Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Haredi Revolt Against the State of Israel

The stormy relationship between Haredi Judaism and the Jewish State is at one of its crescendos these days. In recent weeks the Haredi attempt to foil construction of a new wing at Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon was blocked; the Supreme Court struck down the decades-old system of government subsidies for Haredi families; and of course today we've got the story of dozens of Haredi parents who are going to jail rather than allow their children to go to school with the "wrong" children, in one of the most dramatic clashes ever between the rabbis and the High Court of Justice (which is the Supreme Court under a different hat). As I write this hundreds of thousands of Haredis are setting out to demonstrate against the court.

Is there any way to make sense of any of this for people who haven't been following the story for 300 years? Probably not, but I'll try.

One place to start would be the middle of the 18th century, when a charismatic mystic known as the Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760) responded to the preceding century of chaos in Eastern European Jewry with a new set of teachings. His followers took the Talmudic title of Hassids, and created the part of Judaism known as Hassidism. One effect of his teaching was to energize simple Jews who had been marginalized in the existing structure of Jewish society built around specialized scholarship. Another, perhaps unintended, was to create the institution of Hassidic courts (hatzer, as in the royal court, not legal court), headed by revered dynasties of Rebbes. (Oy am I oversimplifying).

The existing establishment didn't take the new phenomenon lightly, and for the next few generations there was a civil war in Polish Jewry (meaning most of Eastern Europe). People didn't get killed, but the animosities were so great that the other side was regarded as worse than goyim, intermarriages were forbidden, and excommunications were thrown in all directions. The anti-Hassids were called the Misnagdim, a Yiddish word from the Hebrew mitnagdim which means adversaries. Their single most important leader was the Gaon of Vilna (1720-1797).

Then in the 19th century, new dangers appeared. The first and greatest was the Haskalah, the possibility that Jews might join Enlightened European society. The legal and physical walls of the ghetto were torn down, and at least to a degree the Jews were offered the option of being like everybody else. (To a limited degree, but that's another story).

For some Jews, this was a Very Bad Thing. The ghetto had been unpleasant, true, but now that it seemed to be gone, what would protect the Jews from indeed being just like everyone else, and in that case, how would they remember what they were supposed to be dong until the Messiah would one day redeem them and fix the world?

Some Jews responded by indeed leaving, and in the 20th century the Nazis tried to figure out who their descendants were. Others tried to create methods of simultaneously being Jewish and just like everybody else. Others, a bit later, invented Zionism, as a way of being just like everybody else in a place where the locals wouldn't prohibit them from doing so. The haredi method was to fend off modernity, to create a reality without it.

This is not easy to do. It requires eternal vigilance, monitoring every aspect of life and shutting any cracks in the social walls. The most obvious measure was to freeze fashion: at the moment the shutting off began, it just happened to be that Jewish men in Eastern Europe were wearing the garb of Polish gentlemen of a century earlier, with long black frocks and fancy black hats. Since all change is forbidden, that's what they're wearing still. The fact that this makes them look outlandish is an advantage, since it dramatically reduces the gray areas and makes policing easier. A black-garbed man can't stroll into the public library or the local university without everyone noticing. The extreme enmities of the previous generation were mostly set aside, and the Hassids and Misnagdim banded together to fend off modernity. Interestingly, the Hassidic institution of rabbinic leader with power of decision over the lives of the followers seems to have been adopted by all haredi.

It goes without saying that the Haredi, as they called themselves from the early 20th century (the word means fearful, as in fearful of God's word), were against Zionism, which was an ultra modern phenomenon. Even though there had been precursor-Haredi communities in the Land of Israel for centuries: as devout Jews, this was the homeland. After the Shoah, however, there were only two places which seemed welcoming: New York, and Israel. In the early 1950s there was a meeting between Ben Gurion, who had rejected the haredi world in his youth, and the Hazon Ish (1878-1953), the generally accepted leader of the Haredi world to the very limited extent there could be a single leader. As a result of their discussion, Ben Gurion made perhaps his most colossal miscalculation. The Hazon Ish, reeling from the the extent of destruction of Eastern European haredi Judaism, asked of Ben Gurion that Israeli law exempt the haredi yeshiva students from military service so their studies wouldn't be interrupted, and they not be exposed to the extreme influences of military life. Ben Gurion, probably sentimentally thinking he was granting a stay of execution to a dying breed, granted the request. How could he have known they would come back from the near-dead, rebuild their communities, and spend generations breaking all the laws of demography by having an average of 9 children per family, all while pretending not to be part of Israeli society, not serving in the military, and not educating their children to participate in a modern economy? How was he to know that their birthrate would give them the political clout to dictate these terms to whoever needed their support in a coalition, until- well, we don't know until when, do we. So far, in any case.

The American haredi communities took the same path, without Ben Gurion. The military wasn't an issue, but having the state support them with subsidies was never an option, so they work. Yet the differences aren't as great as all that. The uniforms are the same, the staving off of modernity, the insistence on not allowing in the modern world and especially its education. The haredi world has hundreds of sub-groupings and strains (literally), some more open to the world, others less, but they're all pretty distinct from the rest of the Jewish world, with the exception of Chabad-Lubavitch who are another story.

Enter the mizrachim, the Jews from the Arab world. The Arab world didn't have the Enlightenment on its own, as readers of newspapers can tell if they're open to reality. In some places it did have 19-century European colonial powers who imposed it from above, and in many of those cases the local Jews eagerly joined, since life under the Muslims hadn't been so great. This made for a very different dynamic, and (again, in a crass over-simplification) mizrachi Jews haven't felt the need to fight modernity. Once everyone came together in the state of Israel, the haredi ashkenazi had no interest in the mizrachim, and when some of the mizrachim eventually tried to join, attracted by the high committment to tradition, they were rebuffed. They didn't speak Yiddish, they weren't part of the narrow accepted world, they seemed outlandish; they also lacked the fervent rejection of modernity. They also served in the army, and then went to work. Yet some of them really did want to join the haredi world, and were willing to dress in black garb and live by the severe strictures.

