It's well known that Chareidim fear the influence that popular culture will have on their children. The allure of the excesses and unbridled freedoms that the secular world offers are very tempting to those who have always lived their lives within normal limits. Although no one keeps statistics, it is understood that there is significant bleeding from the religious world, Chareidi, Dati Leumi and Modern Orthodox in the face of this pressure.
The Chareidi response has been to insulate their communities. There are limits on all forms of popular media. Every so often a campaign to destroy bus shelters with immodest advertisements is launched. Modesty committees work endlessly to ensure that the "high level of spirituality" of the community is untainted by the influences of the outside world.
The non-religious response to this has generally been one of annoyance. One can understand that a secular person, upon being told that his culture is degenerate, might feel a little defensive but the reaction often goes beyond this, as if to imply that Chareidim have no right to shelter their children and themselves from what they see as a pernicious influence, as if the need to know about what goes on in the outside world is necessary for them.
How interesting, then, to read about what the non-religious reaction is when the Chareidim fight back. n In this article, we learn that Chareidi rabbis now go to a school in Petach Tikvah where they interact with the children and encourage them to take mitzvos upon themselves. They provide opportunities for prayer and kosher food and encourage the children along a more Jewish path than they may have been on until then.
As for paying the children to come to lessons, first of all 18 shekels has very little buying power. Secondly, is it any different than paying an allowance to a child to make sure he makes his bed and cleans his room every day? No one ever gets upset about that.
To be sure, there is room for concern. Most of the emphasis seems to be on the worry that the children will drop out of the school, enlist in a Bene Beraq yeshivah and then not do army service after that. All reasonable worries, to be sure.
However, what struck me was the part about the mother crying that her child won't eat in her house anymore because it's not kosher. This is in Israel, for Heaven's sake. To buy non-kosher food actually takes effort there, not like in Golus. But what's more, could this be the real reason why the parents are worried that the children will drop out from their current lifestyles?
Consider the intolerance that's being shown. The child asks if the mother might keep the basic level of kashrus which, in Israel, is not hard to do. The mother responds that she will not, dagnabit, because she's not a fanatic and that's not what she does, completely missing the point that this is something the child now finds important. A small concession and the child remains tied to the parents. No compromise and the child starts to feel a lack of connection. No wonder there's a worry about their becoming frum.
Most of all though, I see this as a tremendous opportunity for the Dati Leumi. If this tactic works for Chareidim, there's no reason motivated, enthusiastic Dali Leumi rabbonim couldn't achieve the same thing, while at the same time eliminating the one major complaint that the parents seem to have, avoidance of army service which is not something the Dati Leumi endorse. We can only hope they note this and try to increase their efforts in this area.