A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
December 28, 2011- Religious Extremism in Israel: Where is the Line?
The fault lines between the Charedi World and the rest of Israel continue to dominate Israeli news and, to a lesser extent, Israeli consciousness. Last night a rally was held in Bet Shemesh in support of the daughter of the non-Charedi religious couple whose daughter has become the center point of the controversy. The couple's young daughter was featured in the video that posted a few days ago. The initial bus incident that first brought the issue of women and Charedim to the forefront of the public consciousness 10 days ago was partially repeated in Jerusalem. Earlier today a Charedi man asked a women soldier to move to the back of the bus. When she refused, he started calling her names including "Shiksa". The bus driver called the police and the man was arrested at the next stop.
Meanwhile, Prime Minsiter Netanyahu has suggested a solution for the town to Bet Shemesh: Divide the town into two-- a Charedi town and a non-Charedi town. This sounds like a "great solution" to our religious problems. Of course, it is like all of what our politicians have been taking about - short sighted and self-defeating. A very simple statistic tells the whole story. In 1980 Charedi and modern-Orthodox accounted for 20% of the elementary school students. This year the Charedi and modern-Orthodox account for 48% of the elementary school student body nationwide. Tonight on TV a leading Israeli economist talked about one of the mystery's in Israel's economy: Why is it that until 40 years ago the Israeli economy was growing rapidly and looked like it could overtake the economies of the rich world? Since then, despite the very successful high tech sector, and a balance of trade surplus, the country's per capita income has not continued to close the gap with those of the other OECD countries. The economist said the answer was simple. The answer lies with "the elephant in the room", the fact that no one is willing to talk about. The large size of Charedi families who add nothing to the economy make it impossible for the per capita income in Israel to grow.
All of these recent events have brought up an interesting debate in the country relating to the Charedi community. It started with the question of woman in the public arena. Do we have to be worried about the Charedi actions towards women only when it effects the non- Charedi world, or is there something inherently wrong with the Charedi lifestyle and attitudes to women that should not be tolerated? Politicians are clearly divided, with few willing to take on what is clearly the position any western liberal society should uphold- zero tolerance for disc
rimination against woman, especially when it is with tacit consent.
As one modern Orthodox commentator stated: "If you take that position where does it stop, at not giving woman Aliyot?" A secular commentator retorted: "Yes if I have to finance it." A few weeks ago I heard, what I thought was, a very insightful analysis in a discussion of the continued failure of the Charedi community to teach any secular studies (math science etc.) in their state funded schools. One academician called it "child abuse". They are bringing up their kids in such a way that they will have no access to the work place, to normal jobs or anything else. The commentator called these actions child abuse. Its certainly state suicide when the country is funding it.
Here is a another story that relates to religious extremism, but of a different type. It was discovered yesterday that the religious youngsters who attacked an army base two weeks ago, were not a group kids from one of the settlements, but rather students from Yeshivat Mercaz Harav. Mercaz Harav Is the Yeshiva that was founded by Rabbi Kook. This yeshiva has always been at the center of the religious Zionist movement. Mercaz Harav has been central to the religious view of the centrality of the state and its institutions. The revelations that its students were the ones behind the attack on an Israeli army base has completely rocked the religious Zionist world.
An interesting article in the Daily Beast on US-Israel talks on red lines in the Iranian nuclear program is worth reading.