A hostile takeover of Zionism
By PATRICK MARTIN - THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Added: Sat, 26 Sep 2009 23:00:00 UTC
Thanks to Crapsquire for the link.
Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has come a long way.
No longer are they the inward-looking anti-Zionists who only cared that the government provide them with money for their separate schools, welfare and exemptions from military service. These days, many of the Haredim – the word means âthose who trembleâ in awe of Godâ – have joined with right-wing religious Zionists to become a powerful political force.
They now are equipped to redefine the country's politics and to set a new agenda.
Two decades ago, they were confined mostly to a few neighbourhoods in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Today, they have spread throughout the country, in substantial numbers in several major communities, as well as building completely new towns only for their followers.
One Haredi leader who almost won Jerusalem's mayoralty race last fall, boasts that, within 20 years, the ultra-Orthodox will control the municipal government of every city in the country. And why not? Of the Jewish Israeli children entering primary school for the first time this month, more than 25 per cent are Haredi, and that proportion will keep growing. There are between 600,000 and 700,000 Haredim in Israel, and they average 8.8 children a family.
A decade ago, there were almost no Haredim in the West Bank settlements. Today, the two largest settlements are entirely ultra-Orthodox, and the Haredim are about a third of the almost 300,000 settlers.
Now that they have tightened the rules on who can be a Jew and have forced the public bus company to provide gender-segregated buses in many communities, a discouraged secular community is starting to emigrate.
Nehemia Shtrasler, a business and political columnist for the Haaretz newspaper, wrote this summer that the country is risking destruction. âWe will survive the conflict with the Palestinians and even the nuclear threats from Iran,â he wrote. âBut the increasing rupture between the secular and ultra-Orthodox communities in Israel will be the end of us.â Mr. Shtrasler said: âIt's a struggle between two contradictory worldviews that cannot exist side by side.
Will Israel adhere to its founding secular values or will it become a theocratic Jewish state?
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