Tel Aviv Mayor Huldai Declares War on Chareidi Chinuch

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After chareidi chinuch had a day in court last week in the Emanuel Beis Yaakov case, the subject of chareidi education is once again in the news in Eretz Yisrael, this time targeted in a hateful attack from none other than Ron Huldai, the mayor of Tel Aviv.

The mayor stated that the chareidi chinuch places the future of Israeli society in jeopardy, calling for a “rebellion” from the secular silent majority since they are compelled to act towards preserving democracy in Israel. Huldai insists the secularists have “a right and a duty to intervene towards preserving values we hold dear”. 

He stressed that mathematics and other subjects are not taught in chareidi schools, only Torah, resulting in a system which “promotes ignorance” which must compel the state to cease all funding of schools and intervene.

Ironically, the mayor was addressing a higher education forum in Tel Aviv, a forum that one might expect exhibits a measure of tolerance and open-mindedness. About 1,000 professionals were participating, educators from Israel and abroad, representing the secular, modern Orthodox, chareidi and Arab sectors. The mayor also had harsh words for the Arab sector, but focused his anger and rage against the chareidim.

Responding to the scathing attacks at the forum was Rabbi Moshe Gafne, who stated there is an ongoing competition as to who can bash the chareidim more. He explained that in yeshivas the students are “taught about Rabbi Yehuda Halevy and not about Chaim Nachman Bialik”. Gafne warned that the remarks are particularly serious coming from an elected official, who is “promoting rebellion and anarchy” in his battle against a chareidi lifestyle.

Rabbi Gafne questioned why others find this bothersome, adding that students in the state education simply are ignorant to Jewish values and tradition.

The discussion was probing the possibility of finding a common ground of basic studies that would be included in the curriculum of all students, but little or no progress was made on this front. The so-called ‘core subjects’ as they are designated today by the Ministry of Education include mathematics, English, history, literature, geography, Tanach (Bible) and Hebrew. While most state-funded schools adhere to this dictate regarding the inclusion of core subjects in the curriculum, some do not. Schools that do not generally receive reduced funding. Huldai is outraged over the fact that chareidi schools “do as they please” and they do not teach these subjects, yet they enjoy state funding.

In the same breath he spoke about how “radical Islamic schools may incite against the state and enjoy funding and the chareidi schools do as they please”. He castigated the chareidi system for failing to teach democracy and its values, and as a result, the students are not inculcated with the values and skills to become valuable citizens and as a result, become a burden on the taxpayer.

Huldai questioned why this is the only system in which the private schools are funded by the public but the schools are not compelled to adhere to the minimal education standard. He warned that this population, the chareidim, are growing at a fast pace and the state is cultivating ignorance and the result will place the “political and financial strength” of the nation in jeopardy.

Speaking to Galei Tzahal (Army Radio) host Razi Barkai on Monday morning, the mayor stated “I have nothing against chareidim or chareidi education. I respect every person and his choices. I am opposed to the private education”.

He went on to elaborate, supporting one’s right to private education, but he objects to state funding for such education. “There are a number of basic that the state must insist upon if funding an education system”.

Huldai denied calling for a “rebellion” but he calls on the non-frum, the chilonim to awaken and vote for the right person and even among the secular population, to stop making demands for private education and other demands which are not suitable to our society.

Gafne on the other hand questioned why one who has studied in yeshiva is barred from other studies since he hasn’t completed matriculation exams, explaining in other Western countries, after yeshiva studies one may begin studying engineering if one wishes, but not in Israel. He questioned why in Israel, yeshiva studies are not recognized by the state as legitimate education.

Shas officials stated that the mayor simply prefers children of foreigners over Jewish children and the attack under the guise of educational standards is nothing more than simple racism.

MK (Shas) Nissim Ze’ev suggested that Huldai concern himself with running his city, which unfortunately has become a crime haven, and leave education to the ministry.

Speaking to Israel Radio on Monday afternoon, Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, who is a former minister of education acknowledged that those who study gemara in chareidi schools do indeed develop their minds, but called it “a major waste of their abilities and time” since they do not undertake studies in the core subjects as well. Of course the matter of IDF service was also discussed, and how the chareidim fall short of serving the country in this area as well.

