Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Forgotten Connection

I don't have great memories of Tommy Lapid.  Despite not being the greatest fan of Chareidism out there, I found the idea of Shinui, a political party dedicated to attacking that segment of the Israeli population in the absence of any other identifiable platform profoundly offensive.  I don't doubt that Tommy's son Yair felt much as his father did and, sadly, I can probably name half a dozen legitimate reasons for those feelings but I still don't have great memories.
But Yair Lapid's latest piece in Ynet is one I think should be read by the Chareidi world because it is a cri de couer that trascends the petty religious/political lines that divide our people.  Years ago I visited Israel and spent time with both Chareidi and chiloni friends.  The Chareidim had no shortage of complaints about the chilonim and most of them were quite justified. In turn the chilonim had a lots of complains about the Chareidim and again, they were legitimate.  At the time I didn't want to take a side.  I could see that both sides were right in their criticism of the other but neither side seemed to have an insight into the other's concerns about them.
Lapid looks at it from a different point of view, the eminently practical one.
The silence in the backseat grows deeper. They're not hostile, heaven forbid; that just have nothing to talk about. They can't talk about computers, literature, geography, history, or even the Bible. Yeshivas barely teach any Bible, only Talmud. That doesn’t leave much to talk about. They're just kids, but they're already strangers.
And they don't study math. I studied math and I was terrible at it. Perhaps this is why I fail to figure out the equation I see in the rearview mirror: How exactly will 2.6 children support 6.9 kids?
Twenty percent of students in Israel's schools are haredim; another 20% are retired; another 20% are Arab. I have no problem with any of them. One is allowed to be haredi, or Arab, and certainly a pensioner. However, if at this time already it's unclear how 40% of the country's citizens are able to support the other 60%, can you imagine what will happen here in 10 years?
Make no mistake about it, my smiling friend; I do not wish to live in a world where everything is examined through the economic bottom line. Yet this is hopeless. My children in fact have no future.
This is so because in the past eight years we've seen a 24% decline in the number of students in teacher colleges in the national education system. People don't want to be teachers in our sector; not with the current salaries. Why are the salaries so low? Because in those same eight years, the number of teaching cadets in your sector leapt by 111% - and all of this comes from the same budget. 
You want private education for your students? No problem whatsoever; pay for it. There is no other country in the world – not even one! - where the government funds private education. There is no other country in the world where Education Ministry representatives are not allowed to enter a school whose bills they pay (and fully so – 100% of the bills.) There is no other country in the world where teachers refuse to present their curriculum to the body that pays their salary.
Forget about ideology, and forget about the fact that I fail to understand how you're not bothered by the fact you live at my expense, but I can no longer pay. The money is gone. There's no more left. I don't have enough to give my children, and I don't have enough to give yours. Do you understand how this makes me feel?
And what am I asking of you after all? I want your children to study some more things – again at my expense. Of course, at my expense. I give up on anything that you suspect of being tainted by our values (are they truly so terrible?) so let's stay with the basics: Hebrew, English, math, and computers. Merely the fundamental toolkit that enables a person to turn into a productive citizen who supports himself one of these days.
Let's decide that you and I were already screwed, but at least help me save our children.
A year ago when riots were raging in Meah Shearim over the abused child from the Chareidi family that had been taken into the protection of the State, the Chareidim could not understand why the chiloni authorities were acting the way they were, but I knew.  There is a strong tradition in Judaism for loving our children, something which only grew stronger after the Holocaust when 1 million of them perished.  Over time, the Chareidim have changed.  There is no question that they believe they love their children but I would venture that the chilonim love them even more.  And why not?  Any chiloni parent knows they just might lose that child, chas v'shalom, when their time to do army service comes.  They know how hard it is to make a decent living in Israel and they fret for their future.  They want to see grandchildren living in happiness and peace and the latter has been denied them for 62 years.  When they saw a child being abused, they knew what the right thing was to do.  While the Chareidim worried about circling the wagons and keeping the evil seculars out, even if it meant putting the child into further harm, the chilonim knew what the right thing to do was.
A year ago I recertified for trauma medical care and in my group was a non-religious Israeli doctor.  Near the end of the course we did the requisite triage scenarios in which we are presented with five simultaneous patients.  The idea is to rank the order you would treat them, categorizing them into those that can be saved, those that are not so bad and can wait and those who will probably die and therefore can also wait because the limited resources must go to those who can be saved.
In one scenario one of the patients was a child.  He wasn't that injured according to what we were told and everyone else in our group ranked him third in priority.  Both I and the Israeli doctor ranked him first and when the others looked at us we said, simultaneously and without coordination it: "You always take the child first!"
This is a deep Jewish value.  This is Lapid's neshama shining through in ways he probably doesn't even understand.  This is his tie to our nation and its incredible history, the feelings he has for his children and the rest, even the ones on the other side of the divide.  This is what must unite us more than anything and what we must strive to all come together over if only to keep our people going.
Lapid is right.  The Chareidim are a very successful community and they know it, some of them to the point of overt smugness.  Their political influence and the control they have over defining what an observant Jew is today dwarfs what they were capable of only a generation ago.
But it is all a castle build on sand, in this case the finances of the State of Israel. 
Let's dispel a few myths.  The main reason the Chareidi community in Israel has been so successful in growing its numbers is because the chilonim have grumblingly paid for them to grow.  They have provided a country which values yeshivos and Jewish learning, security from harm and everything that kept them from prospering rapidly in the alte heim.  And they have received no gratitude, only the smug look Lapid describes.
For all our sakes this must change.  Do the Chareidim love their children?  Does condeming a child to a life of poverty show love?  Does forcing them to limit their education so that they cannot function outside the walls of the beis medrash show love?  And more to the point, does it show an understanding of what Judaism is?
Once again, for all our sakes this must change before tragedy and circumstances changes it for us.


