A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
June 17, 2010 Major Confrontation Between Charedim and The Supreme Court
The largest confrontation between Haredim and the legal system in Israel occurred today. The confrontation was initiated by parents who refused to put their Ashkenazi children in a classroom that had to many Sephardic students in it.
First the events of today. Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy ordered these parents jailed, if they did not agree to follow the Supreme Court order. No compromise was reached. 100,000 Haredim protested in Jerusalem and B'nei Brak until two buses arrived to carry the men to the police compound to be incarcerated. As I write this piece, the 22 mothers who were also ordered to be arrested are missing. It came as a complete surprise to the police when they did not show up, and as of tonight the police have begun a search for them.
The men who were going to jail went happily feeling they were going in the name of God. They invoked the Bar Kochba revolt and the Spanish Inquisition. They clamed this was just a continuation of those events. Members of the Haredi parties in the Knesset decried the court's decision, with MK Gafni saying yesterday "we will never recogize a court decision that goes against Jewish law". This opinion was stated again and again today by various Haredi spokesman. You would think they were asked to violate Shabbat or God forbid go into the army! What was being asked is that they allow Sephardic girls, who may or may not be exactly as religious as them learn in the same classroom with their children.
These events have put Shas in an impossible position. They have had a very hard time figuring out what side they are on. On one hand, Shas has always been afraid of doing anything that would anger the Ashkenazi Haredim, since the leaders of Shas all try to get their children in their best Ashkenazi Yeshivas. On the other hand, the Shas party was started to look after the rights of Sephardim. The Sephardim are Shas’s constituents and the Ashkenazic Haredi movments are racists against Sephardim, (allowing only set percentage of Sephardim into their schools.) The end result is most Shas leaders have remained silent. To make things even more complicated for Shas, the person who stands behind the original lawsuit in Emanuel is the eldest son of Rabbi Yosef the spiritual leader of Shas. The son is somewhat of the black sheep in the family; not his father's favorite according to a number of reports. However, he is a power himself. To further complicate the situation the Rabbis of Shas met this evening to discuss removing Rabbi Amselem from the Knesset. Rabbi Amselem angered many Haredim by his recent legal ruling that one should be lenient in conversion of non-Jews to Judaism, especially those serving in the I. D.F. his reasoning was that someone who decides to serve in the IDF has clearly shown he has tied his future to that of the Jewish people. Amselem stated in an interview with Israeli TV this that Shas is at a crossroads; it could either be a front for the Haredi Lithuanian strict attitude to Judaism, or it could return to its Sephardic roots of a more liberal and human view of Halacha.
Meanwhile, all of Israel's politicians have remained invisible- too afraid of the potential coalition partners. The result is, however, hard to gauge. As Yaron London said to a Chardi leader that he was interviewing today: "If you would just have kept your profile low for another ten years by the time the Secular world woke up, you would have too many voters to stop you." Time is certainly running out. Two worthwhile article on the subject... One by Yossi Sarid, entitled: The Great Haredi Rebellion is Raging on Several Fronts The second article, by Daniel Hartman is entitled: Haredi School Fights Undermines Israeli Democracy
On a positive note, both the US and the European Union have put much more serious sanctions on Iran. These are sanctions that have real teeth, and while it may not stop Iran, they will pay a significant price for their continued defiance.