Deputy Minister of Education R’ Meir Porush followed Rubinstein, speaking with Israel Radio, stating that there are core subjects that are taught and other subjects are not taught. He explained there is a difference between the males and females, a system of study in line with the instructions of rabbonim.

PORUSH: I do not wish to get into the actual curriculum. What is painful is the fact that such comments are aired. I cannot get into this as I would like, but as deputy minister of education, I cannot voice my thoughts on the radio.

IR: What’s your secret? After all, you, the chareidim are a minority but always seem to get what you seek.

PORUSH: This is simply not true. In actuality, the chareidim receive far less than they seek or need, and less than other sectors.

When asked to comment on Huldai’s remarks, Porush added that it is obvious that he is opposed to Huldai’s statements, leveling an attack against the community which he represents, but he stated he prefers not to engage in a verbal tit-for-tat. R’ Porush suggested that before leveling an attack against chareidi education, he look into the many problematic schools in his very city.

Prominent journalist and TV host Yair Lapid, the son of the late Tommy (Yosef) Lapid, who was the founder of the anti-religious Shinui Party, used the media forum to air his views as well. Lapid recently announced he intentions to enter the political arena in the hope of revitalizing his later father’s pro-secular anti-Torah agenda.

Other prominent journalists in Maariv and Yediot have also joined in, including Nachum Barnea and Ben Caspit, both opting to attack chareidim in their columns.

In his column in the weekend Yediot Achronot, Lapid lashed out against chareidim and their lifestyle, questioning why they are not taught English. “Why are they permitted to continue with Yiddish which is a mixture of German and Hebrew but English is not taught. Rashi spoke French and the Rambam spoke Hebrew. The Talmud is written in Aramaic” he wrote.

He continued to attack their lack of education, the inability of chareidim to discuss computers, literature, geography, history and even Tanach. “In yeshivas they barely open Tanach, just gemara”.

The attacks being leveled against chareidi education and the community at large have been increasing over recent weeks. Unquestionably, the decision by State Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein not to press charges against radio host Gabi Gazit, who used the airwaves to launch his attack against chareidim, calling them “leeches and worms” among other things, as was reported by YWN-Israel.

Even more disturbing were the remarks made by Hebrew University’s Dr. Avi Simchon, who has been appointed as the new advisor to Finance Minister Dr. Yuval Shteinitz. As he enters such a senior level government post, he begins by airing his disdain for the “large families”, warning how the chareidi families having six, seven and even ten children are bringing “catastrophe” to the nation, blaming this sector for placing too much a financial burden on the state.

Yair Lapid’s recent announcement, his planned revitalization of Shinui was met with overwhelming support, and unfortunately, it reflects the viewpoint of a sizable sector of Israeli society, willing to cast their vote in favor of an anti-Jewish platform.

Tommy Lapid ran on his anti-chareidi pro-secularist agenda, earning 15 seats in the 16th Knesset and becoming the nation’s minister of justice.

Attending the 5th annual conference were Huldai, Education Minister Gideon Saar, former President of the High Court Prof. Aaron Barak, former IDF Chief of Personnel Branch Major-General (reserves) Elazar Stern, and R’ Gafne.

Almost two weeks after the Gazit event, the radio host used the airwaves to explain that he was misunderstood, stating his comments were directed at a small fanatical element in the chareidi community, and not to the entire community, only those who burn flags and refuse to stand for the memorial siren.

“I come from a chareidi home too. My father was a chazzan and he taught me never to trample another’s beliefs”. He explained he did not in any way intend to scoff the chareidi community, just the fanatic element that burns flags.

He signed off by saying, “Perhaps one day I will apologize for my remarks, not today, not today, not today”. 

(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)


10 COMMENTS

  1. “explaining in other Western countries, after yeshiva studies one may begin studying engineering if one wishes, but not in Israel”.
    Rav Gafni, this is not correct unless the Yeshiva student has a BA from his yeshiva (close to 95% of yeshiva students finish a highschool diploma which includes math, science, english and history) and then completes the necessary prerequisites for admittance.

    “”He questioned why in Israel, yeshiva studies are not recognized by the state as legitimate education””.- IN America they are RECOGNIZED since the complete the high school requirement abet minimal, yet they are completed whether in class or through exams.

  2. שם רשעים ירקב, במהרה
    “The values they hold dear” is just to run a world of ‘Hefker’ without having to see the neigbor’s child going to a religious school.

