Forward Thinking

Lapid to Haredim: 'You Won'

By Gal Beckerman

A fascinating speech that Yair Lapid delivered last year has emerged. It offers a glimpse into his views on religion and secularity in Israel, and specifically on the role the Haredim play and will continue to play in Israeli society.

For anyone interested in understanding what philosophy Lapid will be bringing to his role in either government or opposition to it, this is worth a look.

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Orthodox Divisions Over Extremism, Responsibility

By J.J. Goldberg

Two very important articles in Haaretz this week that shed light on the violent extremism emerging from the two main streams of Israeli Orthodoxy.

One, a feature article in today’s weekend section by senior correspondent Yair Ettinger, focuses on the growing furor over Haredi extremism, assaults on women’s rights and the violence in the Haredi sections of Bet Shemesh. He cites a open letter published this week by the top leader of the “Lithuanian” (non-Hasidic Haredi) wing, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, urging Haredim to resist vocational education, military service and other efforts to integrate them into general society. Ettinger’s main point, though, is that Elyashiv’s letter, and the violent extremism of a few hundred fanatics, reflect the desperation of the losing side as pragmatism and economics drive more Haredim toward integration in the job market and the army.

Equally important is this news article from Wednesday’s paper, reporting that police have “discovered” the right-wing militants who attacked the Ephraim army base on the West Bank December 12 were mostly students at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem, brought up to the base by chartered bus following careful surveillance of the base by activist leaders. This punches a big hole in all the hand-wringing and whining by settler leaders and their apologists (see here, here and here) about the rioters being a rabble of alienated, out-of-control hilltop youth and “violent youth gangs” beyond the reach of the rabbis and responsible Religious Zionist leadership. Mercaz Harav is the Harvard of Religious Zionism and the birthplace of the settler movement. What happens there isn’t outside the mainstream. It is the mainstream.

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