There is a future!

Yesterday I read an article here on the Times Of Israel that blew my mind. The author was describing a visit to Maaleh Adumim by Rabbi Dov Lipman, who was at a parlor meeting to talk about Yesh Atid – a new Israeli political party. The author went through each idea that Dov presented, and praised it for being a good idea. Then in conclusion the author attacked the party as being radically anti religious, anti Haredi, and claims they are trying to destroy the ‘Achdut’ – unity of Israel.

Let’s take another look at what was said there, and see what fits, if anything, to the author’s description. The author claims that the first thing that Dov said that bothered her was that he (quote) “Looks forward to his son serving in the Israeli army.” She explains that you can be proud of having children who serve, “no one should look forward to their son going into the army.” That’s very true, and I agree – but so does Dov. Dov never says that he is looking forward to his sons serving, only that he is proud. You can see an example of Dov giving a similar speech in Jerusalem, where he uses the word ‘proud’. At Maaleh Adumim too he used the word ‘proud’. I’m not sure what precisely bothered the author so much she had to write three paragraphs on, but it can’t have been that.

The author repeatedly claimed that Yesh Atid have many nice sounding plans with no basis in reality. She attacks their housing plan – a plan set out by experts to lower the cost of housing dramatically for young couples – as lacking details. If only she had opened a computer, and typed ‘yesh atid housing plan’ into google, because there in the first result are the details! In short: 93% of the land in Israel is state-owned. The state can open these areas up to investment companies looking for long-term low risk investments in Israel, and allow them to build on condition that young couples pay a set rent at a lower level than the market price. This will reduce pressure on the rest of the market, and lead to lower prices all round. That’s in a couple of sentences – more on the website, or English facebook page. This is not a plan without details. This is a practical, realistic, detailed plan set out by experts in order to make a real difference.

The other claim made about the Yesh Atid housing plan was that it was anti-Haredi. Let’s look at that. The current (Shas) Minister for Housing, Ariel Attias, has managed to arrange that the only criteria for assistance for young couples is how long they have been married. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which community gets married at a younger age. Moving the criteria to be aimed at couples who have served the country (which will include Haredim) who study, (again, will include Haredim) is just right. It’s not anti-Haredi to change that, it’s anti-all-non-Haredim the way it is now.

The author talks about the Yesh Atid plan for full service. She agrees that everyone should serve the country in some way, whether it is in the IDF or in civilian national service. She says that Rabbi Lipman mentioned Magen David Adom and ZAKA as examples. However, she seems to have misunderstood the meaning of ‘example’. She writes two paragraphs on how it is inhumane to send eighteen year olds to ZAKA, as much of the amazing work they do is unsuitable for eighteen year olds. If she would do some searching, she would find that both Yair Lapid and Rabbi Lipman use many other examples as well – no one is calling for sending all Haredi teenagers to ZAKA. They use the example of working within the Haredi sector where manpower is desperately needed in geriatric wards, or in special needs areas. Yair often uses the example of helping ageing survivors of the Shoah, some of whom almost never see other people. Can you object to taking time to serve by visiting, talking to, bringing a smile to a survivor?

The author does have a point about secular draft dodging. But there are key differences. Currently in the Haredi community, dodging is the norm. Serving is the exception. It is that that must change. In the ‘secular’ community the norm is still to serve. Of course those who don’t are wrong – and the Yesh Atid plans will of course address that too – ‘Service for All’ means just that. The reason why the focus is perhaps on the Haredim more than others is that there it is a community problem where it must be addressed as a whole. No changes will need to be made to the army to allow more seculars to serve, but they will be made to cater for Haredi needs. Another factor is that this year for the first time a majority of first-graders are either Arab or Haredi. That means that if nothing is done in just twelve years time over half of draft age Israelis will be from communities where service is not normal. This is a massive danger that must be addressed now, to allow for time to establish programs. Of all the parties, only Yesh Atid have a feasible, realistic plan to address this.

The author attacks Yesh Atid’s plan for all schools to teach basic curricula such as math and English. She says that in her children’s school in Maaleh Adumim they already do, so what’s the problem? Can she not see that Dov was not talking about that? There are school systems that do not teach those subjects at all! I have met graduates of schools in Israel from the Haredi system who were trying to study in college without ever having been taught long division. Or what a number squared is. And forget about English or science. The fact that this happens in Israel is unacceptable. All schools must give their students the ability to work. On the other hand, there are graduates of the secular system who have no idea about basic Jewish traditions and texts. This is just as unacceptable – especially in the Jewish state. As (secular!) Yair Lapid says, how can a student finish High School in Israel without having seen a page of Talmud? Yesh Atid want to address this from both sides – all schools must teach a minimum of both Jewish and secular studies.

The author talks about Achdut, and claims that Yesh Atid is its antithesis. A look at the Yesh Atid list would do a lot to fix that misconception. There are activists and leaders from all communities, from all parts of society. I was at the campaign launch where each candidate introduced another – something that could never happen with any of the other parties where the candidates loathing of each other is thinly veiled if at all. In Yesh Atid you have them all – Rabbi Shai Piron, founder of Tzohar, head of Petach Tikva Yeshivot, and leading expert in education. Yaakov Peri, former head of the Shin Bet, and director of Cellcom and Bank Mizrahi. Aliza Lavi, lecturer on Jewish and women’s issues in Bar Ilan, and international expert on Israel – Diaspora relations. Adi Kol, among many other things founder of ‘University Ba’Am’ – which helps people from poor areas to receive higher education. Karin Elharar, head of law clinics in Bar Ilan, and leading activist in groups on disabled rights issues. Miki Levi, head of police in Jerusalem during the second Intifada. Shimon Solomon, an oleh from Ethipoia, reserve company commander in the paratroopers, and founder and director of too many community organisations to name. And of course, Rabbi Dov Lipman – oleh from the USA, community activist in Bet Shemesh who worked for Achdut in that town after extremists tried to destroy it. That’s just to name a few. This is the party with both seculars and religious. With eight women in the top sixteen. Three immigrants from Russia, two from Ethiopia, and one from the USA in the top 25.

There is no other party that has such a wealth of policy platforms, all developed with experts in the field, and down to the details. No other party is willing to even talk about some of these critical issues. There is no other party that has such an amazing group of people – none of whom are national level politicians. These are the people who, in the words of Yesh Atid’s slogan ‘Have come to change’. This is a party that deserves your vote and your support. It has over 15,000 volunteers in 102 branches already, in every part of the country – an unheard of number for a new party. If you value these ideas, then you can also do your bit to help. Visit Yesh Atid’s English facebook page to see how you too can help bring change.

About the Author
Yedidya Kennard made aliya from the UK in 2006, and now lives in Givat Shmuel.