The Haredi political leadership has built its power base on the mantra of “secular Israel hates us.” They repeat this regularly from the Knesset floor and in committee hearings on a daily basis. The Haredi media provides the platform for Haredi MK’s to share this message with the broader Haredi community and the Haredi broadcasters mimic this divisive tone on an hourly basis.
And, just like that, in a flash, this message has been proven to be false. False, and terribly damaging.
The Haredi newspaper, Mishpacha, sponsored a poll to determine the attitudes of secular Israelis towards Haredim. They hired one of Israel’s top pollsters, Mina Tzemach, to do the research. Here are some of the results:
1) 72% of secular Israelis believe that the Haredim do not contribute to the Jewish nature of Israel.
2) 67% believe that the IDF is obligated to provide Haredim who serve with all of their religious needs to make sure that their lifestyle is not impacted negatively by their army service.
3) 82% are willing to hire Haredim to work in their companies.
4) 93% believe that there must be dialogue between the secular and Haredim to preserve unity in Israeli society.
5) 52% feel that Haredim and secular living side by side in the same areas will lead to better relationships between these populations.
6) 77% know Haredim personally and 83% have a favorable outlook towards the Haredim who they do know.
7) Among those who live in neighborhoods with Haredim, 77% say that the Haredim do not disturb their lives in any way.
8) 91% want to make sure that Israel preserves its Jewish identity, 89% believe that Israeli children must be familiar with Jewish tradition, and 50% feel that the education system is not doing enough to preserve these beliefs.
9) 92% have a mezuzah on their front doors.
Hatred towards Haredim? Want Haredim to be less religious? Despise Torah and mitzvot? One professional poll has dispelled all these myths about secular Israel and should be a wake-up call to the entire Haredi establishment.
Lest anyone think that this is my assessment as member of Knesset in the Yesh Atid party, I will quote from Rabbi Moshe Gorelik, editor of Mishpacha, and a media personality who has long participated in spreading the party line of “it’s us against them.”
Rabbi Gorelik writes:
To admit the truth, we were stunned. If this poll is correct, we have been living all the time with a mistake. We were sure that the average secular Israeli despised us. Not only that, but we in the Haredi media in partnership with the Haredi politicians, spread this feeling and spoke about it over and over, all the time. And behold, this beautiful structure falls apart. Behold, it has become clear, that the truth is different: Most and close to all don’t hate. An elite minority, perhaps, hates, but this is not the lot of the majority. The majority has no interest in us at all. They don’t have hatred, they don’t have love, they are simply indifferent. We are a black hole. They pass Bnei Brak and have zero curiosity to enter its streets, our kitchens, our living rooms, or our Torah institutions.
What does this say to us and about us? Why are we not a source of inspiration? What is flawed about us in that which we are not succeeding to spread to the greater society? We must change approaches and the way we look at one another. We must stop fortifying ourselves behind mistaken walls and change paths. We must feel a sense of ‘shlichut, messengers to Israeli society….simply because this is the Jewish way: To be a model and example.
Music to the ears of the entire Jewish nation.
As we enter Pesach, the holiday which celebrates our redemption, and begin the Omer during which we mourn the students of Rabbi Akiva who failed to act with respect towards one another, let’s hope that the lessons learned from this poll free all Jews from mistaken beliefs and assumptions and yield the beginning of a new era of unity, tolerance, respect, and working together.