"An Unnatural Fixation with Charedim"
Do I have an unnatural obsession with criticizing charedim - and why?
Recently a reader wrote to me as follows:
It seems to me - I'm no expert of any sort - that you have an unnatural fixation
with Chareidim. My feeling is, how could such an unnatural, rare, thing
exist?! It can only be as a result of the torture to which you were
I’ve heard the same thing countless times. But the truth is that my feelings about charedi society are not remotely unnatural or rare. And in my case it has very little to do with my books being banned (which I totally sympathize with as a social policy) and much more to do with life in Israel.
Here in Israel, there are literally millions of people who have the exact same criticisms of charedi society that I do. And many of them are religious, and are even the type of people that in the US would be called "yeshivish." Their are people whose entire life is built around trying to solve the problems created by charedi society. Some of these people are even in the charedi community!
Many Americans just don't get how different things are here (and when they immigrate to Israel, they often mistakenly assume that the black-hatted community in Israel is the natural one for black-hatted immigrants from the US to join; Ramat Beit Shemesh is full of such people). There are two basic differences between charedim in Israel and black-hatted, “yeshivish” Jews in the US/UK.
One is that charedim in Israel receive far less of a secular education than black-hatted Jews in the US/UK; the charedi school system here is deeply ideologically opposed to even basic secular studies. Charedim in Israel are also far less likely to work for a living, since they are heavily culturally conditioned against it, and those who do work are generally in low-paid, non-professional careers, because that’s all that they can do once they join the workforce in their forties. There are no charedi physicians or scientists in Israel, for example, other than immigrants or baalei teshuva.
The second is that black-hatted Jews in the US are a minuscule fraction of the population, whereas charedim in Israel are a significant proportion of the population and are growing exponentially. This has enormous ramifications for everyone else. When you have an exponentially growing sector of the population that does not believe in contributing to the IDF and to the economy, and believes in being under-educated and financially supported by non-charedim, this is not only deeply upsetting and annoying for everyone else; it’s also nothing less than an existential threat to the entire country. The tiny State of Israel, surrounded by hostile countries that seek to destroy it, cannot survive with a Third World economy. Even some people in the charedi community acknowledge this.
The alarm needs to be sounded, and sounded again, until things are changed.
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