An organized secular struggle

War, any war, usually ends with winners, losers and mainly victims. Painting the other side as the ultimate villain often serves the other side as further proof of your own villainy, in his eyes.

I read Nehemia Shtrasler's two belligerent pieces on the ultra-Orthodox ("End of the Third Temple" and "End of the Third Temple Part II" on July 27 and August 3, respectively) as a completely secular person who sees himself as Jewish in every way, and also Israeli - a non-believer who nevertheless lives according to his beliefs. Shtrasler sees me and other secular people like me as naive for failing to understand that this is a war for home and country.

I cannot refute the facts Shtrasler presents regarding the existence of independent educational streams run by Shas and Agudat Israel, nor on the exemption of yeshiva students from military service, or even on the groups of ultra-Orthodox Jews buying apartments in secular neighborhoods - with the secular inhabitants then moving out. Nor can I argue with the accounts of yeshiva students promising hard-working secular families cheap day care, or tempting secular youths to become religiously observant.

But when one reads Shtrasler's assertions of an organized ultra-Orthodox plot to create a halakhic state here through "money and persuasion, memories, smiles and kind words" are reminiscent of statements made in the past (even from those in the cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has adopted the principle of two states for two peoples) every time a sliver of progress was made toward even examining the option of a possibility for considering goodwill gestures that could eventually increase the chances of trying to achieve peace with the Palestinians.

Those opinions held that the Palestinians were scheming to destroy the State of Israel via "salami tactics," and that every finger Israel offered would become a hand the Palestinians would devour. That position was also the basis for Ehud Barak to conclude as prime minister that there is "no partner" on the Palestinian side.

The Haredim have received most of the money for their goals thanks to their elected representatives' lobbying and the acquiescence of secular politicians - some naive and some less so, with secular democratic priorities different from mine and Shtrasler's. Some money was also received from businesspeople who believe in the path of the Haredim.

Shtrasler suggests achieving equality between the favored (in his view) ultra-Orthodox by applying economic means, of which the chances for success are just as small as those of reaching an "economic peace" with the Palestinians.

It would mean introducing radical changes in many existing economic arrangements with Haredi society, something unachievable by democratic political means, and anyway needing lengthy adjustment periods, so presumably administrative orders will have to be imposed, and so forth.

I'm in favor of waging a struggle for a secular worldview by persuading secular politicians (for whom Shtrasler and I voted) and donors to offer the general public the same day-care conditions the ultra-Orthodox are able to offer using state funds.

A struggle over values must be waged for a secular home, for example on the public broadcasting channel, which should be able to offer secular youth something different from what is offered on commercial channels. These youth should be offered non-religious temptation that can compete with what the ultra-Orthodox are presenting.

War, any war, usually ends with winners, losers and mainly victims. Painting the other side as the ultimate villain often serves the other side as further proof of your own villainy, in his eyes.

I too would prefer that my interlocutors accept all my positions, and I personally would be open to negotiation on three states for three peoples (one of them the ultra-Orthodox), but that's impractical.

It is not in secular people's interest to declare wars, but to negotiate peace, within the democratic limitations they have placed upon themselves, and achieve coexistence through mutual respect with the Haredim, the Arab states and the Palestinians.