Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Kislev 5762 - November 21, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Everyone is Busy -- Including the Anti-Religious

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 fronts.

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 was murdered.

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.

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