The angry resistance to the Israeli governments intentions to draft all its Jewish citizens equally continues to rage out of the Chareidi community. Not a day seems to go by without further insults, accusations and enmity being expressed by their representatives, they who speak in the name of the "Gedolim" who, of course, know the mind of God Himself.
Is it any wonder they're so angry at recent events in Israeli politics? For decades the Chareidi leadership has worked to crate an image of Judaism that fits its ideological agenda. Jews were always Chareidi right from Matan Torah on down. Moshe Rabeinu even wore a shtreiml at Har Sinai. Why wouldn't he? In this world view there was no debate, no variety within the Torah community through the ages, all was monolithic and agreed upon until those nasssssty Reforms and Haskalah types appeared in the 18th century and created new, evil movements that claimed to be Judaism. What's more, it's Chareidi learning that sustains and supports the Jewish people and the land of Israel, nothing else. Its "Gedolim" have "Dass Torah" and, through their special ruach hakodesh, possess infallibility and therefore require unquestioning obedience. And it's always been this way, always!
Yet after the recent election this carefully contructed ideology faced severe problems. Large numbers of religious but non-Chareidi Jews were elected to the Knesset, many of them on the slate of a secular party. What's more they had no intention of giving the usual obedience to the Chareidi leadership's dictates. They had the arrogance to assume that their version of Orthodoxy was also a legitimate expression of Torah behaviour. They had the temerity to insist that Chareidim do not have a God-given (forgive the pun) right to sit and learn all day while receiving funds from the State they enjoy slandering. Jews claiming to be Orthodox and not towing the Chareidi party line? Chutzpah!
As bad as all that was, the response continues to show a lack of moral integrity within certain elements of the Chareidi world. We already saw the Neturei Karta demonstration in which they dressed their children up as concentration camp inmates. We had editorials in Chareidi publications insisting that Israel has simultaneous obligations to pay the Chareidim to sit and learn while not expecting them to serve in the army.
Now we have a major Torah authority in the United States spreading lies about what Naftali Bennett said in support of drafting Chareidim. Not interpreting in a hostile fashion or selectively quoting but outright lying, in the name of Torah-true ethics no less! And if that couldn't be outdown the recent demonstration by the Satmar Chasidim (an oxymoron if you know what the word chasid means) featured competing claims as to whether the Gaon Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlit"a, supported the protest. Some Chareidi blogs prematurely trumpeted the announcement that he did only to discover afterwards that Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, the Rav who made the announcement, hadn't actually heard such from HaRav Kanievsky. To top it all off a written letter was produced which was claimed to be from HaRav Kanievsky in support of the rally and it was shown to be a forgery! So now we have Roshei Yeshivah lying in the name of Gedolei Torah in order to support an ideological position and say it's approved by Daas Torah. And as Rav Slifkin notes, the public propaganda put out by these groups strongly implies that if you don't agree with them you're not a real Jew at all.
It boggles the mind!
Perhaps it's time to stop expressing annoyance at provocations like this. Perhaps it's time to stop simply blogging and editorializing and take a stronger stand. For far too long one of the spot-on criticisms of Modern Orthodoxy and Religious Zionism is that the two groups accord respect and authority to the Chareidim while the opposite takes place in reverse. For far too long we have come to accept that "real" Gedolim and "real" learning mostly occur in the Chareidi community. This is not true and cannot be accepted any longer.
It's time to push back. It's time to declare that the principle that sitting all day and learning while wearing the "right" outfit is not an automatic ticket to being designated as righteous. Both Modern Orthodoxy and Religious Zionism have their own leaders and the followers have to start asking them the hard questions: are they really leaders or just quiet stand-ins for Chareidi authorities?
We are all taught that quiet responses calm bullies and make them go away. We all know from real world experience that the opposite happens. Bullies are only intimidated when challenged by superior force and the will to use it. Are we willing to say that not accepting the legitimacy of the State of Israel is wrong? Are we willing to say that saying tachanun on Iyyar 5 and acting as if nothing important happened in Jewish history on that day is wrong? Are we prepared to stand up and reclaim Jewish history from those who have perverted and revised it to fit their narrow agenda? In short, are we prepared to stand up for the truth and say that those who don't accept it have no place among us no matter how long their peyos?