Recently I was in a park in Modiin. Fortunately they let us in. In the past, families from other towns who appear Chareidi were barred from entry. We went to the lake where our children were excited to see the ducks. As we got closer, we saw that instead of the ducks playing happily, they were actually at war. One of the ducks, a black brute was biting the neck of, and pulling the feathers out of his fellow white duck. It then proceeded to climb on top of the poor victim, and pin him down mercilessly. Finally he released his grip and the ducks went on their way. I commented to my family, half joking and half serious, that before the flood, the madreiga of the animals were affected by the madreiga of the people. Because in Israel everyone is currently tearing each other apart, even the animals are also tearing each other apart.
As our overworked Knesset members take their 3 month vacation (far longer that the Yeshivas that they so look down upon), they have left society with many rifts and even more fragmented than before. Let us examine some of the key areas of discontent affecting us this summer. Lapid and co. told the country about the great budget deficit that had to be rectified. Child benefits had to be slashed. Then they heroically announced they weren’t cutting them as much, but the reality is there are still great cuts. Let us take note that levels of child benefit in this country are minimal compared to other developed countries. In most of Europe, a family would receive around 60% to 100% more the benefit. Even before the cut, the levels were minimal, and now they are even more pathetic. Once upon a time, Israel was a relatively cheap country to live in. Nowadays, the prices of goods and service are on par with, and in many cases more than the equivalent overseas. Yet wages are minimal, such that the average family needs 2 jobs to survive. So there was a little assistance in the form of child benefit that gave recognition to the idea that raising children involves certain expenses. Some will ask why should a government pay child benefit altogether. One point is that the role of government is not just to take taxes, but even to give back and redistribute to citizens in the form of services and a certain level of social welfare to protect the weakest in society. Therefore giving child benefit isn’t meant to be a chareidi specific matter, it’s just what most civilized societies do for the betterment of its citizens.
This cut is supposed to save 2 billion NIS to the economy, which sounds like a large sum. Contrast this with a report on the state of the ports in Israel which concluded that structural inefficiency costs Israel 5 billion NIS a year, making the savings in child benefits seem like a drop in the ocean. Such monopolies as these (along with the infamous Electric Company) along with endless government wastage, inefficiency, favors to preferred businessmen are where the blame for the budget deficit really lay. Yet, the budget of cowards, instead of combating the real wastage, targets the needy. Lapid who campaigned to make the lot of the average citizen better, is directly party to making it worse, invoking a series of tax raises, thus reducing the amount of income the Israeli takes home even more. Yet average citizens are easy targets, large families don’t have the time to protest. We know the results of the protests of 2 years ago, prices are even higher! Then, Lapid says after all that, the cut in child allowance isn’t actually to do with the budget deficit, its an ideological matter, designed to hit large Chareidi families. Could you imagine in another country if a leader said ‘We are going to cut child allowances to get at the Indians who have large families’. There would be a need for resignations and apologies. Yet in Israel, this is acceptable. Then the government comes up with a childish idea, to pay students to fight bad publicity on the Internet. For that, there is money. What will come of it? Do I need to say it? Nothing.
Then there is the issue of drafting Yeshiva students. Amazingly, in the course of the deliberations, the Attorney General is trying to add a clause saying that after 2020, the arrangement will make no difference between all 18 year olds, there will be no exemptions. Whilst this clause is unlikely to make it into the final version, there is something interesting about this. Thus the real intentions are being revealed. Let me point out to those who still need convincing, that what we are going through now is nothing less than a full blown war against those who learn Torah. Some say, ‘but there will be exemptions for 1800 people!’ However this is political spin. Firstly who can decide who should and shouldn’t learn, it is impossible to decide, and was probably only suggested to make more friction in the chareidi world. Secondly, everyone knows that Torah is not only for the elite, those considered to have the greatest brains. The point is that Torah is for everyone, claimed lack of brains is not an excuse. Effort is what counts. Torah is about learning with yiras Shomayim and the improvement on the person. Sometimes a person needs time before he comes to fruition. Some of the greatest gedolim were not considered the greatest brains. A Lapid would not have let them learn. Yet with application they became what they became and the rest is history.
Besides all this, you have the farcical situation of the army canceling operations for lack of funding, but being asked to absorb thousands of new candidates. And then some do turn up, and they are sent away as the army isn’t ready for them, and doesn’t know what even to do with them. Instead of making brave decisions to revamp the army and make it effective and cost efficient by transforming into a professional army, in the name of ‘sharing the burden’ nonsense, they are making the problem worse for the army, making themselves look foolish.
Another problem is Naftali Bennett. With his awful grin, he is causing all sorts of trouble. His candidate losing the Chief Rabbi election, he is now trying to spread his tentacles into all sorts of things. In Beit Shemesh he first announces a candidate and then back stabs her by turning to another from outside his party, openly violating agreements. Ironically, as Bennett gives a hand to helping the Lapid cause, the EU has decided to turn its wrath to his cause, the settlements. It is interesting that Bennett threatened a collation crisis on issues of settlements, but on the matter of Yeshivas he is virtually silent. At best he claims he tried to minimize the damage to Yeshivos, but essentially they give power to Lapid and his agenda. When it comes to fighting Chareidim, even natural opposites are happy to join forces. All this tells me that if Torah were to be eradicated from Israel, Bennett would still be happy living with his settlements. For Torah Jews, if it were impossible to learn Torah in Israel R’l, we would have to settle elsewhere.
A Rav once related that someone in his congregation once said to him ‘I love your speeches but we are not on the same page. You speak about Torah and mitzvos, I want to hear about Eretz Yisroel.’
The Rav told him that indeed they have the same values, the difference is the order. ‘I love Hashem, I love the Torah of Hashem, I love the people of Hashem, and I love the land of Hashem. You love the same four things, just in a different order. You love the land, you love the people, then the G-d of Israel, and then the Torah.’ The ikkar of the Jewish people is Torah, that’s the way to be close to Hashem. Indeed the best place for that is in Eretz Yisroel, but we’ve been in golus for many years and survived. We are being challenged with new nisayonos on many different levels. May we merit help from Heaven to banish the evil decrees that threaten our people, and there should be an end to the persecution from others who claim to be Jews.
Aaron Yechezkel is an avreich in a Jerusalem kollel.
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.
DO YOU HAVE AN OPINION YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE POSTED ON YWN? SEND IT TO US FOR REVIEW.
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)