    The religous schools are way way better in every aspect than the secular schools, even without getting into the danger of violence, and they know it…

  3. The Mayor does not have a problem with the “chareidi chinuch” system. He is rightfully against the government giving money to institutions which are private schools and dont provide a well rounded education.

    “I don’t have anything against haredi education. I only have a problem with private education.” -Ron Huldai

  4. He is not hateful. He is just hurt by seeing Chareidim not joining in the army, never bother going to work, and always finding time to protest wildly in the streets.
    Yes, because he is attending a forum for open mindness, he is criticising chareidim whom he percieves as being extemely close minded by throwing rocks at those who don’t agree to their believes.

  5. This article is sensationalist journalism at its worst. The forum where the comments were made was supposed to be an open discussion of issues with the education system, and each party was supposed to speak openly – as Mayor Huldai did. Agree or not with his comments, they were in no way, shape, or form a “declaration of war” on Chareidi education.

    The responses from the Chareidi community as well did not address the (legitimate) points raised by Mr. Huldai. The response that “Chareidim know about Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, and not [Chaim Nachman] Bialik”, while pithy, is not on point (and may not even be true – how many Chareidim have read the poetry of Rav Yehuda Halevi?). The main point made by the Mayor was that Chareidim do not learn the areas required by Israeli law, are therefore not properly prepared for the job market, and Chareidi education should therefore not be funded by the government.

    Let’s look at the subjects required by the Israeli government, and discuss why they might be problematic from the Chareidi perspective. They are:

    Mathematics – Not sure why this would be a problem. It’s practically impossible to understand certain parts of Eruvin without understanding geometry. And no, just because Pythagoras was a Greek does not make this forbidden “Chochmas Yevonis”.

    English – Learning English is critical to be successful in business in the modern world, particularly in a country like Israel whose home market is so limited. The fear may be that by exposing children to English, the control over available information, including inappropriate materials, is reduced. How to address this issue is something that needs to be determined.

    History – This presents a major issue, since the standard Israeli history books are not acceptable by the Chareidi community – both because of their glorification of non-Frum individuals, and because of the fact that some of the facts presented seem to contradict the Chareidi worldview of “we have Torah on our side, so we will always prevail”. I know that my childrens’ elementary school avoids this issue by only teaching Jewish history up to the 1940’s, and not Israeli history. This is also something that has to be addressed.

    Literature – The standard Israeli sylabus contains literature that is quite problematic. As an alternative, why _not_ teach things like the poetry of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi?

    Geography – Should be no issue

    Tanach (Bible) – Should be no issue. As a matter of fact, this is an area that Chareidim have historically not focused on, and as Torah, should be learned.

    Hebrew – This should be fine as well – is there any reason Chareidim should not speak and write properly? The quality of Chareidi writing, from a purely technical perspective, is generally quite low.

    In looking at the areas, it therefore appears that the majority should not be problematic to Chareidim, and those that are, can be addressed. The Frum/Yeshivish community in the US has had to deal with these issues for the past half-century plus and does teach the required core subjects. While Israel is obviously different, communities in Chutz La’aretz should therefore be able to provide valueable advice and insight. So, in answer to Rabbi Gafni’s disingenuous question as to why Chareidi diplomas are acceptable in CHU”L but not in Israel – perhaps you should look at what’s tought?

    Sometimes, not everyone is out to get you.

    an Israeli Yid

  6. come on. where is our honesty. isn’t what he is saying true? let’s do something about it before it’s too late. let’s stop covering it up by inciting hate that Hashem yishmor is already beginning to lead to our downfall.

  7. If the Charedim don’t want to be told what to teach, the solution is simple: don’t take one red cent from the government. This is not a difficult concept.

  8. The real issue is that charedei education is determined by Rabbonim and we will NEVER EVER ALLOW anyone (even if they are correct, accurate and benefical) to be involved in that arena.

    In America you have to satisfy the Federal or State regulations in order to award diploma and degrees to the students, while receiving monies for text books, busing, lunch programs etc. You can NOT have your cake and eat it too.

  9. Personally, I would prefer they replaced Literature with Science and taught basic physics, biology and the like.

    Other than that I am having a hard time arguing with Mayor. I think this is planned ignorance and it is a terrible shame considering our need for well paying jobs.