Devorah said...

I'm not going to say I disagree with all of your arguments, but I have to play devil's advocate here:

1) Why do you believe that there is no inherent value in a kollel lifestyle? Why do you feel that no one is happy unless they're doctors and lawyers?

2) Why do you believe that charedim aren't trying to gain employment in Israel? Articles in the Jerusalem Post stress that many employers refuse to hire chareidim, despite their application to jobs in every sector. Furthermore, a recent social initiative to provide more jobs for chareidi women has been squashed, indicating that there is a need - a need unfulfilled.

3) Just from discussions from my friends who have made aliyah, finding gainful employment has been unbelievably difficult, if not impossible.

So what if you're wrong? What if the nature of their religious beliefs forces the rest of the chiloni community to automatically assume they aren't employable, and they're lazy, selfish, um, "smug" individuals unworthy of a job? In other words, when the chilonim are largely the ones who have the hiring power, isn't it possible that they're using discriminatory tactics, especially considering the increasingly divisive nature of the two parties?

Tonjia said...

That was a very informative and enlightening article, in my opinion. I appreciate the information you provided, and your veiwpoint.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Welcome back Devorah and nice to see you all feisty again. Also, welcome Tonjia.

1) Why do you believe that there is no inherent value in a kollel lifestyle?

Never said that. I think kollel has tremendous value to the Jewish community but also that the entrace standards should be tougher than Harvard's. Only the next generation of poskim should be getting in. The rest should be sent off to college to get a trade.

2) Why do you believe that charedim aren't trying to gain employment in Israel?

75% of them are unemployed. They have no basic education and their leadership resists any attempts to give them one. They have been indoctrinated by their leaders to believe a life of Torah in poverty is the best option for them. That's why.

> Articles in the Jerusalem Post stress that many employers refuse to hire chareidim,

If I was an employer I would worry that with the Chareidi would come demands. A standard of kashrus in the office even for non-religious workers. A demand for separation of male and female workers, etc. A fear of violence a la Intel if I didn't comply.

3) Just from discussions from my friends who have made aliyah, finding gainful employment has been unbelievably difficult, if not impossible.

I've heard difficult but not impossible.

> So what if you're wrong?

Now you're just being silly.

> isn't it possible that they're using discriminatory tactics, especially considering the increasingly divisive nature of the two parties?

Absolutely. Both parties need to move on this but the Chareidim need to more because of their economically precarious position.

how much can you make up in one article and still be considered serious said...

If the chiloni loves his kids more, why does he stop at 2?

If the chiloni loves his kid more, why have they not figured out a way to stop violence in the schools? I mean without metal detectors.

