Those who argue that the two-state solution will not work are right. It’s more likely that we’ll need five: Hamastan, Fatahland, Palestine, Haredia and Israel.A press release from Ben-David screams the headline Non-Employment amongst ultra-Orthodox men has risen by 200% during the last 30 years. Why the lack of haredim contributing to the Israeli economy? The higher premium within the haredi communities on the study of Torah over more earthly concerns such as making a living is a factor, for starters, but the way the ultra-Orthodox have been able to manipulate the Knesset and the institutions in Israel into giving them their inch of religious freedom and then letting them take over the economy is going to murder Israel well before the Muslim world and Israel's Arab neighbors do.
At long last, even if years too late, Israelis woke up this week to the realization that we face yet another existential threat. Yes, it took 100,000 “Men in Black” in downtown Jerusalem to make the point, but finally, we get it. As dangerous as are the delegitimization of Israel and the specter of a nuclear Iran, Israel is no less threatened by a growing population of religious fundamentalists who insist on the right to racial discrimination in their schools and who utterly reject the legitimacy and authority of the Supreme Court. They reject, in other words, the idea of a “Jewish and democratic” state.
There’s more, of course, including their treatment of Sephardim (even haredi Sephardim), the often despicable attitude to women in their communities, their tendency toward violence (when irked, they attack city workers, police officers and even the haredi rabbi who urged the Sephardi parents to go to the Supreme Court) and, most obvious, their unwillingness to share the burden of defending this country.
This cancer threatens to destroy everything we have built. Yes, that’s a harsh metaphor, but it’s apt. As Dan Ben-David of the Taub Center has shown, despite its current economic stability, the State of Israel is simply economically unsustainable if matters continue this way. Barring a dramatic shift in policy, the country will collapse under the weight of these haredi “cells” that drain the energy from the best of the body. There’s nothing inherently evil about a cancer cell; we dread it only because it kills the organism we desperately wish to preserve. Haredim have every right to live as they wish, but that does not mean that we must allow them to destroy the country that we have built at such great cost over the past century.
At its deepest, darkest root, the nagging guilty feeling that Orthodoxy is indicative of a "truer" Judaism is a huge internal threat to world Jewry as a whole...but that is nothing new. What is new is that, for the first time, we can grasp at numbers that show how much the old ways of the shtetl and the insular-to-a-huge-fault mentality of the ultra-Orthodox are hurting the GNP and GDP of a nation in which these people were supposed to thrive despite their near-obliteration a few generations ago.
What sort of tales of our time will enter the continuing saga of the Tanakh, then? They won't be those of Jewish zealots kicking some Syrian Greek butt in Mattathias' time, then slaying any Jews who disagreed with them, nor will they be of Bar-Kochva's revolt or a last stand at Masada. It will be a self-righteous, highly vocal group of extremists who are not above using threats and violence to get what they want -but their biggest and deadliest weapon is simply that of holding the shekel hostage in the name of their piety. The enemy, at long last, is indeed us.
....Oh, and the casualties of a trip to camp are many - the list includes missing towels, swim shoes, nail clippers, bath caddy, small plastic bucket, various shorts, swim trunks, t-shirts, socks, and undies, and a laundry bag that is long gone. The funny thing is that we've got two shirts and four socks that are not the little guy's. So much for labeling everything if the kids and the counselors are going to ignore the labels.
Has anybody designed some planned obsolescence camp supplies yet? If we get him going next year, we need stuff that will self-destruct after ten days.
Along the way to central Mississippi, I listened to this report on the intertwining fates of Big Oil and Louisiana. Nice to know that the BP oil disaster actually prevented the state senate from killing Tulane's Environmental Law Clinic. Let's hear it for timing.
Once we got to camp and collected our kids' and their stuff, I got into a stall-to-stall conversation in a bathroom with a mom from Oxford, Mississippi, who was a big fan of Treme and wanted to know how much of it was based in fact. She hopes the show gets some Emmy nominations. We'll see...we'll see...
Update, 5:03 PM:
Dan: "Well, do any of the clothes the kiddo brought home with him that aren't his (two shirts, one pair of shorts, two pairs of socks and three stray socks) belong to girls?"
Me: "Well, no."
Dan: "Oh, no big deal, then."
Me: "Oh, thanks."