In the early 1980s they set up their own party, Shass, and their own educational system which resembled the haredi one in many ways. For various reasons their electoral power is about double that of the ashkenzi haredi, which means that in many discussions the haredi were now eager to have them, so long as they remained separate.

How much of all this fits reality? Are the Haredi really staving off modernity? Do they truly resemble "traditional Judaism", or even only the 18 century version of it? Are they really indifferent or even against Zionism? Of course not. None of the above. They are as modern as anyone else, both in their embrace of technology (and modern medicine), but also in their confidence that Jews need to form the reality they live in, which is of course the fundamental insight of Zionism. They may not be Herzlian Zionists, but they are as much Israelis as anyone else, and participate in the Zionist project as active players, often from the center of the stage.

Nothing demonstrates this better than this week's events. The attempt to stop the construction of a hospital wing in a city with hardly any haredi (Ashkelon) is an expression of their sense of responsibility (by their values) for the entire society. The anger that the court has knocked down a national system of subsidies which helps only them will be met by a determined effort to manage the political system so as to make the problem go away. The insistence that the court has no right to interfere with the policies of their schools is part of a much broader discussion about how active the court should be.

Above all, however, their willingness to take to the streets in mass demonstrations to ensure their rabbinical authorities stay above the secular ones, is a demonstration of the extent to which they feel this Zionist state needs to be more Jewish as they understand the term. It would be inconceivable for them to thwart American law - because in America they're guests. This, on the other hand, is home. They own it.


Anonymous said...

thanks Yaacov

this reminded me of the admiration I felt for your "founders" when I read Golda Meir's memoir and became full of admiration for what they had accomplished by establishing a functioning state at all (look at the many many freed colonies for comparison).

As I am a clerk by profession I have experienced innumerable failed attempts to establish an administrative procedure let alone an institution and so I am awed again and again by what Israelis manage to manage.


RK said...

You can read the issue as haredi families trying to break the law, or you can see it as a complete breakdown of pragmatism on the part of the secular authorities. There's what, two weeks left before the summer vacation, and yet the school isn't being allowed to close early while the Slonim Hasidim seek a permit to reorganize their Beis Yaakov with no state funding, allowing them to use whatever admissions criteria they see fit. Instead, 44 couples are being sent to jail and Tzipi Livni is making stupid remarks on the radio again. Framing the issue as haredi insistence that they're above the law misses this back-story, and implies that the haredi aren't actually right on this issue. (There are actually several secular demonstrators in those rallies in Emmanuel.)

Switching gears, thanks to Yaacov for the potted history! Their story today is in some ways even more complicated and fascinating: There's the assimilation of some elements of Sephardic society into the Ashkenazi haredi culture (some of the haredi couples arrested over this mess were actually Sephardic, and many Sephardic students in haredi yeshivot even learn Yiddish—I've met them); there's the blurring of the lines between haredi and modern Orthodox with the emergence of right-wing Modern Orthodox and the "modern yeshivish"; there's their relationship with the American government: they've become expert at navigating the welfare system and influencing local authorities to obtain state funds, sometimes on the right side of the law, sometimes not.

A final note: Misnagdim isn't a Yiddish word derived from the Hebrew mitnagdim. It's the Ashkenazic Hebrew pronunciation of a word that in Israeli Hebrew happens to be pronounced mitnagdim.

Anonymous said...

just to let you know:
your comment makes the story seem so impenetrable that it can make any outsider loose all interest in what reads to me like one of the same ol' that occur again and again everywhere and anytime in never ending variations.

Is it your intent that outsiders should stop being interested in Israel?

If yes, you failed, Yaacov is way too good a writer and story-teller for that and his overview includes so many qualifications (which were self-evident anyway) that I wish he would sit down and write a book with due to its subject bestselling potential. (Actually he is so good at story-telling he could be English;-)))


RK said...


Part of it is that Yaacov is admittedly a much clearer writer than I am. But as he never tires of pointing out with regard to Israeli politics, some subjects just aren't as accessible to the dilettante. There's plenty about haredi society that I don't understand, and I've taught in their schools, learned Yiddish, made friends with lots of haredi people, etc.

There are innumerable excellent books about Hasidism. If you're interested in Hasidism in Israel, the place to start is Tzvi Rabinowicz's aptly named Hasidism in Israel.

Anonymous said...

thanks I am not especially interested in Haredis or any other community intent on separating itself (without need) and that applies to all of them starting with the office breakfast get-together hot houses of evil rumouring.

Yaacov provides quite often a for my needs very helpful Ariadne thread which allow me to disregard a lot of Israel related headlines as not contributing to what I am curious about.

Even as a kid I couldn't understand why one should pay for the privilege of looking at somebody extremely fat or extremely thin I am not interested in the "funny" stuff in Israel, I am not interested in Watschentanz either.

I am a Jane-ite and therefore I believe that the truely exotic unusual marvels are found in the midst of the completely unremarkable ordinary.


4infidels said...

Just printed out Yaacov's post which I am looking forward to reading during lunch.

Meanwhile, I noticed this disappointing news item from a place in the Muslim world that I was hoping religion would play less of a role. Not that Iraqi Kurds aren't still more relaxed in their approach to Islam than their neighbors, but there is obviously a problem with FGM there:

Anonymous said...


if an allegiance to Kurdistan should be useful to Israel it should buddy up - when the alliance stops to be useful it should separate. Alliances between states are not like relations between people not even like relations with virtual people on the net.

