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One Pie, No Peace

Binyamin Rose

At 10% of the Israeli population, chareidim should not be the make-or-break force behindIsrael’s $200 billion a year economy. Yet in a recent Knesset debate,Israel’s deputy finance minister declared that if chareidim don’t go out to work,Israel’s economy will collapse. To understand this statement and why many Israelis accept it as truth, it is important to understand the mix of fact, fiction, and political posturing that underlies much of the recent confrontational political debate.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

demonstration In the winner-takes-all world of politics, where the spoils belong to the victor and the vanquished must suffice with crumbs, the temptation is always strong to beat the losing side into a corner and pin them there.

WitnessIsrael’s current “chareidi” problem. Leading politicians have presented chareidim as the major source of social, financial, and societal ills, as if the forward momentum ofIsrael’s economy is contingent upon chareidim earning more and learning less.

That view can be a one-dimensional picture — similar to the one propounding that a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the foundation stone for lasting peace in theMiddle East.

Seeking peace, as well as increasing employment and economic prosperity, are indeed values worth pursuing, provided they form part of an underlying national strategy and that the rewards and benefits outweigh the risks and the costs.

Just as Middle East turmoil has shown the Arab-Israeli dispute to be a sideshow in a much larger regional — even global — picture, it might one day become equally clear that the road to prosperity doesn’t run through Meah Shearim Street, as implied by the simplistic attitude and jingoistic approach that drives much of today’s debate over “shivyon b’netel,” or sharing the burden.

Some chareidi forces view the government as an intractable enemy and call for an uncompromising stance — confident that eventually, the enemy will give in or crumble. These forces mainly belong to chareidi groups that have never, and will never reconcile with the State of Israel. Other chareidi groups take an alternative approach, advocating careful negotiations that do not compromise core Torah values.

The chareidi community may be a minority at 10–11% of the population, but in reality, it’s part of a vaster majority that is already sharing in many of the burdens imposed by virtue ofIsrael’s lopsided economic system.


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