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
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
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