January 26, 2016
A new approach among the Israeli ultra orthodox people.
About 15% of Israel's population practice the ultra orthodox way of life. "Ultra orthodox" is a general title that includes in it different groups, each one follows a leading rabbi known for great wisdom and authority. For the sake of this short article, I'll include the Hasidic Jews as well although, they see themselves as a separated group.
In general, most ultra orthodox who live in Israel do not accept the state of Israel as an entity that is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. To their opinion, the re-gathering of the Jews to Israel should happen miraculously, over a blink of a second and peacefully. They also claim that the Jewish state should live in peace as a theocracy and not as a democracy that Israel is. Since from the very beginning of our existence, Israel does live by the sword, and war is part of our daily life, the state, so they believe, couldn't be according to God's plan.
In other words, they question the very existence of the state by minimizing their interaction with the rest of society. In most cases, they live in neighborhoods that are secluded from the rest of the city. Behind the "walls" of their quarters they try to adhere to the old way of life with only necessary adjustments to the changing times. The main challenge they are facing is how to stop progress from braking through their defenses and influence the young generation.
Many of them don't work as they believe they should spend a lifetime in studying the Talmud. Their dedication and zeal in their studies, so they believe, provides the best defense to the country and its people.
Needless to say, that serving in armed forces which is mandatory to all Jewish Israelis, is excluding the ultra orthodox.
Therefore, there is a group in Israel that grows faster than any other part of society (the average number of children in an orthodox family is 6.7) that makes no contribution to the country's economy as well as its security and safety.
Due to the Israeli political system and the constant necessity to form coalitions in order to make a government, the ultra orthodox parties do whatever they can to be included in those coalitions. Indeed, in most cases the ultra orthodox parties are making the swing vote that without them a coalition can't prevail. There is no way that a government that has in it ultra orthodox parties will think to change a situation that gives them so much finances and political power.
However, recently we are witnessing an amazing change in the ultra orthodox society. Over the last decade, the two main orthodox leaders, rabbis with the highest authority had passed away. These two rabbis where the last line of defense of the orthodox world. They had fought for years to keep the modern world outside the boundaries of the orthodox way of life. Their departure left a big vacuum in leadership that wasn't filled by any of their successors.
The struggle to keep outside their homes and schools internet, smart phones etc. was also a failure and these penetrated the orthodox society exposing the youth to the modern world. Decades of a bitter struggle may come to near end with a partial, some say total, collapse of the ultra orthodox group as an isolated part of Israel's society.
According to some surveys, over 10% of the ultra orthodox had left the faith over the last several years and chose to be fully integrated in the rest of society. They may be the bridge head to be followed by many. It doesn't mean that all these people will abandon their religious convictions. Just like in other parts of the world ultra orthodox Jews work and make a contribution to the society they live in. We expect them to do the same in Israel. Many of them are gifted intellectually and they can make a big contribution to the Israeli economy. Some of those were interviewed recently on Israeli T.V. (Channel 10) and they testify to the fact that there is a whole new approach among the ultra orthodox youth. Some of the rabbis don't teach separation from the rest of society but rather integration including serving in the I.D.F.
That may bring to an end the biggest crisis in Jewish world ever, a crisis that is nearly 200 years old - the battle between Zionism (The national emphasis of the Jewish world) and the orthodox world.
This struggle will have to end without winners and losers but by a silent acceptance of the orthodox world of the existence of Israel as a national home and a Jewish state that they are part of.
The articles in this section are reflecting the Israeli point of view regarding local and regional events.
I'm not a state official and I have no access to inside information. The articles and the opinions I'm expressing are mine alone and are based on observing and knowing the region and country for many years.