Churchill in all of the WW1 volumes found words for fairly assessing all adversaries (including AtaTurk who wreaked such havoc on "his" troups) except one:
Bolshevik Russia

- there Churchill practically screams with disgust. However when it came to helping England survive the German onslaught of WW2 he buddied up with Stalin and even though I haven't yet read that volume I don't believe he fooled himself one moment about who he had gotten into bed with. For him when in conflict it's England.

For me when in conflict it's whom would I trust removing my appendix


NormanF said...

I side with them on the right of parents - not the Israeli Supreme Court or the state - to educate one's children. Israel's leftist establishment is receiving its pushback. It will not be so easy for it to impose its values on those who reject them.

4infidels said...


I wasn't really thinking about Israel when I linked to that article about FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan.

As an American, I would like to see us continue to support the Iraqi Kurds, as Kurdistan is the only region of Iraq where Americans don't have to constantly look over their shoulder

I believe it is in the interest of all non-Muslims that Kurds establish an independent state, as it might serve as a good example to other non-Arab Muslims to throw off the Arab yoke, and perhaps looks more negatively at Islam as well. Certainly there are many Kurds who associate Islam with the Arabs and their terrible treatment at Arab hands. This is combined with a strong Kurdish ethnic, national and linguistic identity that competes with, rather than reinforces, the Arab national religion of Islam.

With Turkey, Syria and Iran not exactly gentle in their treatment of their Kurdish minorities, it would seem that the Kurds would be good allies for Israel to cultivate. Obviously the value of that alliance would be even greater should the Kurds achieve an independent state in some part of their historic homeland.

None of the above, though, doesn't stop me from being disturbed by hearing that FGM is taking place anywhere on this planet.

Anonymous said...

because in America they're guests

I politely disagree. They are American citizens protected under the Constitution like anyone else, not guests.

In addition, many in NYC are poor and dependent on welfare, which shows that the Israeli example is not entirely unique.

Lee Ratner said...

I strongly disagree with NormanF's point that Haredi parents have the right to exclude non-Ashkenazi Jews from their schools. If Jews are to be one people than we must act as one people, one sub-ethnic group of Jews must not be seen as superior and more Jewish than other sub-ethnic groups of Jews. The Haredi Jews exclude Mizrachi girls from their schools because they view them as insufficiently Jewish even though they are Orthodox in their practice. They are associated Jewishness with Yiddishkeit and discounting all non-Ashkenazi expressions of Jewish identity. This is a very arrogant attitude.

The attitude is also against the interests of the Jewish people. There are only fifteen million Jews in the world at most and our enemies are more numerous than we are. We do not have the luxury to afford bad blood between different Jewish groups because we can not stand to be divided and conquered. There are disagreements we can have but debating the Jewishness of the different sub-ethnicities of our people is not one of them.

The Supreme Court of Israel was right in its decision.

Lee Ratner said...

Anonymous, you and Yaacov are both right about the status of the Haredi in the United States. They are citizens and many of them are quite adapt at politics at least on a local level. But like the Amish or other sub-groups, the Haredi in America isolate themselves from general American society and do not participate in it, to the extent that they don't even celebrate American holidays like Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July. They maintain themselves in a sort of citizen-stranger status.

I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, i.e. Satmar headquaters, and I agree with you on Haredi economics in the United States. Many of them are adapt at manipulating the American welfare system such as it is.

4infidels said...

I find this whole issue regarding the Supreme Court decision on the Haredi school very confusing...

Ynet's coverage seems to portray the parents/school as wanting the right to discriminate on the basis of racial-ethnic criteria, barring non-Ashkenazi students because they are not of Ashkenazi ancestry. I think we are all troubled by this type of bigotry if it is occurring.

Other news coverage seems to indicate that this is an issue of religious standards that the school wishes to maintain, and that the school in question has 25-30% Sephardic students and that Sephardic parents were active in the protests. Regardless of where one stands on the protesters or court decision, wanting students in a religious school to maintain a certain standard of observance doesn't equate to racial-ethnic bigotry on the part of the parents, assuming that the school enforces those standards when it comes to Ashkenazi as well as Sephardi students.

All this brings me to a larger issue...where I feel confident in my knowledge of the subject matter, I feel that I can see through the media bias, detect B.S. and decide which narrative most closely resembles reality.

Where I am lacking in my knowledge of the issue--such as relations between Haredi groups, between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Haredi, Haredi education and Haredi vs. the Israeli gov't--I am unable to make sense of the coverage, particularly when there are conflicting narratives among different press organizations, leaving me unable to trust the accuracy and context of the reporting, which I suspect is driven largely by the agenda/biases of the reporters and editors.

Victor said...

This is a bit "inside baseball", but I'm surprised at the slack you give Chabad, given that you're in Israel, and the Chabad of Israel definitely feels different to me, pushy and aggressive (and more prone to yellow flags) - I'm speaking in generalities - than the Chabad of 770 Eastern Parkway. The Chabad of Russia also feels different to me, though, more forceful in (Russian) language. It's interesting how the shluchim adapt to their unique environment.

The last time I was in Israel, I met a young woman who, when she found out I was affiliated with Chabad was stunned, because Chabadniks are rabid anti-Zionists, which was news to me. I haven't been at a Chabad shabbos table where Netanyahu and Lieberman would not be flogged for endangering Jewish life.

Her only contact with Chabad had been when her brother disappeared in India for several months. Her mother - a Yemenite family - went to a Chabad Rabbi mystic in Tzvat (don't ask me, I never heard of such a thing). They had been in touch with the Foreign Ministry for many weeks, with no success in locating their son. I don't know what happened at the Rabbi's, but he eventually sent her home to wait for her son's call.

