Mar 9, 2006

the Zionification of the Haredim

I have noticed a process of what I call the Zionification" of the Haredi public. By this I mean the Haredi public was always viewed as being pretty radical, and has openly been opposed to the State of Israel. In truth, the general haredi public is not against the State, it is just a small, radical element within the haredi public that is against the State. The general haredi public might be against some aspects of the State, but they are not against the State per se. This is clear, as the majority of the Haredi public is represented in Knesset by such Haredi parties as Degel, Aguda (who together form UTJ), Shas, etc. The Haredim participate in the activities and in the goverance of the State.

Aside from this very general position stated above, there is still a certain amount of opposition to the State and its policies. Haredi shuls do not say the Tefilla for the Medina or Tzahal. Haredi men do not (generally) join the army (there are many exceptions, but usually on an individual basis), there is a certain hostility to the ideas of the State, etc. etc.

However, I see a certain process in place. As time goes on, the Haredi public becomes more and more involved in affairs of the State. There is more and more acceptance of the State by the Haredi public and less hostility. More men join the army than ever before (Nahal Haredi is one example of this). The Haredi parties in the past refused to take any position in the government and preferred to just be members of knesset. They said they could not be ministers in irreligious governments. Now, every election we see the Haredi parties getting more and more involved. First they allow themselves to become deputy ministers, then assistants, and finally we are now seeing them become actual ministers. The level of participation has grown.

I have noticed during the current election campaign an interesting phenomenon. The advertising campaign is geared to the general public, for probably the first time. They are taking for granted that Haredim (even though many are disillusioned with UTJ because of their performance and support for Sharon despite the disengagement) will support them, so they have geared their ads to attract a certain percentage of people from the general public that they feel are supportive of a platform based on Jewish values, such as Shabbat observance and Jewish education rather than national issues.

Not only that, but the ads are designed more Zionistically as well. The colors of the ads are blue and white (used to be more black) in the shadesand hues that are generally used by the more Zionistic parties. As well, the wording on the ads are very much connected to Zionism. They state things such as a play on words that says, "Ohavim Israel Yehudi" (loving a Jewish Israel), and a play on words of the national anthem saying we have not lost our hope for shabbat observance, etc.. (od lo avda tikvateinu..).

It is a very stark change from their ways and styles in previous years, and I think it indicates what I call the Zionification of the Haredi public. As time goes on, the haredi public becomes more and more attached to Zionism.

I read an article not too long ago about how someone had appraoched one of the leading gedolim of the Haredi public. he was upset that yeshiva boys "waste" so much time during vacations travelling and hiking around the country. He was looking to persuade the Rabbi to publish a ban on such tiyulim and possibly shorten the length of the vacation times. The Rabbi's response to the request was that it is only natural that the yeshiva boys wish to travel the country. They feel more connected than ever before, because we are now in the third generation. The older generation came over with certain hostilities after facing so much troubles and having to fight hard for certain religious observances. Their children inherited that from them to a certain extent. The young generation of today has already been born here and has forgotten about all those earlier times. They have been born into a new reality. They speak Hebrew naturally and most do not even know Yiddish. This is their country and they feel connected to it in a way that no previous haredi generation ever felt.

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