Eli Yishai: Slander and Unemployment

To his credit, he sounds like someone who knows how to talk from the opposition, but he is wrong on everything Orthodox: Modern and Ultra. His words  against Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid (and their parties) are piercing precisely because they come from a place of resentment and jealousy. This isn’t some refined halachah coming out of the mouth of Eli Yishai, just unadulterated rage. He is slandering a whole slew of religious Jews in both parties and stamping Rav Ovadia Yosef’s signature below his own petty comments.  I disagree with you Eli; it is Shas that’s “harming the world of Torah” by encouraging Ultra-Orthodox unemployment and discouraging Ultra-Orthodox education.

Eli Yishai is defending an indefensible political position, plus slandering thousands of Orthodox Jews.
Eli Yishai is defending an indefensible political position, plus slandering thousands of Orthodox Jews. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Shas is not representative of Orthodox Judaism, nor Sephardi Israelis, because of its isolation. The elite of the party comes from a very, very narrow selection of the community. This is the point that Rav Haim Amsalem’s tried to make rebelling against the party: Shas does not represent normative Orthodoxy, is out of touch with social trends in the Jewish world and is acting in ignorance of its constituents’ interests.

Eli Yishai and Aryeh Deri claim enough Ultra-Orthodox Jews are joining the army; enough are joining the workforce. But there aren’t enough soldiers.  There isn’t enough money for Haredi families. Those soldiers and workers aren’t keeping pace with their community’s growth. The Ultra-Orthodox world is facing a financial crisis where a tremendous chunk of its members are dependent on social welfare.  Compound the effect their refusal of employment is having on the rest of the Jews in Israel.

“This is not sustainable. We can’t have an ever-increasing proportion of the population continuing to not go to work. So it’s going to change, somehow or the other. The question is does that change happen in social conflict, in political conflict, or can it be helped to happen consensually and constructively?” – Stanley Fischer

Personally, part of me would rather be learning full time. But working full time I am more appreciative to God that I can earn for my family on my terms. I don’t want to depend on the generosity of the earners in Ramat Gan.  I apologize to my peers since I didn’t take the opportunity to join the IDF when I got here three years ago (friends of mine who are much better men than I am did); if I could do it again I would join in an instant – there’s no better commitment to the Jewish brotherhood, nor better way to increase your future Israeli earning power.

But I have not given up on my learning commitments: the weekly parsha in Hebrew AND Aramaic; daf yomi classes at 6:30 AM; reading Rabbis’ blogs and scholarly articles; going in depth with topics of personal interest, like conversion (Rav Ovadia Yosef’s writings from his early career are good reading by the way, Mr. Yishai).

Indeed, as a Jewish Home member, I love the Torah.  My political party, as well as members of others, speak openly about the need to reach out to the Diaspora, improve ties between Orthodox and non-Orthodox, plus spread Jewish & Hebrew education.  Talk about spreading Torah!  And where is Shas?  Trying to keep math textbooks out of little kids’ hands;  talk about a ‘shanda für die goy.’

Shas is out of touch with the fact Ultra-Orthodox unemployment and draft deferments have skyrocketed in the last 30 years.
Ultra-Orthodox unemployment and draft deferments have skyrocketed in the last 30 years.

As I scratch the surface of debates about Torah u’Madda, Eli Yishai should consider his party’s viability. His constituents are struggling, yet he’s complaining about another party trying to force his constituents to have more earning power. He has an easy message to deliver to protect the Ultra-Orthodox world: ‘Work hard. Fight hard.  Practice what you learn.’  In the meantime, I’ll continue supporting the ‘Goyishe Bayit.’

About the Author
Gedalyah Reback is an experienced writer on technology, startups, the Middle East and Islam. He also focuses on issues of personal status in Judaism, namely conversion.