The Nasty Ways of the 'White Tribe'

Why do a small group of secular Ashkenazi Jews rush to the defense of the Haredim?

Nehemia Shtrasler
Nehemia Shtrasler
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Nehemia Shtrasler
Nehemia Shtrasler

The latest derogatory term is “white tribe,” which refers to an amorphous group comprising Jews of Ashkenazi origin who live in north Tel Aviv, who deeply despise the Haredim, in a primal, racist way, despite the innocence of ultra-Orthodox Jews. After all, the Haredim are good, moderate, tolerant and loving people, whose only desire is to live quietly near secular Jews without imposing anything on them. It’s the “white tribe” that comes and causes an unnecessary commotion, trying to exclude and humiliate the Haredim just because they are black.

The people who believe this nonsense are a few whites who also live in north Tel Aviv, but who do not see themselves as part of the white race. They are above it. They are the good guys, the enlightened ones; the ones who love Haredim – not those vile racists.

These good and enlightened people naturally believe in equal rights for minorities, but you won’t hear a word of criticism of the Haredim on this minor issue. So it’s important to make them aware of a halakhic ruling by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who instructed religious doctors not to treat Arabs or other non-Jews who come to the hospital on Shabbat. Apparently a Jewish doctor is not meant to violate the Sabbath to save a non-Jew, while he is permitted to do so to save a Jew. Isn’t this incitement to kill non-Jews?

Maybe we should continue and tell them about equality for women in the Haredi community. Say, about the woman who went to Rabbi Yosef and asked for permission to sue her brothers in state court, because they took all their parents’ estate and are not prepared to give her one shekel. Yosef ruled that she must submit and shut up, because “anyone who goes to a [secular] court curses, slanders and raises a hand against the Torah of Moses,” and the Torah of Moses states that only sons inherit, though if the spirit moves them they are permitted to bequeath a “gift” to their sister, who is in any case scatterbrained and disqualified as a witness.

These same good and enlightened whites submissively accept the Haredi demand to continue evading army service. They don’t even understand that this is a fundamental issue of the source of authority. The Haredim believe that their rabbis are the sole source of authority, not the state, and the rabbis oppose the draft because they wish to continue to maintain control over their oppressed flock.

The good and enlightened are even prepared to see the Haredim continue on without working. They want the state to keep investing billions in the independent educational systems run by Shas and United Torah Judaism, knowing that the boys who study there will never learn math, English, geography or civics. This is so they will never be able to earn a decent living and emerge from under the rabbis’ thumbs. Only a suicidal state would agree to have a large and growing sector live off allowances and grants, without learning core subjects, serving in the military or making a living.

Those same good and enlightened folk accept the absurdity of a secular student who is studying electronics or biology paying NIS 10,000-NIS 25,000 a year in tuition, while a married man in a Haredi kollel not only doesn’t pay tuition, but gets some NIS 6,000 a year from the state, in cash and in kind. This consists of NIS 850 as a kollel stipend, NIS 1,040 income support, and NIS 960 in child allowances (assuming he has four children). He also gets housing subsidies of NIS 1,500 a month, National Insurance and health insurance benefits worth some NIS 500 a month, subsidized child care worth NIS 1,000 a month and a discount on municipal taxes of NIS 200 a month.

The truth is, it’s hard to know whether this is self-deprecation or arrogance on the part of the good and enlightened. It seems to me that it’s actually a condescending attitude toward people who they see as lesser beings, who don’t understand what life’s all about, so that we must accept their strange ways and even help them. This is an unacceptable and aggravating approach.

We must look the Haredim straight in the eyes, as total equals. They are just like us. That’s why we must demand from them exactly what we demand from ourselves and our children: To bear the defense, economic and civic burdens that we bear.

This is the just and humane approach that must be taken by the “white tribe,” which is neither a tribe nor white, but is made up of every man and woman, from every ethnic group, who fulfills their obligations to the state and to society.

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