As a young medical officer newly inducted into the IDF back in 1980, barely speaking Hebrew, I will forever have ingrained in my memory the day that as part of Officers course, we were taken on a walking tour of Mea Shar'im on a beautiful spring day. Upon entering the neighborhood, as we were given background information on the history of the Haredi and Chasidic dynasties that lived in the area, we were greeted with shouts of Nazi, Nazi. At first I didn't realize that these words were aimed at us, I thought maybe due to my limited Hebrew, I misunderstood what was being shouted, so I asked my fellow officers innocently and naively, are they shouting at us? This was my first encounter with the Haredi community in Israel.
Since that fateful day, I have had many additional encounters with members of the Haredi community. One memory that stands out was in 2001, as a member of a Health Ministry planning commission, I was sent with a medical team to meet with the Mayor and city council of B'nai Barak, so as to assess the cities preparedness for a possible repeat of a potential missile attack by Saddam Hussein. The level of ignorance coupled with the lack of interest by the city council in conveying basic information to the Haredi public in B'nai Barak left me bewildered. It dawned on me that not only on a personal level, but even on a collective and community level, the Haredi community saw themselves totally detached from the existential threats that hovered over our heads and felt no need to participate in efforts to defend the State of Israel.
It seemed then and even more so today that what is behind the Haredi struggle against being drafted and serving in the Army is simply that they don't want to endanger themselves by serving in an Army whose mission is to protect the Zionist state. Even on Memorial Day as the sirens wail, when the whole nation stands motionless for a moment of silence as if we are all angels, many in the Haredi community go about their business as if six wars, over 22, 000 soldiers killed in duty, over 10,000 bereaved families of fallen soldiers, have absolutely no meaning to this community. That is Israel; the Zionist state is not their concern and not their problem. Is it because they feel superior to the rest of the nation and therefore appropriate in their minds that the non-religious and Zionist religious youth sacrifice themselves on their behalf?
How is it that a Haredi political party such as Degel HaTorah has not grown in leaps and bounds in terms of mandates, or that the Sephardic political party Shas has lost over 5 Knesset seats in recent years, even though the Haredi community multiplies with 8-10 children per family? Why have they maintained the same number of seats more or less in the Knesset in recent years? Is being left out of the new government that will be sworn in, in the coming days indicative of a major upheaval in the Haredi's relationship with the Zionist State of Israel? Has the Haredi community reached a point in which they can no longer sustain an isolationist anti-Zionist culture? Is the Haredi community in Israel self-destructing? Any Haredi that visits America usually undergoes severe culture shock. Not so much because of what he sees outside of Shul, but because of what he observes in Shul. An American Haredi can study many hours of Gemara in a Yeshiva or Kollel during a typical work week, he can live a Haredi lifestyle, while at the same time he can also go to college to earn a degree and make a living and support his family. He thus can maintain a high standard of living and not be any less Haredi than his poor and ignorant counterpart in Mea Sha'rim.
In recent weeks it has became evident that the emerging political constellation that resulted from the recent election will most likely keep the Haredi Parties out of the government leading to an unprecedented expression of rage and hatred towards the Dati-Leumi public culminating in a call for a settlement boycott. Radio commentators on the Haredi Kol Baramah radio station have said that it was time for the Haredi community toliberate itself from the settler movement, with which it has a "fake" relationship. “We need to think twice about supporting those who hate us. It’s about time we stop being suckers,” said Avi Bloom a Kol Baramah commentator. A senior columnist for the Hamodia newspaper, Yisrael Hershkowitz, wrote, "The settlements will pay the price for the costly arrogance” of Bennett. Hershkowitz said companies located in Jewish settlements in the West Bank or companies owned by settlers could go out of business if boycotted by Haredim.
It seems that as the ultra-Orthodox Haredi parties prepare for life in opposition, journalists who represent this community have launched all-out war against Religious Zionism and the Dati-Leumi public.
Let's not be surprised if in the coming months, the Haredi parties having been partners to right-wing governments for the past 30 years will jump ship and make cahoots with left wing political parties who want nothing more than to drive a wedge between Netanyahu and his former coalition partners, the Haredi parties. They also by the way want to dismantle the Zionist Jewish State of Israel, let's keep that in mind.