Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight


A Window into the Charedi World | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
Labor's Electoral Merchandise

One thing that is certain about the upcoming months is that they will not be pleasant for the chareidi community.

Ehud Barak, leader of the Labor Party, currently the largest party in Israel (it is larger than Netanyahu's Likud), has chosen to make us one of the main themes of his campaign. His main slogan, to appear in 300 choice locations on billboards around the country, is: "One Israel -- for all, and not for the extremists." In case anyone is not clear just who is meant by extremists, another billboard proclaims: "Places of work before money for yeshivos."

His advisors, both American and home-grown, explain that Barak will present himself as the champion of four principles: "One Israel, education before settlements, places of work before yeshivos and separation from the Palestinians that will bring about permanent security."

The Am Chofshi Leftist-oriented organization, fanatically anti-religious, has gone several steps further. "This year 22 soldiers were killed in Lebanon, but not one of the chareidi draft dodgers was killed in the tent of Torah. You fight for us [in the army] and we will fight for you. Let's separate religion from money . . . More than 3,000 elderly Israelis are waiting for a bed in an old age home, and there are none. Yet fictitious chareidi organizations will steal tens of millions of shekalim from the public purse."

On the face of it, this is an absurd approach. The chareidi parties do not campaign to win over non-religious voters. Their efforts are directed entirely to insuring that all chareidim actually cast their ballots, and that no chareidi votes for outside candidates, that is, for candidates from non-religious parties. Our campaigns are directed inward, to our own communities, which should not bring us into conflict with secular parties.

Generally political candidates who hope to become leaders of a country -- as distinct from parties that are frankly after a particular segment, such as Meretz -- choose campaign themes that are broad and vague enough to be acceptable to virtually the entire population. They then try to influence as much of the country as possible to vote for them.

Barak's slogans explicitly reject at least 20% of the country: the settlers and the chareidim. There are many more who are at least sympathetic to one or both of these groups, and will be repelled rather than attracted by these principles.

It is impossible to go on from these slogans to become a leader of all the people. Rather, it is clear that Barak and his advisors have concluded that the people of Israel are unbridgeably divided and the best approach for them is to sharpen the divisions and make sure that they capture as many of their own voters as they can.

It is very odd that yeshivos are perceived to be so removed from the consensus in the Jewish State. Though it is logically possible to argue (wrongly) that it is no longer a necessary part of Jewish tradition, it is ridiculous to assert that a yeshiva has no part in Jewish tradition. You can say that the gemora is anachronistic (though it is not) but you cannot say that it is not Jewish.

Although we believe that Barak is wrong in thinking that there is such a consensus, we can still draw conclusions simply from the fact that a major party has made its platform a fight against financial and political support of yeshivas.

What the Labor party's slick American advisors are trying to do is nothing less than trying to sell antisemitism to Jews. Not long ago, they would have found virtually no customers, but even today, they will surely not be able to build a majority with such merchandise.

We can, however, say with deep conviction: "May the best side win!"

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