Monday, February 2, 2015

I knew they weren't studying

There are many many things I do not understand: nuclear fusion, the Higgs Boson particle; capri pants on men, why it is not okay to pull the bone out of the chicken but it is okay to pull the chicken off the bone, to name a few.

But here's where I am getting bogged down today. I just read an article about the Hareidim blocking the flow of traffic on some main thoroughfares in Jerusalem to protest Hareidi enlistment into the IDF. Yes, the article is quite clear and the point is obvious. However, a few weeks ago I read a series of articles on the blog  Rational Judaism that essentially said that poverty is the greatest problem facing the Hareidi community today. One of the articles mentioned that many young Hareidim are angry with their families for raising them in a cloistered environment that did not allow them to learn academic basics, like math. And, as a result, they are totally unequipped with the necessary skills to get a job. Hence, another generation of uneducated, totally dependent, Hareidim are released into Israeli society -- where they can reproduce like rabbits and then sit around waiting for handouts.

My son is going to the army in 38 days. I'm not so happy about it but it is a path that he started on the day we made Aliyah 13 years ago. Of course we told ourselves that by the time he was due to enter the army there would be peace. The truth is that every parent who made Aliyah with boy children told themselves the same thing and looking back I can't decide if I was wilfully naive, eternally optimistic, divinely inspired, or plain old stupid. Either way he is going to the army in a little more than a month and God willing it will be a positive experience that will leave him better equipped for life that he might have been otherwise.

The question is why should the Hareidim be excluded from the expectations imposed on every able bodied young Israeli man? What on Earth makes them think that they are so special? I have been harassed by Hareidim at the Kotel and trust me, the average Hareidi man is anything but special.

Are you telling me that all of the 100 thousand of them are really sitting in yeshivot every day -- day in, day out -- learning Torah with such conviction that they are doing more for the safety and well-being of the country than they could possibly do with a gun in their hands -- or even a potato peeler? Seriously, those potatoes don't clean and peel themselves.

As I mentioned above, I have been harassed at the Kotel for money and heaven knows what else so many times that I find it difficult to believe that there are any men in the yeshivot. They all seem to be standing on the steps leading down the plaza in front of the Western Wall; standing in wait for foreigners or women with loose change, loose bills, loose food, and whatever else they are scrounging for that day.

Plus, if young Hareidim really want to be part of Israeli society, this is the route. Enlist in the army. Do your part. Learn a skill. Use that skill set to feed your family and make this country stronger in the process. Can you imagine how many problems would be solved if Hareidi men just did their army service? The knowledge and experience they would gain! Less people on the dole. Better role models for their future generations. Less anger directed towards them by the rest of Israeli society. More newspaper space for important issues. More tax dollars available for people who really need help.

I will leave Hareidim with a question originally posed by Moses to the tribes of Reuben and Gad (Numbers 23): Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here?
Time to get off the streets and do something productive.