah leadership that the Jewish people who live and fight in this land require and deserve.