Five Minutes Before the Explosion

Ben-Gurion agreed to the establishment of the national religious educational stream, and he succumbed to the rabbis' pressure to allow 400 ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students not to serve in the IDF. This is threatening our very existence.

On January 17 a group of scientists that convened in London moved the Doomsday Clock two minutes ahead. It was set at five minutes before midnight. In this way the scientists tried to warn of an ecological and nuclear disaster that will destroy the Earth. Here, in Israel, the bomb is also ticking, but from within. This means the education system and the army. We, too, are five minutes before the explosion, but we prefer to ignore it.

Ten days ago the government approved a law proposed by Minister Without Portfolio Meshulam Nahari (Shas) that obligates local authorities to budget for the "recognized but unofficial" schools just as they budget for state schools. However, as the resources of the local authorities are limited, this decision delivers a death blow to state education, which in any case is limping, and transfers millions of shekels from it to schools that do not recognize the basic values of the State of Israel, are not Zionist, do not recognize democracy, scorn secular education and are not enthusiastic about the working life.

Recognized but unofficial education consists for the most part of the independent education networks of the ultra-Orthodox parties Agudat Yisrael and Degel Hatorah and Ma'ayan Hahinukh Hatorani, which is run by Shas. There, students receive a non-Zionist education. There, the schools do not agree to teach the "core studies" fully, and teach young people not to serve in the Israel Defense Forces and not to go out to work but to remain dependent forever on the cynical providers for the community. Another part of recognized but unofficial education consists of institutions of the Islamic movement, on the one hand, and of extremist Jewish religious schools on the other. As far as they are concerned, Agudat Yisrael and Shas compromise too much. There, they don't even dream of teaching the "core studies." At the Islamic institutions they teach in Arabic, and at the Jewish institutions in Yiddish. They do not consent to supervision by the state but demand all forthcoming budgets. Only rights, without any obligations.

The proposed law that the government has backed reinforces this dangerous trend. Even now 45 percent of first-graders are not Zionist: 23 percent are ultra-Orthodox and 22 percent are Arabs. And if they also receive larger budgets at the expense of the state schools, their strength will increase, and their status will strengthen, and when they reach the ballot box 12 years from now, they will be the majority and the state will change beyond recognition.

The picture is similar with respect to conscription in the Israel Defense Forces. In the wake of the failure of the Tal Law, which has led to the ridiculous conscription of a mere 353 ultra-Orthodox soldiers during the past four years, the Personnel Directorate head, Major General Elazar Stern, is now proposing that every 18-year-old ultra-Orthodox youngster be given the freedom to choose. If he wants to, he will be conscripted into the army, and if he wants to, he will go out to work or he will turn to studies. Everything in accordance with how he chooses. Stern belives the good conditions granted by the IDF will attract ultra-Orthodox youngsters to the army. It is more reasonable to assume they will prefer work or studies, because why burn up three years in the army and then serve in the reserves and run the risk of being wounded or killed? And why should a minority be given conditions that the majority is not offered?

At a cabinet meeting about two months ago, Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit (the only one who speaks out courageously on this issue) said the ultra-Orthodox are not Zionists. Communications Minister Ariel Attias was outraged: "Am I not a Zionist?" he demanded. And Sheetrit asked: "Do your sons serve in the IDF?" "No," replied Attias. "Mine do," said Sheetrit.

At the establishment of the state, David Ben-Gurion relinquished two principles. He agreed, in the wake of pressure from the National Religious Party, to the establishment of the national religious educational stream, and he succumbed to the rabbis' pressure to allow 400 ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students not to serve in the IDF "in order to keep the embers burning." Over the years, from these concessions, two monsters have grown - and they are threatening our very existence. And great danger requires radical solutions: to cancel all the streams in education. No more national religious, no more ultra-Orthodox and no more independent. All of the students in Israel must be educated solely in state schools. Anyone who wants to can add values of his own privately in the afternoons or on weekends.

This approach must also be applied to service in the IDF: One conscription for everyone, with no exceptions. The self-abasement in face of the ultra-Orthodox must end. This is also the only moral answer to the situation that has developed.

These two rectifications are crucial for us. Only they will distance the danger of the explosion. Only they will turn back our Doomsday Clock.