Sure enough, within a few hours, her son called her from an Israeli consulate in India. He went off the grid, spending time in Indian villages without phone lines or cell reception. So there he was, months having gone by since he spoke to his family, probably high on something, when all of a sudden he felt an intense urge to leave the village and go back to the city.

The consulate had put up posters all over the country looking for him. As soon as he stepped off at a bus stop in the city he saw a poster and got in touch with them.

I never heard of such a thing - I mean, with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, sure, but with some Chabad Rabbi in Tzvat? - but it came from his sister herself, and she was no big fan of Chabad, so who knows.

Victor said...

Also, just to point out, the Jewish world looked very different in 1948 from how it looks today. The great Litvischer and Hassidic communities of Europe and the centers of Jewish learning they nurtured were decimated. The Jews of Israel were largely socialist secularists, quite comfortable forcing their vision of the "new Jew" on the backward black hatters of the European shtetls. There was a real fear among both Hassidim and Misnagdim that the Israeli state would roll over them, particularly in education.

Check out this video. The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rebbe Rayatz, apparently played an instrumental role in securing a place for Yiddish schools alongside secular education.

Anonymous said...

Lee at 1:34

what a comment

- now what was all this about Europeans discriminating against Muslims again?

I dimly remember a very different line of argument from you there. And is that because we, i.e. the majority, are more than just 15 million and not besieged in a way Israel is?

Doesn't seem a very convincing distinction to me!

By your previous writings I now have two things before me:
It is right for Israel's majority to restrict Haredi demands
2) It is wrong for a European majority to restrict Muslim demands.

It'll take me a while to get my head around that one.


Anonymous said...

based on a lot less reading I came to the same conclusion.

It reads like one of those infights where in the end only very few still know why they started it at all

- The good I see in infights like that is that it offers a chance for shrewd thinkers at a court to eliminate another tiny piece of murky thinking from this world.


zionist juice said...

i think that misses the point:
if the parents refuse sfardi children to be thaught togehter sfardi girls then i do not see why this has anything to do with religion.
even if the haredim say, that sfardi are less pious then i see here only prejudices expressed in a religious terms.

let aside that in my understanding the ethics of the chachmanim teach us:
1. it is much more important that all of israel learns the tora than to asure that there is a small group who knows all of it but is isolated and that it is much more important that all of israel learns a little than that some 5 per cent learn constantly.
(rav hirsch wrote about how we should avoid to develope a theology)
2. that the tora teaches us that instead of isolating yourself it is important be an example and to be that you have to interact with people
3. concerning the fashion (the ramchal expresses this very nicely), fashions, cults are nothing they say nothing, they show nothing, on the contrary: it is all in your heart. i do not care how the hasidim dress themself. if they think, that their kaftan has anything to do with judaism or being a tsadik or a hasid, then they are - in my point of view - incredible wrong.

Anonymous said...

Victor at 10:16

I don't quite get it
- are you implying that it is believed that the mystic had any influence on the son calling?

Coincidences like that happen and sometimes very very sometimes I guess that there may be a kind of very rare telepathic bond between very close relatives but as a rule it is that such "hits" tend to be remembered and spread much more widely than the misses. (lets assume this was such a case then it was probably the mother willing her son to call more forcefully and confidently after having been re-assured by the mystic)

Germany for long times after the war was awash with stories of mothers who had dreamed the death of their sons at the exact point in time i.e. long before they had the news i.e. nothing exceptional in such stories

(so Chabad in Israel is exaggerating it? these Israelis just can't get anything right ;-))))))))

Victor said...


No, no, this was just a personal experience related to me by a young woman in Israel. It's not Chabad approved, or anything of the sort. There is a certain way and method in our community to relate fantastical stories like this.

went to a Chabad Rabbi mystic in Tzvat (don't ask me, I never heard of such a thing)

Meaning, we don't have a tradition of going to some mystics for intervention, with the exception of the Rebbe, and this guy was not the Rebbe. I've never heard of a chassid of the Rebbe - there is a hierarchy - doing such a thing. So, implicitly, I'm not casting doubt on her account, but pointing out that it's outside the established norm, and thus strange, while curious.

Her account is her account, and I take your point. There are tons of such fantastical stories in Israel, and around the world. That's why we have a method of talking about them that separates the seed from the chaff, so to speak, because anyone can just make up a story.

Anyway, I was reminded of the story incidentally, because she seemed to really dislike Chabad in Israel, thinking they were anti-Zionist, a subject Yaacov brought up, and which I thought was interesting.

Anonymous said...

"West must offer Turkey a proper seat"

but the headline and the last paragraph beggar belief - first Walter Russell Mead, now the FT

- I guessed all along that when having to chose between "owning" the Dardanelles and Israel, the Dardanellians would be victorious but shouldn't they, whoever they are, not at least ask once albeit very timidly for an investigation of Turkey's involvement/endorsement in/of IHH?

I ctl-F-ed the piece - investigation Zero - IHH once in the comment section!


Anonymous said...

just to confirm that I'd like to very personally get at all the women and men who are for it, are prevaricating or are actually performing FGM
- I am female and I like all of my body

- on the other hand I couldn't quite follow Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Tavis Smiley roundly condemning the (clumsy and maybe coming from the wrong people) attempt of US-doctors to get the practice into the public realm and under public supervision and scrutiny.

As long as it takes place on kitchen tables in our midst also subjecting it to scrutiny by the public Health and Safety enforcers may be not a totally bad idea. (keep in mind I'm a clerk and sometimes our clerical ways of throwing spikes into wheels may be used to good effect)

4infidels said...

