What Is The End Game? The Objective of the Kulturkampf in Eretz Yisroel

It seems that as soon as the headlines calm down and the public turns their attention elsewhere, there is sure to be a new chareidi transgression to hit the wheel and make front-page headlines again, just to ensure that the chareidim are yet again painted in a horrible light.

 

In addition, it seems that the campaign always focuses on those who will make loud, vociferous public protests, a sure way to ensure that the public remains “enlightened” about how horrible those embezzling, uncouth chareidim really are.

 

Again, we do not know details of this particular case, but we are just making observations on the of course – coincidental timing of the arrests.

 

A TIMELY CAMPAIGN?

 

Just last Shabbos, I saw a fascinating Torah thought in the name of Rav Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik that vividly sheds light on the seemingly coincidental nature of recent events. Perhaps it is no coincidence that these events are occurring now, during the time when we read the parshiyos of what happened to our ancestors in Egypt.

 

The Rambam, in the laws of teshuvah (chap. 6:32), writes, “Paroh oppressed the Jews living in his land, as the posuk states, ‘Hovoh nischakmoh loCome, let us act wisely [regarding the Bnei Yisroel].’” Why, Rav Soloveitchik asks, wasn’t the primary oppression the fact that Paroh had the Jewish male babies murdered and that he forced the Jewish nation into the most oppressive kind of slave labor? Why does the Rambam only cite the posuk of “Hovoh nischakmoh loCome, let us act wisely”?If the Rambam was explaining the way Paroh oppressed the Bnei Yisroel, shouldn’t the Rambam at least have enumerated the nature of the oppression, not just the idea that he wanted to deal with them wisely because of their high birth rate? Why does the Rambam not openly say how he oppressed them?

 

To answer this question, Rav Soloveitchik quotes his great-grandfather, the Bais Halevi. At the beginning of his commentary on Sefer Shemos, the Bais Halevi asks a powerful question. The land of Egypt was a land of laws. It was a civilized country that ran smoothly. [Just observing the order that Yosef instituted there with regard to food distribution during the famine shows how lawful and orderly the country was.] How, then, was the “new” Paroh able to come in and institute a law that was the ultimate in cruelty – the murder of pure, innocent, little babies? Everyone has mercy on helpless newborns. How, then, could he get away with the institution of such a cruel law? How could he get away with instituting a law that an entire ethnic population should be enslaved and forced to engage in the most difficult, backbreaking labor and be severely beaten and tortured if they did not meet their quotas?

 

IMPLEMENTING A HATE CAMPAIGN

 

The Bais Halevi answers that these terrible decrees were not just made out of the blue one fine day. The first step was when Paroh and his government began slandering the Bnei Yisroel, saying that they hate the medinah of Mitzrayim. They began to talk openly about the high birthrate and then questioned their loyalty to Mitzrayim: “They will become numerous, and if a war will occur, they will join with our enemies and wage war against us” (Shemos 1:10).

 

They also claimed, the Bais Halevi continues, that all of their money was stolen from the medinah of Mitzrayim, “v’otzum mimenu – because their strength and wealth have been derived mimenu, from us.”

 

They kept inciting against the Jews, over and over, until the very atmosphere was poisoned and hateful against the Jews, so much so that the Jews were viewed as if they were animals, not people. That, says the Bais Halevi, is what a hate campaign can accomplish. It can transfer the object of one’s wrath to a nearly sub-human state, when virtually any action perpetrated against them, no matter how cruel, is viewed as legitimate.

 

“Thus,” Rav Dovid expounded, “the primary reason behind the terrible, cruel decrees against Bnei Yisroel was ‘Hovoh nischakmoh loCome, let us act wisely.’ That was the key to the implementation of all the other unspeakable decrees and that is why the Rambam suffices with citing that alone, not the actual decrees themselves.”

 

Rav Dovid concludes by bemoaning the fact that we see this same tactic being utilized by elements in the Israeli government, media and public life.

 

HOVOH NISCHAKMOH APPLIED BY THE SECULAR ISRAELI LEADERSHIP TO CHAREIDIM

 

The lesson to be learned from the above Torah thought is that peddling in hatred at such a level is an extremely dangerous exercise. It strips the humanity from the objects of their wrath. It not only engenders bad feeling, but is designed to engender disgust. Yes, disgust, revulsion, repulsion and, ultimately, loathing of the subject of their hatred.

 

Yair Lapid, the television anchor who broke the Beit Shemesh story and released the tape of the abuse of the eight-year-old girl in that episode (which, incidentally, transpired three weeks prior to his report, leaving one to wonder why he sat on it for three weeks…), has quit his position and will run for parliament. On Sunday, he penned an article in Yediot Achronot, one of the country’s most circulated papers, writing as follows: “Israel has been enslaved for many years by members of a shameless, extortionist, special interest group – some of whom aren’t even Zionist – who take advantage of our twisted political system to steal the money of the working class.”

 

Is that not a Paroh-like tactic? Is he not going in the path of his unlamented father, Tommy Lapid, who perfected the art of Hovoh nischakmoh when he led the rabidly anti-chareidi Shinui party?

 

THE ARMY’S EMERGENCY TACTICS – ANTI-RELIGIOUS COERCION

 

There may be some readers who think that this assessment is overly pessimistic. I pray that they are right, but the clearest sign that pessimism is warranted is the issue of chareidim in the army.

 

Chareidim have been told ad-nauseam that they must integrate into public life. It seems, however, that there is a premeditated campaign not to “integrate” chareidim into Israeli life as they claim is their desire, but rather to exclude them and drive them out. The latest brouhaha is the one surrounding the Israeli army’s insistence that religious soldiers participate in events where there is public singing by women.

 

How many times have we heard that if chareidim would only serve in the army, there would be no claim against them? Over the last few years, the number of chareidim who have joined the army has risen exponentially to unprecedented numbers. Yet, what does the army do? They make it impossible for chareidim to serve by making it religiously untenable. What exact pressing national security emergency calls for forcing chareidim to violate their religious principles by listening to women singing?

 

So is the army the issue or rather the excuse?

 

All that the above accomplishes is to vindicate the longstanding view that army service is also a cultural tool used by the secular leadership to mold its charges into a certain weltanschauung. If the chareidim insist on serving in the army and remaining chareidim, we don’t need them. That is the clear message being sent by the secular Israeli leadership. It is not because you don’t serve in the IDF that we hate you. We hate you because you insist on keeping your religion.

 

Certainly, we are not at the point that they were in Mitzrayim, but the process and approach are eerily similar.

 

Cooler heads must prevail on both sides. Otherwise, we may get there, Heaven forbid.

 

It is our fervent hope that our assessment is wrong. Unfortunately, facts on the ground don’t leave much room for optimism.