Marc Schulman


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March 2, 2014 Haredim Demonstrate- Events in Ukraine

Friday, the city of Tel Aviv was tied up with a Marathon. Today, Jerusalem was tied up as a result of a demonstration of several 100,000 Ultra-Orthodox protesting the new draft bill that is yet to pass the Knesset. It is possible these two sentences summarize everything about the two cities, Tel Aviv is filled with runners and Jerusalem is filled with people who have probably never run in their lives– for anything- and certainly never while serving the army.

Today's protests were, in fact, much to do about nothing. Since the new draft bill has been written in such a way that it will unlikely lead to even one additional Charedi serving in the army. It has been one big bluff. However, there is likely to be one positive consequence. As a result of the new bill more Charedim are likely to go to work. Ultimately, that is what most Israelis really want.

Yes, there is resentment that Charedi children do not have to defend the State and risk their lives. However, in talking to average Israelis, most have long ago accepted that twisted logic– they just do not want to pay to financially support the ever-growing Charedi communities. The new law allows for anyone who wishes to leave the Yeshiva (over the course of the next five years) and go to work-- without serving in the army to do so. Will this make a big difference? Who knows. Will any of this change the very basic difference between the Charedim and the rest of Israel– especially their ideological difference from the National Zionists? With the exception of the Satmar, the view of most Charedim is to accept Israel's existence (as a nation like any other nation, with no special status in Jewish history). Charedim feel no special obligation to the State. They just do what they do everywhere else and take the most from the State that they can. (It should be noted that the Satmar believe the State of Israel is an evil entity that must be fought.)

The answer to the question of whether the situation with the Charedim is likely to change is most probably no. Certainly no change will occur unless we, the rest of Israel, find ways of reaching the Charedi community, despite the wishes of their leadership. After all, that is what most concerns Charedi Rabbinic leadership (i.e. that the modern State of Israel might influence their followers to change their ways.)

Lastly, it is impossible not to comment on the current events in Ukraine, on two levels. It seems very hard to see how the U.S. government has the bandwidth to deal with the crisis in Europe, and pursue full bore to reach an elusive agreement with the Palestinians. While the two items are not directly connected (even though there is a relationship that bears closer examiniation) what it does show is how unpredictable the world we now live in can be. Six months ago, if you would have asked any foreign policy analyst to predict the event of the next year, I doubt anyone of them would of foreseen events of the past days, weeks and months in the Ukraine. Black swan events seem to be happening with greater frequency, and that makes the world ever more insecure.


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