Eight economics professors from the Hebrew University signed
a letter suggesting that "nonworking people" should be
"encouraged to migrate" out of Jerusalem. The professors
criticized a general plan, known as the Safdie Plan, for new
housing along the western approaches to Jerusalem, arguing
that it will weaken the city.
This plan is a long-term project of the current mayor, Rabbi
Uri Lupoliansky. He began working on it long before he became
mayor. His aim is to drastically increase the supply of new
housing in Jerusalem, and thereby drive down housing prices
so that young couples do not have to leave for one of the
outlying new building projects. In repeated surveys of those
leaving Jerusalem, the high cost of housing is cited as one
of the main reasons for moving out.
The professorial letter is not, unfortunately, a riposte in
an active and healthy debate about the future of a city that
many, many Jews love, but is more like a desperate wail of
the secular community in talking to itself. The gradual but
steady increase in the religious community in Yerushalayim
has become more and more evident, and the secular community
is leaving in response.
"Jerusalem is Finished!" was the headline of a recent
article. In a passage that is perhaps more characteristic
than the writer intended, it describes a formerly prominent
member of the "Yerushalmi Bohemians" who has become an
alcoholic. Even at 10 in the morning, he already reeks of
alcohol. But he also says that he is leaving. The changes
have penetrated even his perpetual drunken stupor, and
"almost everyone I knew in Yerushalayim has either left or is
planning to leave."
Even Chaim Bar-Am, a correspondent for Kol Ha'Ir who
is known for his balanced view of chareidim, writes, "Today
there is a feeling that any liberal residents still living
here are under a kind of siege, that they are a minority and
they are on the losing side and that they are fast
disappearing." This is clearly what is bothering the
What is their response? Get rid of the chareidim. Do not
build housing for them. Do not plan for them. Pretend they do
not exist and build as if secular Israelis are going to move
in, and then accuse the chareidim of blackmail when they
demand schools for their children instead of the pools and
sports facilities that were built.
Some chareidi breast-beaters like to criticize us for not
doing enough to reach out to secular Israelis. The truth is
that there is no one to reach out to. Generally the secular
community is only willing to talk seriously to itself.
The only chareidim it is willing to talk to are those who fit
their stereotypes: Yes, we are chareidi on the outside but
inside we are pretty much like you. We enjoy fine food and
the latest fashions. Just recently there was a series of
articles in the Jerusalem Post about the "new
chareidim" with ridiculous themes like "The young haredi
generation is taking hitherto unheard of liberties and
getting away with it," applauding the "haredim" who "want to
be part of the culture of consumption."
Not one of the writers bothered to inquire if the people they
were writing about were social leaders who can in any way be
considered as leading a trend. In fact they are not.
Boruch Hashem the trendsetters and the movers and
shakers of the chareidi community are gedolei Yisroel.
The mainstream chareidi community is growing at a much faster
pace than the fringes -- though they are growing too. (A few
percent of a big number is more than a few percent of a small
If the secular newspapers want to write about the future of
the chareidi world they would do better to look in the
botei medrash than in the glatt kosher
hamburger joints. That is where the leadership will remain,
b"H, until Moshiach Tzikdeinu comes to take over.
And if the professors want to contribute to the public debate
about the future of Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh, they would do
well to first recognize and accept the important role that
the Torah community plays in that future. It is a very hard-
working community, but the stress is not on the materialism
of the economists but on the spirituality of the work of
Heaven. That is out job and calling, and if we see to that,
then we are promised that Heaven will take care of us.
A Note About Kollel Hours
Speaking of the hard-working Torah community, we note that
there was a recent discussion about a new requirement that
kollel scholars learn 45 hours a week. The press
presented chareidi objections to this as an issue of how many
hours a week the scholars will learn. In fact that was not
the issue at all. Virtually everyone learns 45 hours a week --
and more. The cynical novelty was that they must learn 45
hours a week in one place. Typically, kollel scholars
travel -- sometimes long distances -- to learn one place
during the day, and then learn someplace else closer to home
at night and on weekends. Together the 45 hour requirement is
no problem. But requiring them to learn in one place has no
legitimate purpose and serves only to cause upheaval in their