Opinion

The Left and the Elites Are Playing With Fire

File photo: An ultra-Orthodox man walks by the rabbinical court in Jerusalem.
Olivier Fitoussi

“Israel’s ultra-Orthodox are playing with fire,” warned Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn, adding that “if the wind ever changes and Israel faces a serious economic or security crisis, the ultra-Orthodox (Haredim) will be the most comfortable target for denial of rights, budget cuts and threats to their separatist way of life.” (Haaretz, May 8). This is a quasi-anti-Semitic statement about a key segment of Israeli society.

“What will happen when the skies darken? Who will be the scapegoats then? The Haredim look like the easiest targets,” Benn added. It’s interesting to consider what would have happened had the New York Times written a similar sentence about “the Jews.” A worldwide storm would have erupted, and rightly so.

“When the burden increases, and the coffers empty, a more charismatic politician than [Yair] Lapid is liable to persuade the public that the solution to its distress is to violently suppress the Haredim, throw draft dodgers into prison and use armed soldiers to impose the study of core subjects,” Haaretz’s editor continued his threats. Had such remarks been uttered by a far-right politician in Austria, international protests and diplomatic denunciations would have been heard throughout Europe. But in Israel, it’s okay to say anything at all about the ultra-Orthodox.

>> READ MORE: Israel's ultra-Orthodox are playing with fire | Aluf Benn

Columnist Nehemia Shtrasler also engages in incitement. One day we’ll see MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) lighting a torch at the annual Independence Day ceremony, he wrote, “in honor of the cowardly ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers, who bravely send secular and religious Zionist Jews out to die for them, and for the glory of the State of Israel” (Haaretz in Hebrew, May 10). Shtrasler ignores the fact that quite a few ultra-Orthodox people have been asked to light torches in recognition of their volunteer work.

But more importantly, I’m sorry to disappoint you, Benn and Shtrasler. Sometimes the threat is aimed at the ultra-Orthodox, sometimes at MK Bezalel Smotrich (Union of Right-Wing Parties), sometimes at Culture Minister Miri Regev, and we won’t even mention Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Yet this effort to intimidate everyone who thinks and acts differently than you do is destined to fail.

At the moment of truth, neither religious Zionists nor traditional Jews will betray the ultra-Orthodox community; rather, they will stand beside it. They, too, understand that the old elites are determined to destroy the right and the ultra-Orthodox, and therefore, we must work together rather than allowing them to divide us.

Let it go; you’ve remembered too late. You’ve lost your deterrent power. The Israeli reality has changed. We won the election, and MKs Yaakov Litzman, Arye Dery and Moshe Gafni have the right to reap the fruits for their voters. That is real democracy, not the dictatorship you seek to create.

And if we’re talking about a revolt, it’s actually coming from exactly the opposite direction, and it’s already at its height. It’s a revolt by millions of traditional, religious, ultra-Orthodox and rightist Jews who have had it with the people who have controlled all of Israel’s power centers – the legal system, academia and the army – throughout the state’s 71 years of existence.

It’s not the ultra-Orthodox who are playing with fire, but the left and the old elites, who aren’t reading the map of the new Israel correctly and refuse to accept the altered situation. Today’s Israel admires Torah study, cherishes Torah scholars and respects those who proudly take upon themselves the symbols of the Jewish religion.