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Friday, September 04, 2009

Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) set up 'outpost'

The Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community has set up an 'outpost' near Modiin. The outpost is called Givat Sefer because it is located next to Modiin Ilit - Kiryat Sefer. The Israelis will probably appreciate the significance more than the non-Israelis, but I will explain it in due course.
The 'outpost' was set up by an organization called Halamish. Halamish is an acronym for the Hebrew words “Hareidim l'maan mityashvei Yosh” -- hareidim for Judea and Samaria settlers. Members of the group said their new outpost was built in response to rumors of an imminent construction freeze in the region, and to the government's refusal to approve construction within Modiin Illit.

The group has not limited its activities to building, and is also active in petitioning hareidi-religious MKs. “Is this why we elected you – so that we could live in neglected warehouses and dank cellars?” the organization asked MKs.

Many young couples in the rapidly growing hareidi-religious community have been unable to find a place to live due to the increasing housing shortage, and some have resorted to living in one-room “apartments” originally built as storerooms.

In addition, Halamish is involved in raising awareness of the construction freeze within the hareidi-religious community. “The heavens themselves cry out against the ongoing building freeze in our holy land. Hareidi MKs, wake up!” says a sign posted throughout nearby neighborhoods.
If you read my profile, you will see that it says that some people might call me ultra-Orthodox. As you might have figured out, I don't quite fit into the Israeli ultra-Orthodox community. In the US, I would fit right into the ultra-Orthodox community, but given three university degrees, working (as opposed to studying Torah full time) and a largely sympathetic outlook toward Zionism (my rebbe in yeshiva was fond of saying "I am Tziyoni too, uber not fahrshtunkener" - sorry it loses something in the translation), I don't quite fit into the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel. (By the way, if anyone just figured out one of the yeshivas I learned in and posts it, I will delete your comment). I have been known to show up at pro-'settlement' rallies wearing a suit and a black hat. And no, I'm not a Lubavitcher (the only other group here that might do something like that).

I would venture that what I write on this blog is not far off what many, if not most ultra-Orthodox Israelis think (not the Neturei Karta crowd, but the mainstream), but I am much more blunt about it. They won't say it - I will. Surveys have shown, for example, that ultra-Orthodox society is far more opposed to territorial concessions than any segment of Israeli society. On the other hand, I am sure that some of my neighbors will be critical of Prime Minister Netanyahu for picking a fight when (if?) Israel attacks Iran.

About six weeks ago, there was an article in the New York Times about 'ultra-Orthodox settlers.' I was a little surprised at some of the things that were said, especially because one of the people quoted is a close friend of mine. But at the end of the day, all those people were doing was trying to appear 'flexible' by saying "we'll go anywhere in Israel you want us to live, but you'd better provide us with a place to live first." But that 'flexibility' is a sham for which the New York Times was happy to fall. There is no way that many people can be 'resettled.' Most of the 10,000 Jews who have been expelled from Gaza still haven't been 'resettled' after four years, so how could 300,000 from Judea and Samaria and 200,000 from Jerusalem ever be 'resettled'? These people were just treating the New York Times like the poritz; they know it will never happen and they don't really mean it.

But what the Halamish people are doing is not typical. Ultra-Orthodox Jews rarely go out and found 'settlements' or 'outposts.' That's much more 'in your face' than is characteristic of the ultra-Orthodox community when it comes to issues that are not solely religious issues. And that's why this is significant. The ultra-Orthodox community is the fastest growing segment of Israel's population. And if they jump on the 'settlement' bandwagon en masse, and become reliable votes for Israel's Right (which is largely where they belong anyway), it will change the entire country's political outlook.


At 5:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"not typical" this is probably the biggest understatement of the year!

At 11:05 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The HaRav would have liked Carl. They both combine reverence for tradition with an unusual openness to modern ideas. Zionism is a part of Jewish thought and life. Where it erred was in Israel's founders rejecting Judaism. Israel is not hated because of any territorial issue but because of the identity of her people. Fortunately, most Orthodox Jews and a great many Haredim do understand it.

At 6:39 AM, Blogger in the vanguard said...

Why add the parenteses "ultra-Orthodox)?
Is Orthodox not enough? The NYT or HaAretz might so label them to denigrate them, but why you?

If you find that their orthodoxy is more than yours, then call yourself "less-orthodox".

Why stigmatize Jews who only want to do what G-d wants of them? Don't we have enough Jews trying to undercut each other? Is turmoil in our blood?

At 7:50 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

At the edge,

Far from denigrating them, I feel a part of them, although they might not consider me one of them. I do live and pray among them.

'Ultra-Orthodox' is a term that does not have a clear definition (NYT often uses it to mean something completely different than Haredi; the term's meaning differs within Israel from outside it, and differs in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak as opposed to other places within Israel. Hence the scare quotes.


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