New video from Caroline Glick and the folks from "We Con the World." Not the instant classic of the first, but still a worthy effort:!v=VmffgIqlAYA&feature=channel

Lee Ratner said...


The problem is that the ethnic discrimination angle and the religious angle are related to each other. The Ashkenazi Haredi believe that the Sephardic/Mizrahi Jews are insufficiently Orthodox and their interpretation of Halacha is not strict enough. As a result they exclude the Sephardic/Mizrahi Jews from their school. The reason I think that the Ashkenazi Haredi believe that Sephardic/Mizrahi Haredi are insufficiently Orthodox is because they associate Jewishness with Yiddishness rather than just seeing Yiddishkeit as a variety of Jewishness. Many other Ashkenazi Jews made the same failing in the past but the Ashkenazi Haredi are the current main proponent's of this worldview.

Anonymous said...


I object
Funicula is much easier to sing along for the likes of me

and just the names they came up with for the singers keep me hooting with laughter - and that even though I swoon if I just think the name Pavarotti


Sylvia said...

Apology of evil packaged as an accident of history, wrapped in respectability and then sold to the ignorant as sober fact. This is my assessment of your post, Yaacov.

Anonymous said...

quite a different question

a lot of us pro-Israel outsiders use as an umbrella word the "west"
- posts on this blog, some of your remarks and other stuff have made me wonder whether that might not be quite a bad choice, kind of an attempt at "colonising", belittling your being a unique you.

The more I guess (and it is pure guess work) as to how it may look to you I wonder whether you have an idea of what else "we" may use when wanting to make it clear that in the us against them we consider you as us and are as far as I'm concerned totally ignorant and uninvolved as to any divisions which may exist within your country (NIF and Heinrich-Böll meddlers exempted of course;)

Lately I've taken refuge in boiling it down to where I want my appendix taken care of but that sounds a bit too facetious to me no matter how true it is.


Pro-Israeli Atheist said...

"I strongly disagree with NormanF's point that Haredi parents have the right to exclude non-Ashkenazi Jews from their schools."

You start from a A LIE. There are many Sephardi haredi protesting. It is the usual - secular Jews trying to prevent religious Jews from practicing their religion.

"if the parents refuse sfardi children to be thaught togehter sfardi girls"

Once again a LIE.

Yaacov, I protest against your allowing such outright lies about the religious on this site. And I'm an atheist.

RK and NormanF are spot on. I think I, an atheist, am about to start contributing money to Aguda.

Pro-Israeli Atheist said...

On further thought, I think it typical of the hypocritical, immoral, anti-Semitic approach of secular Jews towards religious Jews, that the state of Israel has now imprisoned schoolchildren's parents, but released the murderous terrorists of the Mavi Marmara.

Beinisch should step down.

Anonymous said...


my apologies for my ignorance and for being such a stickler for details:

I have been told that traditionally Yeshivas are for boys only. If girls can't be Yeshiva students they shouldn't they be subject to the draft or is there an exemption including them or for them especially?

During that recent German radio series on Zionism I was told that at that Congress when Herzl wanted to save Eastern Jews from persecution to just about anywhere it was these same persecuted ones who insisted on Israel or nothing.
If that is correct, who were these Jews? i.e. are they distinct as a group in Israel's society?

Who funds/supports/supplements/sponsors the Haredi life style?


Anonymous said...

Lawyers funded by the New Israel Fund????

I don't know how reliable this Steven Plaut is
- I found the quote at CiFWatch


Sylvia said...


-"Yeshivas for girls" is a description, not a name. They are generally called Bet Yaakov/Beit/Beis Yaakov except for the Hassidim of the Lubavitch persuasion who usually call them Bet Rivka. And they are not exactly like traditional "yeshivas" in the sense that they also follow a regular school curriculum (Maths, History, etc" and study religious subjects for half a day. I know that in France and England they are called seminaries, whether they follow a part-time or full time religious studies program.

-Because they follow the Ministry of Education core curriculum, these schools are fully financed by the State -i.e. by the very Sephardi taxpayer they discrminate against.

Not all Haredi schools are financed by the State. Many belong to the Independent school system which secure their own funding - with a partial contribution from the State.

-There is now the National Service - in lieu of the army - for those who don't want to enlist in the army for religious/ideological reasons. But not everyone likes thgat option either.

-"I was told that at that Congress when Herzl wanted to save Eastern Jews from persecution to just about anywhere it was these same persecuted ones who insisted on Israel or nothing.
If that is correct, who were these Jews?"

Until roughly the 1970S the name "Eastern Jews" meant "Jews of Eastern Europe" and referred to the Jews of Poland and Russia. At the time, there were anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia and persecutions in Poland.

4infidels said...


Thanks for posting this informative link:

This whole issue is very unsettling, not because I believe in the racism angle that much of the media is pushing, but because Jews are too darn dogmatic, whether it is the Haredi or the secularists on the Court or the anti-Zionists in the universities.

I guess as an American, it is hard to watch Israeli Jews fighting each other, though perhaps an Israeli might find it disturbing watching Americans Jews of different political and religious outlooks clash while I might just see it as part of everyday life in the US and not particularly read anything Jewish into it (hope that makes sense).

Can't everyone take a time out, a deep breath and focus on eliminating the nuclear threat from Iran and protecting Israel from the terrorists arming themselves along the borders?

Once Israel is safe and secure, the Haredi can go back to throwing rocks at cars on Sabbath, the professors can get back to delegitimizing Zionism and the media can call everyone it disagrees with racist.

Ain't life fun?

4infidels said...

The Canadian writer David Solway had an article with the past few months about specific intelligence vs. general intelligence.

The gist was that Jews are exceptional at specific intelligence, that which is needed to explore science, law, arts, etc. on a deep level, leading to new inventions, great works of literature and success in business.

