Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Hysterical Fear or Accurate Foreshadowing

For as long as I can remember, the demographics of the Israeli population has been a concern to folks who follow trends and want to determine which direction Israeli society is heading in.
Once upon a time it was the Arabs that were going to take over society.  This fear has eased somewhat since the Oslo Discords, in about the only way they helped Israel, created a sort of Palestinian citizenship which means the vast majority of Arabs living in Yesha are unlikely to show up in Israel tomorrow demanding citizenship there.  As for the Arab minority in Israel, despite prodigious fecundity it seems to remain at 20% of the total population over time.
So the real threat nowadays, according to the pundits, is the Chareidi community.  Chareidim, with a proclivity for children that makes Arab women look barren, are exploding in terms of population size.  Given that the average secular Israeli has about 2 kids or less, this means that some time in the next few decades the Chareidi population will reach a percentage of the population that gives them enough votes to control the Knesset and install a Chareidi government.
Personally, I don't think this will happen for a long time for a couple of reasons.  One, the fear of growth of the Chareidi population is probably overstated.  As too many blogs out there are happy to point out the tide of baalei teshuvah is more than amply matched by the opposite current creating chozrei b'she'elah.  What's more, keep in mind that Chareidim are just as Jewish as the rest of us.  The Chareidi community is not some monolithic entity with a tight oligarchal committee of elders controlled their every move.  It is just as fractious as general Jewish society and with size will come more division.  There are already three Chareidi parties in the Knesset and over time it's not hard to believe that the United Torah Judaism merge of the former Chasidic and Misnagdic parties will once again split.  Yes, one might imagine a Chareidi coalition one day but more likely there will be enough infighting to prevent a workable one from arising.
Nevertheless we must consider that one day there will be a Chareidi government.  The next question, then, is: what would such a government look like?  Over on his blog, Professor Marc Shapiro, normally a calm writer, waves very eloquently in an alarmist fashion over the possibility.
Now I would certainly not presume to debate with some of Prof. Shapiro's points.  A future Chareidi government would take its orders from "the Gedolim" and those "Gedolim" are carefully isolated from their own societies and routinely fed misinformation by their handlers who then take their pronouncements (assuming the handlers didn't make those us on their own anyway) and declare them to be "Daas Torah" for the masses.
To begin with, if haredim were ever the majority, funding for non-Orthodox (and perhaps even Religious Zionist/Modern Orthodox) schools would be halted. There would be massive decreases of funding for universities, with the humanities taking the biggest cuts, and money for the arts, culture, and institutions connected to Zionism would dry up. Freedom of the press would be abolished, artistic freedoms would be curbed, and organ transplants would almost entirely vanish. Public Shabbat observance and separate-sex public transportation would likely be required. There would also be restrictions on what forms of public entertainment and media are permissible and on public roles for women. Of course, women’s sporting events would no longer be televised and men would not be permitted to attend them. 
But despite their massive dislike for democracy and their refusal to grant legitimacy in any area other than the Chareidi one they would be unlikely to be successful in many of these endeavors.  For one thing, Israel has a very strong and independent Supreme Court that makes it its business to ensure the State is as secular as possible.  The morning after a Chareidi government came into being, that Supreme Court would still be there.  Any attempts to alter laws that involved infringing on the secular rights already taken as givens in Israel today would be shot down.  Unlike Iran and Saudi Arabia, the ruling "Gedolim" do not also control the justices and they would certainly fight back against attempts to turn Israel into a theologically fascist state.
What's more, Chareidi might be fanatic but they are not stupid.  They would well realize that an attempt to kill the "golden goose" that Israel has become for them would result in the destruction, chas v'shalom, not only of Israel but of the majority of their community.  After all, what kind of shape will Israel be in as hundreds of thousands of chilonim and their money flee the country to avoid living in a kosher Iran?
All in all it's okay to wonder "Hey what would things be like if those guys too over" and the shudder at the thought but I don't think it's going to happen in our lifetimes or the next.


SAL said...

As far as is discernable from this blog, you live in Canada, and do not seem to have any immediate plans to relocate to Israel. Thus, I am fascinated by your unending punditry and concern regarding internal Israeli politics and social affairs. You are, no doubt, Canada's biggest Zionist. You must be quite proud.

MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

I may live in Canada but I am a Jew first and foremost. Therefore what happens in Israel is always of importance to me.

SAL said...


However, were you to actually make the sacrifice to move and live here, you would likely find it not so easy to be such an absolutist. When you have to live here and craft a functional society, you actually have to deal with the grey areas you are able to conveniently ignore from 6000 miles away.

Like I said, it's quite easy to be such a fire breathing zionist in Canada.

I tired of that phony feeling. That's why I brought my family here.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

I think you missed the point of my post.
Prof. Shapiro seems really worried about a takeover of Israeli society by the Chareidim and that the state will subsequently come to resemble Saudi Arabia. My point is that I don't think this will happen although I agree that if they were in charge they just might try such narishkeit.

Anonymous said...


Maybe you could write some posts on cracking the code of living successfully in eretz? Like a public service – an occasional encouragement to people not to be afraid to live there; that there is a way. We mainly hear how people just cannot make it work.


YS said...

2 of the reasons you say you think the fears of a Charedi 'takeover' are overblown are:
1 - Their inability to act together.
2 - The Israel Supreme Court

To which I would say:

1 - They've actually done a pretty good job of acting together over the last decade or so. The manner in which Shas has aligned itself with UTJ over the draft issue is a chilling example.
2 - You're aware that the Knesset has quite a bit of clout over the appointments to the Supreme Court, right? And they could change the law to give themselves full control over this.

Y. Ben-David said...

(1) Running Israel is the farthest thing from the minds of the Haredi leadership. They are primarily concerned about their own community. They are nothing like the Islamic parties in the Arab countries who claim that those countries will not advance unless the society at large adopts Islamic values. The Haredim have no plan on how Israel is to be run "according to Halacha". They don't think about it and they don't have any anticipation of it happening.

(2) To Anonymous-
We just celebrated our 26th anniversary of our aliyah from Southern California. Almost all the people we know who came at the same time as us, and those who followed are making it successfully here in Israel. We are identified with the National Religious-Religious Zionist camp and live in a mixed religious-secular city near Tel Aviv. We have never thought of going back for one moment.
Yes, you have to work hard, but we see the children of our group studying in yeshiva and then university and making it in good professions.
It is much easier to make it in Israel today than it was 3 decades ago.....the internet, the convertibility of the shekel, the stability of the Israeli economy have greatly improved things.
The important things that are needed are
(1) A profession that Israel needs
in order to be able to make a living.
(2) A willingness to interact with Israelis and not to wall oneself-off socially.
(3) A desire and the will-power to learn to speak Hebrew at least passably.

More and more North Americans are coming and succeeding here and the break-downh of the old, corrupt, stagnant MAPAI-socialist system means that people can get ahead without "proteksia" so talent and hard-work are more rewarded today than they were in the bad-old-days.

The Jewish future is in Israel. America is in decline and it will drag down American Jewry with it. Now is the time to seriously contemplate the significance of these facts.

Michael Sedley said...

I agree with you that the article you quoted is fear-mongering, and nothing more.

Contrary to the prejudice in the media, the Charedi community is not a monolithic bloc, and do not agree with each other on most of the issues in the article.

Many of the issues raised (e.g., single-sex public transportation) is supported by a tiny minority of Charedim, even if the Charedim were to be a majority in the government, there is no way that these issues would become national policy.

Anonymous said...

We should want to be zoche that Mashiach comes and takes over. As with Queen Esther, everyone will think he's one of them. The politicians can then go back to productive activity in learning, business, etc.

Anonymous said...

America is in decline and Israel will go down with it.

The modern state of Israel is a millstone around the necks of the Jewish people. Most people who were born there would rather have been born anywhere else.

The secularists built a state that is doomed for failure. The problem is that its failures affect innocent Jews who are not Zionists but who are targets for terror thanks to the state and its follies.

Y. Ben-David said...

Last Anonymous-
You stated:
The modern state of Israel is a millstone around the necks of the Jewish people. Most people who were born there would rather have been born anywhere else.

Could you provide some evidence for your last assertion? Public opinion polls show the vast majority of Israeli BOTH JEWISH AND ARAB are quite content with their lives, more than Americans are.