Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Shevat 5765 - January 12, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Who is Responsible for Disengagement, and Who is Responsible for Torah?

Joining an Israeli government is never something that United Torah Judaism (UTJ) does with enthusiasm, and this time it is certainly done with an especially heavy heart.

The past two years of the Likud-Shinui-National Religious Party government have left deep misgivings about the true path of Prime Minister Sharon in the issues that are of greatest concern to us. These misgivings were reflected in the unusual arrangement that the rabbonim made, in which the politicians will not take any government positions for three months, during which time they expect to see significant motion towards implementing the provisions of the agreement with UTJ. It will be much easier, practically speaking, to leave the government if insufficient progress has been made, if the politicians are not enjoying the many perks of the senior executive positions. Additionally, it can only help the politicians to insist on the prompt fulfillment of the details of the agreement, if they have the personal incentive of a job awaiting them if they succeed.

Gedolei Yisroel who made the decision were concerned about the dire consequences of not joining. Prime Minister Sharon, Justice Minister Lapid, and Housing Minister Eitam worked together very well for a terrible year of withering whittling away at the government support received by the Torah community. It is no secret that chareidim were singled out for much more severe cutbacks than everyone else. Former Justice Minister Lapid led the effort, but there was no protest from either Sharon or Eitam as the knife sank deeper and deeper into laws and arrangements and funding that had been in place for over 50 years.

The latest and in many ways the greatest threat is the effort of the Ministry of Education to impose its control on chareidi educational institutions, with the backing of the High Court. So far they have hardly talked to us about their plans. If we are inside, this will change significantly, and this is one of our prime demands.

It must not be forgotten that all the decisions and actions that were taken were with the full participation of the representatives of the National Religious Party, who voted for most of them and certainly bear full ministerial responsibility for all. They all sat comfortably in their plush chairs as thousands of religious council workers went unpaid for long months and the delivery of religious services was all fouled up. It did not bother them to see Torah institutions, whose support was proportionately lower to start with, cut back by significantly larger percentages than all other sectors. They did not cheer Tommy Lapid on, but they did not lift a finger or even open a mouth to stop him.

All of what is happening now and is scheduled to take place over the next nine months is the result of government decisions that were passed with their participation. We were not part of it. They resigned from the government reluctantly and only when it was publicly evident that they had absolutely no choice.

Everything was set in motion with their participation. Now it is clear that there are no political blocks to Sharon's disengagement, since part of the Left will join him and the rest will vote with the government from the outside. What will happen in the field is not clear, but it is clear that politically it is a done deed, and it was the National Religious Party that kept the government in power to decide so.

Now they are raining fire and brimstone on us and our leaders.

Even as they protest, what is their risk? If they lose and the 8,000 Gaza residents are uprooted from their homes of thirty years, they will be on the receiving end of billions of shekels — in part taken from the butter of Torah scholars — to reestablish their homes and institutions anew. Some buildings will be destroyed, but all the institutions will be moved.

In contrast, the policies of Shinui had as their declared goal the weakening and worse of Torah in the country, and they had all too much success. In destruction, at least, Shinui proved that it can get things done. Eitam said at the beginning that he had no red lines as far as religious cutbacks are concerned, and in that he showed himself a man of his word.

Although we always said that the alleged closeness of the Right to Jewish tradition is of no more than marginal utility, it does not help our spirits to be able to say that we told you so after two years of being the punching bag of the Likud.

Still, given the circumstances, there is no reason that we should not join to try to block the attacks on our chinuch institutions, to keep them pedagogically independent and to ensure that they at least get the funds that they are fully entitled to. (As we have explained thoroughly and repeatedly in the past, because of the way chareidi funding is organized, we need special favors just to get our basic entitlements.)

Politically, the disengagement is already reality. We have to look beyond that. Our responsibility is Torah life that will continue ad bi'as Goel Tzedek.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.