On the other hand, general intelligence focuses on matters of common sense and having a keen perception of the world around you. In this aspect, Jews are terrible, as though they lack a survival instinct. Too often Jews are delving deeply into unrealistic utopian ideologies or taking a philosophical approach to life and don't realize the danger that surrounds them.

I think Solway's thesis--if I summarized somewhat accurately from memory--can be seen in how the Jewish state, despite obvious challenges is among the most entrepreneurial and vibrant economies in the world while Jews are among the wealthiest and best educated groups in America.

Jewish contributions to the arts, sciences, literature and so many aspects of Western life are so far out of proportion to our actual demographic presence that you'd have to say that we have more than our fair share of geniuses. Even in athletics, where both Jews and non-Jews alike don't think of us as competitors, Jews are achieving in at least a representative fashion with all-stars in baseball, pros and top college players in many sports and Metal Winners at the Olympics.

Yet Jews are so busy exploring the minutia of life, overly committed to certain political and social philosophies or religious observances that we make terrible choices when it comes to life in the day-to-day world of self-defense, individual and communal priorities and political alliances, especially in the face of a hostile world and substantial threats to our existence.

With Iran perhaps a few months away from having an operational nuclear weapon, Peter Beinart chooses this as the time to castigate Israel and share with the world his inner conflict regarding the nature of the Jewish state? How could 78% of American Jews vote for Barack Obama? At best, the man was completely indifferent to anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism among his closest associates and ideological allies. At worst, need to explain. Do synagogues really think that if they just engage in Interfaith dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood-sponsored ISNA, that the Muslims will see our perspective and then like us, rather than use the relationship to further their false pose of moderation? Why are the majority of speakers at the 92nd St Y (Jewish organization) unsympathetic to Israel? Don't they have enough platforms for their views? I think some American Jews would rather die or see Israel destroyed than sacrifice their liberalism.

How has Israel allowed a political system to develop in which far-left zealots, religious fanatics and Arab anti-Zionists have a disproportionate ability to influence the composition of governments and advance their agendas that the overwhelming majority of Israelis reject? Why is it that bookish Jews adapted in seemingly no time flat to the necessity of military service, becoming perhaps the most skilled and courageous warriors on the planet, but have been beaten up beyond comprehension in the media/public relations arena by the Arabs (whose culture has long valued strength and the sword of other pursuits)? How is it that we can find the cures to diseases, but we have hardly one Jew in America or Israel that can go on TV to explain the justice of Israel's cause is a clear, concise and emotionally relevant fashion? Isn't there one Jew in Hollywood that thinks the world could use a pro-Israel movie?

Anonymous said...

I hope Eastern was no inappropriate use of language, Eastern in German for somebody my age even today applies from the old west German border on eastwards ;-) - I think the East as in "East is East" most of us have no real word for and would probably most often opt for oriental.

my office experience seems to suggest that when fear (lay-offs) runs high squabbles increase - maybe this internal squabbling is helping in blending out for a bit the threat one feels more or less helpless about.

further to "Haredi"

before the Plaut quote I found this link
on the same thread and as I seem to be unable to resist tales of legal shenanigans from wherever no matter how hard I try I started reading until my head began to swim.

While I felt I still comprehended the tale it somehow reminded me strongly of the mess we made for ourselves by insisting for way too long that foreigners came as guest workers and not as immigrants. This created for Muslims the necessity to take care of religious education for their kids themselves. While religion and state are officially quite separate in practice they are entwined i.e. religious education is part of the normal curriculum just like math or geography and who opts out probably has to sit more or less around in some other class room under supervision.

Only in very very recent years have they decided that muslims should get their religious education in school like mainstream Christians, the real issue is probably that muslims want to get access to the same state collected funding churches enjoy. (I don't know how Jews deal with it they seem to have separate agreements which I remember dimly include some compensation for not getting church tax)

And now there is the conundrum, where find the teachers - brouhaha after brouhaha ensues - Ditib the Turkish state institution sending teachers who don't know (enough) German and thus can't be supervised, German school authorities unwilling to have their supervising power compromised - German universities lacking in dogma or piety to get themselves accepted as educators for teachers etc.etc.etc.

This just to tell you that the existence of a private or diverse school system is not obligatory if one wants to screw up ;-)

As to not contributing, there is a parallel also - way back when it started people who came and took over menial jobs could get along with very limited language but as menial jobs are becoming scarcer and scarcer very few employers are eager to get interested in hiring a Turkish youngster with very limited German and why should they learn German if a life on the dole is not so much more restricted moneywise than one with a McJob and think of all the free time. Make an effort at German by let's say listening to German radio - what an insult it might compromise our authentic identity.

As to the dole btw German German youngster seem close to catching up though


Anonymous said...

4infidels at 6:45

first here are Peter Beinart and Steven J. Rosen talking
why anybody let alone Jews treat this guy Beinart as a serious intellectual eludes me
not only has Rosen the more beautiful voice he also makes sense (to me)

let me decree very patronizingly that I disagree on almost any point - I generously and again patronizingly forgive you though because you are an American ;-))))

from the perspective of a European who loves to read history without having any detailed knowledge or specific area of interest Israel seems very very very normal to me

- take a trip along the river Mosel where a war of succession raged, go to the city of Naumburg and (preferably in miserable weather) notice how different the Judengasse is from the other side streets while strolling down main street, read the long version of Churchill's WW1 with an eye on volatile alliances and inner-British squabbling while their young men died by the thousands and after that turn around and admire Israel that has cobbled together a state out of peoples from all over united by a thing called Jewishness which every one of them seems to have a different concept of and functions - that is miraculous - how refreshing if you compare it to anything united by one unifying whatever.

