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)