Guest Post: "I'm Charedi and I'm voting Yesh Atid"
It's a week until the election and personally I still have no idea who I am voting for. I only know which three parties I am NOT voting for - the party whose sole goal is to gain power in order to keep its leader out of prison and is happy to harm the country to that end, the party whose overriding goal is to extract money to support a rapidly increasing community that drains the economy, and the party featuring a firebrand whose primary goal is to stir up trouble without considering the national and international consequences.
That still leaves me with several choices, such as Hamachaneh Hamamlachti, Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beitenu, and the Pirates. Meanwhile, an outstanding talmid chacham that I know in the charedi community sent me the following. Because of the stereotype-breaking nature of his position, I thought that it would be useful to share it here. For obvious reasons, he prefers to stay anonymous:
I am a member of the Charedi sector of society of Israel. I grew up in Chutz La’aretz and came to Israel to learn in Charedi Yeshivos where I have been living ever since. My children also all went through the Charedi education system and I would like to share with you why, for the upcoming elections, I plan to vote for Yesh Atid.
First of all I need to explain why I, as a Charedi Ashkenazi, will not vote Gimmel. After all there is only one essential reason that Ashkenazi Charedim vote Gimmel - the Charedi gedolim have said that all people must.
I will not vote for Gimmel because firstly, I do not trust their judgement, and secondly, because I have different political objectives for my vote than they do.
I do not trust their judgement because I see that their judgement has led to shielding criminals. I see their moral judgement towards women, towards the collective non-religious public, towards non-Jews and I am appalled. Their medical advice to the public and to individuals has at times been really wrong and drawn from unscientific and irresponsible sources. They base much of their judgement on what their Askanim tell them, much on past stories of Rabbinic leaders and also on precedents in the Gemara which were played out in completely different contexts.
I also have different political objectives to them. With my vote I am looking to bring into power political players that will do more to combat polarization in society not accentuate it; to do more for the working middle class, not engage in competition of who gives out the most government money for free.
I am looking to vote for people who act in dignity in the public sphere and not embarrass their constituents. I am looking for representatives who will preserve the institutions upholding civil rights - such the Israeli Supreme Cours - and not seek to bulldoze them down (of course that particular stance didn’t stop the Charedi Organization “Emet LeYaakov” from themselves turning to the Israeli Supreme Court to try and overturn Yoaz Handel’s communication reform law). I pay full property tax and also full tuition for my son’s Yeshiva and know that if Charedi men worked they could too and not have to rely on the good will of government actors and the lobbying of the Charedi lawmakers to pay for their son’s Yeshiva tuition. They wouldn’t have to stand in line waiting for a Charedi town hall representative to sign their papers to make them eligible for a discount of a couple of hundred shekels a month.
I will not vote for a party that perpetuates the evils of the exclusion of Ethiopians from Charedi Ashkenazi Yeshivot, of keeping Kindergarten teachers at starvation salaries and the continued abuse by school prinicipals. I will not vote for a political party that actively participates or represents those who actively participate in doing everything they can to stop Mamlachti Charedi schools or even just vocational schools from opening, running, getting buildings and funding and harassing any who run or support them. I will not vote for Gimmel because I believe the the Core Curriculum (known in Hebrew as the “Libba”) is a positive and necessary thing and certainly institutions who adopt it should not be attacked - but it’s enough that I actually support the idea for me to be already considered beyond the pale (and hence not an eligible constituent of Charedi society - so why vote Gimmel?). I certainly would hate to vote for a party that nonchalantly dismisses signed agreements. In my eyes, the Charedi parties stand for a political movement that strives to keep its constituents, poor, ignorant and dependent.
I also would not vote for a party who has consistently acted against national interests in the Knesset just for the sake of impeding the work of the ruling government. And I will also not vote for a party of zealots who, aside from acting against national interests in order to harm the government, believe they can hasten the coming of Mashiach by annexing as much of the Biblically delineated land of Israel as possible while publicizing few other agendas.
Who will I vote for? I will vote for a party that pushes for unilateral improvement of society by directly addressing the actual issues that plague it instead of invoking mystical solutions. That will support Charedi secular education and help Charedim enter the workforce. I am looking for a party with an impressive record of public action and a team of people looking to do the right thing and not just the most popular thing. I am looking for a leader who has the courage to condemn unprovoked wars and land-grabs - who will be remembered for being on the right side of history. One that is able to represent Israel to the world in the context of a more democratic international climate and not just cuddle up to nationalists and dictators. A leader who is able to engage in sincere dialog even with Israel’s enemies and his own. A leader who is able to take a responsible decision which is best for the country even as it decreases his popularity among the more general public.
I am looking for a leader I can proud of, not one who will denigrate large swathes of the country’s good citizens, or put down the legal system and certainly not one that will give more power to the people over power to the courts of justice. A leader who despite all the flak he gets just keeps moving forwards with what needs to be done and doesn’t descend to petty mudslinging. A leader whom even those who oppose have called him (as Avi Bloom called Yair Lapid in the news supplement of Mishpacha of 11th of August following the “Rise of Dawn” operation in Gaza) “a competent army officer and a gentleman”.
Would I as a Charedi vote for a party that will promote gay rights and Chilul Shabbos? I know I am not going to change people and it’s not a law this way or that which will make any more people keep Shabbos or stick to the religious definition of morals. All restrictions of what secular people see as their basic civil rights only promotes antagonism, not religious observance. We read in the Gemara that Hashem lets His name be erased for the sake of peace, implying that not everything whose acceptance may at first glance be seen as a Chilul Hashem is of such. If we want to live in peace among ourselves we must respect the agendas that promote the perceived personal rights of all individuals. So the answer to the above question is - yes I would.
Furthermore I am not the only one. Over the years several know figures in Charedi society have also attempted to build some kind of coordination platform with Yesh Atid, although the enormous social pressure and stigma involved have invariably prevented these plans from surfacing to the public sphere. So the best we can do is support them from the ballot box. If we can bring to power a party that will promote national, intersocial peace that should be considered a golden objective.
That’s why I, in the upcoming elections, plan to vote Yesh Atid.