A lot of what your man Solway wrote reminded me of what psychos seem to subsume under AngstAbwehr (keeping Angst at bay) - making a living in the Judengasse of Naumburg for example probably would have made such strategies come in very handy if you wanted to keep yourself from becoming paralyzed like a rabbit by the snake.

I once read a beautiful short story at Commentary by a guy named Epstein? who taught the Jewish kids in an American city to fight and learn they did it and they were successful at it but as soon as the threat had been contained they reverted to their former "meek" ways. It was their way! - just as a German I will always have to cope with my birth defect being clumsy and not fit for polite society Jews have theirs - you don't need to be better at everything;-))))

There was in the 70s a psycho Eric Berne who said somewhere that a poor woman who has come into a fortune will always consider herself to be a poor woman temporarily rich, while a rich woman having lost her money will forever feel rich albeit temporarily poor.

If there is one feat that I encounter reading around here that baffles me then it would be this willingness to blame yourself first before your opponent can come up with the idea - in German we call that strategy to take the wind out of somebody's sail - I am prone to do it myself while trying to resist it and so watching others doing it makes it especially noticeable to me. But: while it was very useful behaviour for the Jews of Naumburg whose sovereign demanded that they cringe with Israelis it exasperates me.


Anonymous said...


as to pro-Israel movie
- Nycerbarb keeps pointing us to them
- it seems that they exist
- I perceive though that no matter how many Jewish heartthrobs including this breathtakingly good looking Jewish footballer on the US-team there are the tabloids seem to be doing a lousy job of writing girls into screaming fits about them? i.e. the potential is there but nobody cares.

but seriously wherever you look the role of the romantic male has been firmly usurped way back by Rodolfo Valentino and no matter who was the actor, if you wanted real romance it had to be a sheikh - if you want to compete with that you have to create an Israeli with equal romance appeal - Moshe Dayan had it for me and my friends in 1967, a wounded man proudly showing of an eye cap a general in a short sleeve shirt showing muscular arms got our jaw bones to drop with admiration but since then? With Abi and Esther Ofarim it was she more than him and soon afterwards I lost interest in the glossies but lo and behold the Prince of Persia has made it through to me - why not David of Galilee or the Golan or Negev - all words which have a magic quality to it just as much as Persia does.


Sylvia said...

I can't confirm that the NIF is into it but that was to be expected.

NIF is now into "conflict management": between Israelis and Palestinians, Ashkenazis and Sephardis, etc. They will be found at every point of friction in Israeli society, co-opting the most controversial causes to inflate and exacerbate them until Israeli society explodes from within. No need for the Iranians. We are doing an excellent job at it ourselves by apologizing for evil and blaming the victims: "they didn't have the Enlightenment" (Yaacov), "they didn't button their shirts" (Steven Plaut), "they called in an NIF lawyer" (David Bedein).

Steven Plaut confused between two different stories. The problem is not of buttons, but of different school uniforms and different level classes - all in the same school - depending on what corner of the earth you come from.

I have been following this story since last year. It has been in the news since the beginning of this academic year.
In fact, this phenomenon has been going on for decades. This kind of discrimination is the very reason the Shas party was founded.

It should be added that the practice has been condemned twenty years ago by the late Rav Shach, an important Haredi halakhic authority for the Ashkenazim.

Anonymous said...


I read Yaacov's remark about the Enlightenment twice first time around and right now again
- I think I understand your anger because the haloeing of the Enlightenment gets at me

- Yaacov, however, seems to be the wrong accusee because in an aside in an earlier post he has said something very sniding even denigrating about the Enlightenment and I've been waiting ever since for him to elaborate

Hopefully he is not too busy to "enlighten" me now.

One of the Enlightenment Praisers who gets on my nerves due to constantly evoking it is Ayaan Hirsi Ali btw. (but that's nothing special all advocates for any isms in the widest sense tend to get on my nerves sooner or later)


PS: I must include a really really cheap shot at NIF and I apologize sincerely but I can't resist

- I "met" Naomi Pass again in an earlier thread and for the second time she complained that she HAD to type early in the morning which made me look at her first name, read it backwards and realize how fitting it was "I moan"

no I won't play with her last name I won't

4infidels said...


As I am sure you can tell, I am full of pride and admiration for what Israel has accomplished in bringing in immigrants from all over the world, integrating them into a modern, democratic state, and forming a healthy and vibrant civil and social society where people of different political, ethnic and religious approaches work out their differences without the internal violence and intense hatred that plagues so much of the world. After 2000 years in the diaspora, that is a huge feat.

However, unlike the British and Germans, Israel is surrounded by enemies who won't rest until the Jewish state is destroyed and too much of the rest of the world hates Jews, and shows not the slightest sympathy for Israel's plight. Britain and Germany made more than their fair share of mistakes on the world stage (to put it mildly) in the 20th century and caused quite a bit of suffering (again trying to be mild here), yet both countries get to move on with their national lives. Israel, in fighting off a genocidal Arab armies in 1948 and 1967, forcibly evicted some Arabs from their homes in the process of defending the Jewish state from destruction, causing some Arabs to become refugees (many more left of their own choosing), and conquered some additional land it believed it needs for self-defense. Yet Israel, to quote Bob Dylan, "is always on trial for just being born."

Given the circumstances I mentioned above, Jews don't have the luxury to take their eye off the ball, so to speak, like the Germans or British can. What I am arguing--using Solway's specific vs general intelligence thesis for support--is that too many of us are playing every game but the one that ensures our survival.

4infidels said...


The Epstein story you cite is a wonderful one, indeed...and says something beautiful about the character of the Jewish people.

