Terra Incognita: Baseless hatred of the haredim
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
It is essential that people search their souls and ask why they acquiesce so easily to canards about the ultra-orthodox community and statements made against it.
One of the central messages of Tisha Be’av, which took place yesterday, is the consequences of Sinat Hinam or baseless hatred. During the period of the Second Temple Jews quarreled so much among themselves that it brought ruin upon the Jewish people.
Today, with the housing protests that have swept the country, it is worthwhile to pause and ponder one type of baseless hatred that is often not acknowledged: hatred of the Ultra-Orthodox or haredi community.
he savage hatred of haredim comes in many forms. It begins with the things people say; how the haredim are “parasites” who don’t pay taxes and don’t go to the army, that they beat their wives and create a “mini- Tehran” in their communities, that they are dirty, smelly “dosim” and that they “infiltrate” the wonderful utopian secular neighborhoods. Oh, and of course, they are ignorant donkeys who hate Zionism and are intolerant of homosexuals, Arabs and blacks.
This hate is on display everywhere in symbolic acts.
Swastikas sprayed on a synagogue in Kfar Yona, where the secular residents fear a haredi “takeover”. The Eruv (wire surrounding a religious community that allows them to carry items on Shabbat) is cut in Kiryat Yovel by self-proclaimed secular resistance fighters. The huge signs erected by Meretz during its campaign for Jerusalem city council in 2008 that read “End the Haredization of Jerusalem.” A student at Hebrew University does doctoral work analyzing how the haredim invaded Kiryat Yovel, as if anyone can imagine an open minded university sponsoring the work of someone wanting to analyze how Arabs “took over” the Wolfson neighborhood in Acre.
THE HATRED of the haredi population is greatest among those who preach tolerance. Meretz, a far left political party, campaigns to end the haredi infiltration of Jerusalem’s secular bastions, but at the same time it complains of racism when Jews don’t want Arabs moving into Pisgat Zeev. Righteous people denounce the “acceptance committee law” that allows small communities to reject applicants, but the same people don’t seem to mind if a secular community opposes haredim moving to the area simply because they might change the character of the neighborhood. There was an outcry in the country when Rabbis signed a letter asking people not to rent apartments to Arabs in Safed, but there is no outcry among the ‘civil rights’ lobby when Ram Fruman created the Forum for Secular Communities, whose sole goal is to prevent haredi people from moving to “secular” areas. Fruman says “Our association works on two levels – at the local level, in sharing experience, knowledge and resources; and at the national level, in creating a political lobby that can take the lead with public action.” One imagines if the haredim just disguised themselves as Arabs they would be welcomed by the “open minded” secular elites and their rights to move where they want would be defended at the highest levels.
The hatred of the haredi population transcends all political and ethnic groups in Israel; Arabs, leftists, the national religious, free market liberals, even Ethiopians, all have a generally visceral dislike for the black hat.
Nechamia Stressler, the usually level headed columnist at Haaretz says they offer only “rotten goods, rife with ignorance, superstition.” Ron Huldai, mayor of Tel Aviv, described them as “aloof and ignorant people who are growing at an alarming rate.” Yuval Tumarkin, artist and winner of the Israel Prize, once said “when one sees the haredim one understands why there was a Holocaust.”
HAREDIM KNOW they are hated. Aharon Yakter, who lives in Bnei Brak, recalls that “I grew up near Sheinkin street in Tel Aviv until the age of 18. They never yelled 'dos' back then.” But nowadays if a hated haredi shows his face on the trendy street the secular community would feel no qualms about banding together to oppose the “infiltration.” Every Israeli should be ashamed that they speak of the haredim the way they do. There is nothing honorable in denying religious Jews the ability to live where they want.
The myths used to justify baseless hatred of the haredim are legion. One accuses them of not going to the army, but there are an equal number of secular draft dodgers as there are haredi ones, and the secular draft dodgers aren’t forced to attend Yeshiva in lieu of army service. Yet we don’t call the secular population “parasites.”
The student unions and other social organizations rail against funding for Yeshiva students, but that funding, about NIS 135 million for 13,000 students in 2010, provides less than $250 a month to the religious students, similar or less than most secular student scholarships.
The student union complains about equality, but the reality is that the secular public drains the state’s coffers and drinks at the same trough as the haredi public.
And what about hatred of the state, do certain haredi groups (i.e Neturei Karta) hate the state at a greater rate than, say, university lecturers in the Cohn Institute of History and Philosophy at Tel Aviv University? At least the haredi public is not at the forefront of all the ‘human rights’ organizations that support boycotts and accuse the country of apartheid.
BASELESS HATRED didn’t disappear this Tisha Be’av, but it is essential that, at least every once in a while, people search their souls and ask why they acquiesce so easily to canards about the ultra-orthodox community and statements made against it. The haredim aren’t angels, and their community is not a utopia, but then again, neither are any of the communities in Israel. Recognizing that as a starting point will increase tolerance, for the better.
The writer has a PhD from Hebrew University, and is a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies.