Peres to declare reconciliation between secular and ultra-Orthodox
President Shimon Peres intends to call for a reconciliation between the ultra-Orthodox community and secular Israelis on Independence Day, the ultra-Orthodox weekly Mishpacha reported in the edition to be published today.
"There is no Israeliness without Judaism," Peres told Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau and Migdal Haemek Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman, the publication reported.
The president blasted the secular public's attitude toward religious and ultra-Orthodox people.
"I totally reject the scorn (displayed) toward the religious and ultra-Orthodox Jew, whether he wears a capote (a long, black jacket) or a four-fringed garment. There is no place for condescension, derision or mockery. Such behavior heightens the barriers between us," Peres said.
Peres opened his campaign for reconciliation between the secular and the ultra-Orthodox three weeks ago during a visit to the Weizmann Institute.
"The secular public must stop treating the ultra-Orthodox community with contempt," he said at the time.
He told the two rabbis, both Israel Prize laureates for Lifetime Achievement and Exceptional Contribution to the Nation, that he intends to raise the issue of secular-ultra-Orthodox relations in his address to the nation on Independence Day eve.
Peres told the rabbis that he would address "first secular people, before complaining about the ultra-Orthodox and others. I'll say: Let's examine ourselves before preaching to others. After all, we're the majority. This is no way to behave, with disrespect, with lack of restraint. I hope this voice will be heard in all the communities. This issue must become part of the public discourse."
"Our fathers, who revived the Jewish settlement in Israel, acted in two ways. First physical national revival, for we were a nation without land. Then spiritual revival - reviving Jewish culture and heritage, which I see as no less important than the physical revival," Peres said.
The conversation was reported by Yossi Elitov.
Peres said he hoped the second part of the plan - the spiritual revival - would begin soon.
"Let's return to our roots," he said.
"There is no dispute that Israeli youth must learn the Torah. You cannot be an Israeli without being Jewish. Why should we give up the great treasure of Jewish literature? What have our Jewish fathers left us? Neither houses nor pyramids. What is the people of the book? A nation that has books, so why shouldn't this people study them?" Peres said.
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