Monday, May 11, 2009

Haredi Alienation

Less than two weeks ago an opinion piece by Eliezer Hayon appeared in Ynet (April 27, 2009) explaining why it is that Hareidim do not observe the national day of mourning for the halelei tzahal (fallen soldiers) nor do they participate in celebrating Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day. Eliezer Hayon has done his best in trying to enlighten the non hareidi community as to why this is the case. However, Hayon falls short – terribly short and in so doing reveals his disdain for “Am Yisrael”. Before I get into Hayon’s lame excuse he needs to be called out; he made a gross and false generalization that hareidim do not observe the Memorial Day or celebrate Independence Day.

To the best of my knowledge there are multitudes of hareidim who do celebrate Independence Day and are visibly upset on Memorial Day, standing at attention for a moment of solidarity and respect when the siren is sounded, visiting the cemetery and marking the day in an appropriate fashion. To lump all hareidim into one convenient basket is a disservice to the hareidi community and diminishes the integrity of the discourse many of us have regarding these very sensitive days.

To illustrate my point the Belzer Rebbe has been known in the past to sneak out of his home on Independence Day and daven with a minyan that says hallel. I do not known if they say hallel with or without a bracha – but that really isn’t the point nor does it matter. There was also speculation at the time that he really wasn’t davening with the minyan; but wanted to witness the special davening. What really matters is his very unique sensitivity and the example he sets for all of us.

His sensitivity to this very special moment in our collective history underscores that statehood is so unique to our history that it ought to be witnessed by all of us; each of us in our own way. His participation even as a passive observer reaffirms the powerfully held belief that there is no place in our community for those who seek to create “piloogim” or to be “poresh” from the clal. We haven’t the political or social luxury to entertain the notion that there is room in our Jewish world for those who seek disharmony or to create a damaging wedge within our community. Yet he does attempt to weave this sinister web as he demonstrates in the following excerpt:
“The hareidim do not celebrate or mark these holidays because they feel no connection to them. Many of them have never served in the army…very few have fallen…so what have they to commemorate? The ultra orthodox have never been involved in the crucial decision of Israel’s history…such as party institutions courts, elections…What have they got to celebrate?”

While Hayon may be right that some hareidim opted out of participating in nation building many other hareidim found their voices within the Knesset and other governmental and state agencies that built Israel. Agudah from the very beginning of statehood participated in the most crucial decisions Israel made. But this is but one example. There are many, many hareidi communities who joined in the building of the state; who feel integrally bound to it; identify with it even if the state doesn’t support their philosophical/religious weltanschauung (hashkafah).

Hayon’s article is disturbing on another level due to its bitter tone. It reminds me of the déclassé, the dispossessed, those marginalized by society; searching but unable to find their place in community. His shrill closing confirms his frusteration:
“So, dear seculars, get off our backs on memorial and Independence Day. We truly have nothing against them. We have no reaction to your grief, and we do not despise your joy, but however – they mean nothing to us”.

How utterly pathetic. How could our suffering mean nothing? How is it possible that even though they may not have served in Tzahal, the loss of chayalim (and civilians due to terror) means nothing to them? Is not Hayon part of the Jewish corpus? What about “kol yisrael arevim zeh lazeh”? Has this no meaning to the likes of Hayon? The most secular chayal would (and does) give his life willingly to protect Hayon and his ilk even though they do not share values and have absolutely no common language. The secular chayal feels a brotherhood; a bond that transcends religious values and will make the ultimate sacrifice if God forbid called upon to do so. Hayon isn’t speaking for any legitimate group of hareidim but for a “rag-tag” group of disgruntled and disenchanted people who happen to bear Jewish last names but in no way share the Jewish ethos or the core values of who we are as a people.