We chareidim are still engulfed in our mourning. The
Americans are preoccupied with their war and with their
economy. Israeli politicians are busy fighting terror and
fending off American political pressure. And the anti-
religious are meanwhile zealously attacking us on several
Within a week of the passing of Maran HaRav Shach zt"l
the Bnei Brak City Council passed a unanimous resolution
renaming part of Herzl Street to HaRav Shach Street.
Apparently a normal reaction of a local council to
memorialize one of its most prominent and beloved citizens
who contributed to forming the social and communal character
of the city for over half a century.
One would think that the citizens of Bnei Brak are entitled
to determine the names of their streets. And it is common to
rename public streets and institutions -- just recall how
many things were renamed for the late Yitzhak Rabin after he
Yet the critics of religious Jewry were beside themselves in
outrage over the "slight" to the originator of the idea of a
Jewish state. They spoke, they wrote and they even
demonstrated in Bnei Brak. The impression that one gets is
that this is a trumped-up issue to bash chareidim.
More serious is the effort by the Ministry of Health to force
the Israeli HMOs ("sick funds") to stop offering special
services to the chareidi community. In consideration of their
special needs, some of them offer free transportation to the
clinics, special hours that are convenient for
avreichim and specially staffed Shabbos clinics.
Other communities are also given special services where they
are coherent enough to make their needs obvious. Some Arab
communities also had free transportation offers to clinics,
for example. Other communities benefit from special services
to deal with health problems that do not afflict the
religious population, B'H. When all is said, it is
hard not to feel it as a personal attack.
In the Knesset, the last two months of the calendar year
focus on the budget. The most public issue that affects the
chareidi community is the pressure to repeal all the "private
laws" that are said to cost so much money. One of the most
prominent of these is the "Law of Large Families" which
restores the Bituach Leumi monthly family payments to the
real level that they were seven years ago. Though there is
nothing in the provisions of the law that are directed
specifically towards chareidim, it is no secret that
chareidim have large families and therefore are very
interested in the law. The law was in fact shepherded through
the Knesset by UTJ's Rabbi Halpert.
According to the Ministry of Finance, the law costs half-a-
billion shekels (a little more than $100 million) annually.
Not an insignificant sum, but still less than half a percent
of the Israeli budget. The Finance Ministry fought the law
very publicly, and it has become one of the banner issues for
both sides in the Knesset. In these days of belt-tightening,
it is unlikely to survive unscathed, if at all.
A more important issue is one that has no immediate financial
effect on the budget, but may be more important to the
chareidi community in the long run. The government promised
to include its support for basic services for the chareidi
community, mainly education, in the regular budget -- just
like its support for the education of the rest of Israel's
citizens. This would not cost the State an extra penny. But
it will remove a source of annual chareidi-bashing material
for the anti-religious elements.