A government without Charedim

The corona crisis with which we are all having to contend has only served to exacerbate the enmity that large segments of Israeli society feel towards the charedim. In a recent survey, some 70% of those polled said that they would prefer a coalition government without the charedim. Seven years ago, the figure was just 38%. Why should that be?

When the American colonists revolted against Great Britain, one of their main grievances centered around “no taxation without representation”. In Israel we could turn the slogan on its head.

Why should the charedi parties form part of nearly every successive government coalition when most of their constituency refuse to put their lives on the line and serve in Israel’s Defense Forces?

However, as we all know, the problem goes much deeper than that. Many of their schools refuse to incorporate a core curriculum including mathematics, science and English, that would equip their children to contribute to Israeli society and make a decent living.

The charedim have become a major financial burden on the Israeli taxpayer, which, given their incredibly high birthrate, can only become more so as the years go by.

It is hardly coincidental that one of their number (Moshe Gafni MK of the United Torah Judaism party) has chaired the Knesset Finance Committee in the last three governments, thereby enabling them to maintain control of the purse strings and hold the nation to ransom.

Ever since its establishment we have lived in a country in which there is no civil marriage or divorce for Jews, and in which those immigrants who are not recognized as Jewish cannot even marry, but are forced to go overseas to do so.

However, it took the corona crisis to make the pot boil over. The sight of some charedim holding weddings, continuing to pray in their synagogues and study in their yeshivot only served to incense people. When thousands of them congregated for the funeral of one of their leading rabbis the other day, the police stood by powerless.

All of this, including the overcrowding in their homes because of their high birth rate, has led to four times as many charedim contracting the coronavirus than the population at large relative to their proportion within Israeli society. Attempts to isolate them by differentiating between towns on the basis of their level of infection were resisted by politicians beholden to the charedim for their coalition government.

It is high time that Israel had a government without the charedi parties. Many Israelis would be delighted to see that happen.

About the Author
Rabbi Boyden was educated and received his rabbinical ordination in London, England. Having served as the rabbi of Cheshire Reform Congregation for thirteen years, he made aliyah with his family in 1985. He has established Reform congregations in Ra'anana and Hod Hasharon and previously served as director of the Israel Reform Movement's Beit Din.
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