Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Adar I 5763 - February 12, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Don't Cut Out Torah

Nobody in Eretz Yisroel must decide which is the worst crisis facing Israel, whether the economy or the Palestinian terror. Both are so pressing that they cannot be ignored, even while the looming threats associated with the American war against Iraq are drawing all the attention.

The relative quiet that we have experienced in Israel in the past months is not a reflection of Palestinian desires. There are minor attacks all the time and the reason that there have been no major attacks is due to the determined effort of the Israeli security forces who have, bechasdei Shomayim, been able to stop dozens of attacks. The steady pressure kept up by all the security forces -- the police, the army and the Shin Bet -- has, with clear siyata deShmaya, been able to keep the terror down to a level at which it becomes evident to the Palestinians that their horrible terror will not succeed. Though far from a solution to the painful problem which will continue for the foreseeable future (though that is hopefully not a long time), these efforts must continue and be strengthened.

If the terror problem is more acute in Israel than in most of the world (where it is still quite serious), the economic challenge is not apparently worse in Israel than everywhere else. America, Europe, Japan, Asia -- all are not happy with their economic affairs. The only major country that is reportedly doing well is China which, while it is growing rapidly, still has a long way to go until it reaches the level of a typical Western country.

George Bush's America feels that it can grandly spend its way to renewed growth and prosperity, by budgeting a huge deficit and passing tax cuts at the same time. It is also running a very large deficit in its trade with the rest of the world. Because of its size and status as the dominant power in the world, American can get away with this -- at least in the short run.

Israel, of course, cannot and it knows it. Faced with a significant defense burden and slowing tax income, it must slash its spending in many areas.

The Torah-haters like to point their fingers at the religious community, saying that they want to "reorient the priorities" of the State budget away from support of the religious community.

This is all demagoguery. The religious community does not receive an outsized share of government funds, and the lion's share of what it is accused of receiving is through general budgetary items such as support for education which is a universal entitlement. In the operating budget the religious child receives moderately less than every other child, and in the capital budget much less -- so there is not much room to cut.

The items that are unique to the religious community such as support for kollelim do not add up to that much. The government, after recent cuts, only pays about $100 per avreich per month, all of which cannot add up to more than about $30 million a year -- an insignificant sum in a budget of $50 billion.

To cut these vital areas seems to us like trying to put out a bonfire with kerosene. The Torah is the essence and core of our existence. The ultimate reality of the world -- and especially of Eretz Yisroel -- is the relationship that we maintain with our Father in Heaven, and Torah is the critical component of that.

We will only aggravate our problems if we weaken our Torah. The solution to our military and economic problems is to strengthen Torah.

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