If the chiloni loves his kid more, how can he withold the most important thing from his child, for his entire life?

THIS IS besides the fact that his facts are simply wrong.

First of all, girls learn math and other secaulr subjects thru high school. Boys learn math, science etc through 8th grade. (I went to a fine high school in America, and I must say that what I learned there, has been completely useless for my life since then. Not college coruses. But high school courses. Most of them worthless)

How are 20% of students retired? Does he mean 20% of the population? He seems to mean children.... So he is basically playing a numbers game with the wrong numbers.

Chareidim do work. This is a straw man arguement. MOST of them go out to work and make parnassa OUTSIDE of kollel.

Where is all this money that the chilonim are giving to the chareidim? Do you mean 150 NIS per month? You do realize this is a pittance. This is also a straw man arguement.

Why does he think there is no money in this country? Another made up fact. This is simply not true.

There is plenty to talk about. You can talk about Shabbos. You can talk about Jewish Holidays. The Chumash is taught in all yeshivos. Maybe they should teach Mishna in secular schools in order to facilitate communication.

Maybe people dont want to be teachers in "your" sector because a teacher is not values, and teaching is not a valued profession. In the Chareidi world it is one of the most valued occupations. We believe that we are passing something down to the next generation. What are you giving over to your next generation? If its important, shouldnt those that give it over be highly valued?

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

I am not expert in ATLS, and I certainly share your sympathies; but I question if a relatively stable child patient always comes first. I'm curious if you ever discussed this with Rav Hecht? You may answer me offline if you're so inclined.


Garnel Ironheart said...

As you know Rav Mordechai, simulations and the real thing are quite different. In the real thing, one would definitely prioritize based on severity and salvageability but when sitting around and discussing there's always leeway for more personal bias.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Dr. Garnel, I'll buy that. My *sentiments* are the same as yours. We all know that we're affected more profoundly when the victim/patient is a child.

Nishma said...

My purpose in commenting was really to respond to the general issue of the post but as Mordechai was wondering about my opinion on prioritization in cases of medical emergencies, I thought I should first just mention that the question is most complex and, given the many variant factors that have to be considered in regard to any decision, is highly dependent on the specific individual circumstances. This is notwithstanding the gemara in Huriyot which seems to give broad black-and-white standars. These standards, though, do seem to indicate that a concern for children over adults is not one of these black-and-white yardsticks. The general call for "women and children first" may not have Torah roots. Nonetheless, our general feelings of empathy for the weaker person (rachamim) which permeates the Jewish soul may be one of the bond that joins us together as occured to Garnel in the class on emergency medicine.

Now to why I originally wished to comment. I wanted to direct people to my article "Adjective and Non-Adjective Jews" found on the Nishma website at
which articulates the need to philosophically understand our differences. You need to know both -- the ways that all Jews are the same and the ways that they are different -- if you wish to find a way for all Jews to interconnect. You cannot deal with a problem by simply denying the underlying reason for its existence.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

SJ said...

Garnel, I'm not letting Shalmo post on my blog anymore. XD

Shalmo said...

Garnel have you ever had the pleasure of totally obliterating every argument your opponent makes, to the point where you just start feeling pity for the guy?

Well lo and behold I just made SJ wet his pants... literally! He won't let me post on his blog anymore because I keep pushing more and more doubts into his new religion. And the answers he provides for the questions, such as Isaiah 53 or Isaiah 7:14 are so pathetic that even David asked SJ to stop being an "imbecile"!

I don't think SJ really has any real conviction for it though, hence why he told me the only reason he converted to Christianity was because he wanted a conservative community to fellowship with.

I get the feeling he seems to have become a christian version of JP!

Garnel Ironheart said...

I think both of you really need to get girlfriends and stop sitting in your parents' basement all day on the computer.

SJ said...

I banned Shalmo because he is very dishonest not because he obliterated my arguments, which he didn't. lol

Case in point, I did not saaaay that conservatism was the only thing that drew me to Christianity, as Shalmo alleges, I actually believe in it now; and I am not the Christian version of JP as I am still largely secular and I believe evolution and the big bang happened just as science says and that God is stil the creator. JP is a young earth creationist.

I have better things to do than be on the computer all day, Garnel -_- and I have better things to do than argue with Shamo. XD