The Charedi Exterminator
Many of us occasionally have need for pest exterminators. Depending on which part of the world you live in, there are different pests that need exterminating. In America you might need termite or skunk exterminators. Here in Israel it's generally rodent or pigeon exterminators. But I was shocked a few years ago to see an advertisement for a "Charedi exterminator."
It might theoretically have been a political campaign advertisement by Avigdor Lieberman, but it wasn't. Instead, it was an advertisement for regular pigeon and rodent extermination - but by an exterminator who was himself charedi, and decided to advertise himself as such.
Why would someone advertise their profession by way of their religious affiliation? You'd never see an advertisement for a "secular exterminator" or a "dati-leumi exterminator." His byline brought the point home even stronger: מדביר משלנו - "An exterminator from among us!" Apparently he was appealing to people's tribal affiliation. He might not be a better or cheaper exterminator than the others, but he's one of us, so you should hire him!
Fascinating, the same type of campaign is being used by United Torah Judaism in the forthcoming elections. Apparently there are various charedi voters who have expressed disappointment in the charedi leadership. For some of them, it's because of the blatant failure of the leadership to protect its community from coronavirus, with mortality rates far exceeding the rest of Israel. (Apparently, for others, it's for precisely the opposite reason - that they did eventually concede to cooperation, instead of rejecting it entirely.)
Be that as it may, the campaign to convince charedim to vote for UTJ is very straightforward. They don't bother arguing that they are serving Hashem's interests, or even their constituency's interests. The argument is simply this: We're charedi!
This campaign is directed at the highest levels. Rav Gershon Edelstein, when asked why people who were disappointed by the UTJ leadership during Covid should nevertheless vote for them, explained that although there may well be problems with UTJ, not voting for them is a declaration that "I am not charedi" and prevents a Kiddush Hashem.
Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein, in a post addressed to charedi voters, explains why they should not feel that tribal affiliation requires them to vote UTJ. Personally, I would say that there are two uncomfortable truths that charedim need to acknowledge.
The first is that the real power in the charedi world is not wielded by chareidi Gedolei Torah. Rather, it is wielded rather by the people that control them, such as Yanky Kanievsky. Rav Edelstein claims that dati-leumi parties, aside from the fundamental flaw of not being charedi, don't follow the charedi Gedolim. Well, the charedi parties don't follow the Gedolim either. They simply manipulate the Gedolim to get the desired "guidance."
The second truth is that the charedi MKs are not out to either do Hashem's will or to help the long-term future of their constituents. Instead, they want to maintain their power and positions (and hefty MK paychecks) by helping the short-term interests of their constituents - even though this is diametrically opposed to their long-term interests. In other words, whereas the long term interests of not only the entire country but also the charedi community is for them to be able to get professional training and employment, the MKs instead want to get them money in order to coddle them into continuing the mass-kollel movement, and fight any attempts to change this system. If charedi voters really wanted to help their community, they would vote for Bennett, who has a plan to actually help them.
Unfortunately, very few charedi voters are going to acknowledge these truths. They're only human, after all. And for most humans, tribal affiliations trump everything.