Similarly, many of Israel's toughest warriors--Dayan, Begin, Rabin, Sharon, Barak, after audacious careers in military and/or political combat--later became committed to making peace with Israel's enemies, even to the detriment of Israel's security. All of the above made terrible mistakes out of what can probably be described as a noble desire to finish their lives as peacemakers rather than as fighters. This speaks well for Jewish values, but isn't necessarily what puts the Jewish state in the best position for survival.

Anonymous said...

I meant in no way to diminish the danger Israel is in or to compare it with the safety Europeans currently enjoy - if it came across like that I must pay better attention but thoughts like that don't even enter my dreams
- more often than not our behaviour towards Israel makes me want to hide in the deepest hole I can find.

Today for example I had 2 pieces of news which I want to forget as thoroughly as possible.

No. 1
German GSG9 which is a special unit albeit I think police and not military was scheduled to train with their Israeli counterparts and some idiot has cancelled it claiming shortage of money. Once they would have been in Israel no cost would have been incurred...
the other our foreign aid minister was visiting something in the West-Bank accompanied by some church men - that's what his own press release said but our most relied on TV news page had it that he also wanted to get into Gaza and the "terrible" Israelis said no. I assume that he had a whim and wanted to do a one man flotilla off the cuff with the church men running after him and the Israelis didn't let him for most likely very good reasons. His office couldn't say that publicly that he tried to pull a "Chomsky" so somebody from his staff leaked it
- but mind you that's only a paranoid's guess.

Israel has up to now done a darned good job securing a life for its people - no matter how many mistakes they may have made on the way they must have gotten the basics right - but it is time they come up with an improvement on the Prince of Persia - I don't know why but I think a male swoon-inducer could set things back to the enthusiasm I remember from my young years amidst us young ones.

I'm off to bed

4infidels said...


I in no way thought you were trying to diminish the danger Israel faces or imply that Israel's situation can compare to that of Britain or Germany. I am sorry my my comments gave you that impression as that was not my intention.

Anonymous said...


I feel sure you don't assume "evil" of me just as much as I don't of you.

Before I bore you to death with the following: here is a speech by Alain Finkielkraut at Yad Vashem - for once an intellectual who can say "I have no solution to offer" and, especially appreciated by me seems to dislike "Doctors without Borders" (French foreign minister Kouchner one of the know-alls is a founder of the whole movement)

back to my rant:
I have slept a night and maybe I can word my "complaint" about the American vs. the European take a bit better this morning.

Before I continue let me confess that I want the old Americans back, the ones who cruised downtown in their huge flashy cars who probably would have sent anybody suggesting they should feel guilty about their parading their affluence towards us the "occupied" to the looney bin. (the $ was 4,20 DM at the time)
- The ones I met, military and civilian alike, were much friendlier/more polite/more considerate than we tend to be but also kept a healthy disdain for "us" intact (Rumsfeld's ol' Europe was a late spot-on example of that). We in turn considered them culturally way below standard while eagerly enjoying the stuff - all of it ...

Back to the difference:
whenever I venture into the countryside wherever you want, I come across bloody events which invariably make me feel grateful for having been so lucky to hit on living in an eye of the storm period that upheld for so many decades. I don't buy all that crap about Europe finally having become sane - I only hope it keeps up that mirage until my last. On the other hand I assume if I were an American visiting a memorial site I would have to walk a bit more than a kilometer or some 100 metres or just one step before I hit on another site from another war, centuries or decades away from the first and between totally different opponents.
That's why Obama's not getting the "romantics" of Europe makes me so weary of the man. Romantics! blood soaked earth all over is romantic? If you or me would say something like that OK we are entitled to our delusions, but a polltician? - has he not been to Normandy and seen those endless fields of white stones and those memorize only the Americans ...

Somewhere on the net there is an animation showing all the conquests that have hit on Israel over the millenia, which makes more than anything else could, clear that the only constant in that turmoil were Jews.

Alas Israel is in an even more volatile area than my part of the globe is (John Julius Norwich The Middle Sea is a good summary once he gets to about Constantine and a page turner to boot - he taught me how to be weary of numbers from ancient sources;)
- in that sense and only in that sense the danger Israel is in seems normal to me.

Not normal for one instance seems to me the plight of its people, the fear and all that
But remembering the fear and dumb talk of my elders, whenever it became clear that we would be the battle field if there were a nuclear stand-off, makes me realize how common the sometimes contra-productive seeming strategies are (like internal squabbling)... and how useful in coping with it all i.e. get passionate about something via a totally unrelated in-fight.

No tolerance I have though for haughty non-Israeli advisors who claim to know solutions.

I hope your weather is better than mine :-))


zionist juice said...

@ silke

"my apologies for my ignorance and for being such a stickler for details:

I have been told that traditionally Yeshivas are for boys only. If girls can't be Yeshiva students they shouldn't they be subject to the draft or is there an exemption including them or for them especially?"

i do not know how exactly that works, but girls can get out of the army it they say (and 'proof') that they are religious.
i know 200% secular (in israeli terms, anywhere else they would be called atheists) girls who took that way to get out of the army.
on the other hand: you do not have to go to the army if you are a mother. and that applies to a lot of young haredi women.
however: the religious zionist women (of whom there a probably more than of the haredim) they often do civil service instead of army service.

and the religious zionist men probably are the most eager to serve in the army.

Anonymous said...

thanks zionist juice for the explanation

I had assumed that there was a practical way around it, there always seems to be sometimes to the good sometimes to the bad

my question was a bit tongue in cheek but still serious enough as to whether they (government and minority) had ever officially amended this obvious loophole i.e. no yeshiva, no exemption, women no yeshiva, consequently no exemption

- religion btw is one of the reasons via which Germans can get their exemption from the draft ...