We need to put the genie back into the bottle, to calm the secular public’s fear that we’re going to force our will on them
espite being back in government, and with significant funding now flowing for Torah institutions, the past year has been challenging for the chareidi world.
The secular public’s mass struggle against any reform to the justice system has revealed their sense that the Zionist dream, in its original form — the attempt to turn the Jews into a nation like all other nations — has failed. The left feels that they built the country, they wanted something different, and this dream, to their great distress, seems dead.
We didn’t ask for this showdown. Yes, we’re part of the coalition, but that doesn’t mean we call the shots.
Justice Minister Yariv Levin didn’t consult us before the press conference that launched the judicial reform. We don’t cast a veto over the actions of the traditional sector represented by the Likud, just as we have no veto over the secular left.
But the uprising on the left requires us to return to the basic approach to dealing with the secular majority in Israel that we were taught by the Chazon Ish, Rav Aharon Kotler, and their successors as gedolei Yisrael over the past 75 years.
Unlike the confrontational approach adopted by the coalition heads, our approach should be to sow the seeds of light, and let that light gradually dispel the darkness. A handful of Jews who escaped the Holocaust built up the Torah world, and this Torah world now radiates out to the other traditional sectors and is changing the fabric of Israeli society. A few decades ago, no one would have dreamed that so many people in Eretz Yisrael would be shomer Torah u’mitzvos, would be closer to Judaism, each according to their level. Just look at the over one million traditional Jews who come to say Selichos. And then of course there’s the Torah sector, the yeshivah and Torah world that’s flourishing more than ever.
Of course, we think the High Court is a problem. Yes, we need to make sure yeshivah bochurim can sit and learn. Yes, we need to do everything to ensure they don’t interfere in our lives through the court system, in conversion, kashrus, and other things.
But we need to do it in a smart way, because a head-on confrontation genuinely terrifies secular voters, and gedolei Yisrael have taught us that in such a standoff, we won’t win.
We will continue to caucus with the politicians who represent the traditional public, because they stand with us in the fight to dispel the dream of turning us into a nation like all other nations.
But our job now is to avoid a head-on confrontation. We need to put the genie back into the bottle, to calm the secular public’s fear that we’re going to force our will on them. Our way — and what has worked over the past 100 years — is to make incremental progress, so that we can continue spreading the light.
Rabbi Yitzchak Pindrus is the chairman of United Torah Judaism and a member of Knesset for Degel HaTorah.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 978)
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