One of the most important qualities a person can have is the ability to engage in honest introspection. The talent for being able to look at one's flaws instead of automatically ignoring or justifying them is tremendously valuable, albeit often quite rare in people and communities. A few of the recent writings by the Cross Currents gang seem to demonstrate that amongst the PR section of the Chareidi community, introspection is a word missing from the dictionary.
First there was this piece by Rav Adlerstein responding to the recent Religious Zionist psak against selling or renting to Arabs in Israel. In an otherwise thoughtful article he adds this interesting paragraph:
R. Aharon Leib Steinman shlit’a took out much of the sting of the document because he is so high on the halachic ladder. He criticized the psak as needlessly provocative, and asked how such a document would be received if it appeared in another part of the world, banning rentals to Jews. (Many were puzzled by his assertion that haredi neighborhoods were different. His reasoning, I believe, is fairly apparent. Only haredim insist on living in closed enclaves, free of all other influences – whether from Jews or non-Jews. People who buy in those neighborhoods invest in the closed nature of their home as part of its value. Introducing any non-haredi element reduces the market value of the property. This is a legitimate, actionable monetary claim. Non-haredim do not live in such enclaves, and cannot make us therefore of the same argument.)
Get it? It's wrong to be racist when it comes to renting or selling to folks in your neighbourhood... unless you're Chareidi in which case it's necessary and justifiable. Other folks should be happy with a multi-cultural neighbourhood but it is accordance with the laws of the universe for Chareidim to do the opposite and be praised for it. To paraphrase his understanding of Rav Steinman, only haredim have a right to be racist and exclusive while calling it a virtue. No one else does.
Am I the only person to shake his head at such idiotic presumptuousness?
Unfortunately, Rav Yonasan Rosenblum added his own two bits to this discourse with his recent piece on how world events affect Chareidim. Normally I enjoy his writing even when I find myself disagreeing with him. I also understand that the crowd he's writing for on some occasions is the Chareidi community which means I'm reading his arguments and positions as an outsider. However this latest article also showed a lack of introspection he'd hitherto seemed to avoid:
The recent turmoil in Egypt is one example. On its face, the shifting reins of power in Egypt would seem to have no direct connection to the chareidi community, other than to increase the peril to chareidi residents of Israel (as for every other Israeli citizen). But that is not necessarily true. For the last two decades at least, Israeli military planning has been predicated on the assumption that Israel faces no danger of a confrontation with the most populous and best-armed Arab state, i.e., Egypt. It has neither had to deploy a large number of troops against the threat of a possible attack from Egypt, via the Sinai, nor position large quantities of weapons in the south of the country. But that may change along with the regime in Egypt. Already Iran is exploiting the uncertainty in Egypt to stir up Sinai Beduins. And there are indications of an increase in arms smuggling into Gaza.
Over that same period of time, the chareidi community in Israel has been fairly confident that no government – even one without chareidim in the coalition – would push a full-scale confrontation with the chareidi community over army service because the IDF's manpower needs did not require chareidi soldiers. But just because that was once true does not mean it will remain so forever. Even before the ouster of Mubarak, and the attendant doubts over the future of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, it was possible to conceive of a situation in which Israeli soldiers were simultaneously fighting ground operations in three theatres – Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip, and possibly the West Bank as well. The instability in Egypt dramatically exacerbates that situation, and thereby increases the potential for a major confrontation over the issue of army service...
But with the disappearance of a clear left-right chasm between the two largest secular parties, the possibility that they will one day form a coalition between themselves grows. If that were to happen, chareidi political power would decline precipitously. There would be no chairmanships of the Knesset budget committee, for instance. The two largest parties might even find it in their mutual interests to form a temporary coalition prior to elections in order to "make seder (order)." (Such a theoretical possibility always existed, but the former ideological chasms made it unlikely ever to happen.)
That "seder" would certainly involve electoral reform, with single-member districts replacing proportional representation, at least in part. Such an electoral change would be popular with the public on any number of good government grounds, and offer the additional "benefit," in the eyes of the non-chareidi public, of lessening the number of chareidi representatives in the Knesset.
Nor would "making seder" necessarily stop there. It could include drastic cuts in state funding to schools that do not teach the mandated "core curriculum." Even if such cuts were directed only at the high school-age yeshivos (yeshivos ketanos in the Israeli parlance), they would wreak havoc in the chareidi community. Even today, most yeshivos ketanos, especially those without their own buildings, struggle financially. A large percentage of families are not able to pay anything close to full tuition. Without government funding, the survival of many yeshivos ketanos would become precarious.
Even without Knesset involvement, the danger of the Supreme Court mandating the severance of government funding to non-complying schools looms large. (The Court has already done so in theory, without yet fully enforcing its edicts in practice.)
Again, in this article Rav Rosenblum is clearly writing for his constituency and ignoring the greater implications of some of the events he's describing. For the insular Chareidim, trying to explain the true meaning of the changes going on the countries around Israel is a waste of time. "How does it affect me" is the only question these folks ask and it's the question he's trying to answer. However, the answers themselves reek of selfishness.
Egypt is changing governments and might become a military threat to Israel and the Chareidi question is: How do we continue to avoid military service? As if the Egyptians, if they were to invade, would selectively avoid Chareidi neighbourhoods because they exempted themselves from serving the State?
Poverty is spreading at an alarming rate throughout the Chareidi community. People are suffering, leaving the fold to survive and the official question is: How do we continue to avoid educating our children so they can be economically self-sufficient?
In summary: how do they continue to live off the largesse of the State while minimizing or avoiding any attempt to get them to contribute to that largesse?
If these are the questions the Chareidi community is asking, if they really believe that the rules of common decency that they preach don't actually apply to them, then a heavy dose of introspection would seem to be called for, as soon as possible.