Turning The Haredim Into Kibbutzniks

Haredi ideology is often at ends with Zionism; one of the largest haredi groups, the Satmars for instance, blame Zionism for the Holocaust. Even worse are the Neturei Karta, who detest Zionism so much that they praise Mahmoud Ahmadinjad, and celebrate vigils for Yasser Arafat.

Members of these groups want to live in their own world, with their own rules, far from the ‘evils’ of modern society and for the most part, they are successful in their isolation.  Aside from feeling distraught over tax dollars and lack of universal service, most Israeli’s will have minimal interaction with the Haredim unless they visit Mea Shearim, Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh, Modi’in Illit or any other solely Haredi community.

The haredi population is edging towards one million and rapidly expanding.  By 2025, their population will likely have doubled representing a huge increase in their proportion to the general Israeli public. Many Israelis want the haredim to contribute more to the state, something that although is reasonable, is very difficult to reconcile with their way of life. However, I believe that without challenging their worldview, that the haredi community can contribute a significant amount to this state.

Let’s be clear, Israel has three highly related problems that need to be ameliorated. Firstly, there is a housing shortage in the country. Secondly, there is a traffic problem in central Israel that causes strain on the economy. Lastly, there is lots of land that needs significant development and settlement (namely the Negev and the Galilee).

Presently, almost all of the haredi communities in Israel live between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. As a result of these groups being so insular, most of their lives revolve around the city they live in. Things such as their proximity to the beach or jobs in Tel Aviv are not their main concern but where the Synagogues, Yeshiva and other haredi communities are located.

The Kibbutz movement was based off of a love for Zionism and the land of Israel. During the development of the state, Kibbutzim were used to protect borders, claim new territory and to develop the land; whatever the state required. The haredim may not be Labour Zionists wanting to make the desert bloom, but the state of Israel can use them in the same role.

Earlier this month, there was a proposal from a prominent ultra-orthodox magazine arguing for the creation of a haredi-autonomous zone in Israel. The haredi want more seclusion and autonomy from the rest of Israel, they are exceedingly dependent on government subsidies, and due to an inordinate birthrate, are constantly facing a massive housing shortage. As a result of this situation, I think that Israel should be using the haredim as kibbutzniks and plan future cities for them with incentives, exactly how the Yishuv and the formative Israeli government’s used Kibbutzim.

For what its worth, there is a massive haredi community planned in the Negev called Kasif. Kasif was meant to house 50,000 Haredim and be built specifically for their lifestyle. However, there has been no news of the project since 2011.

About the Author
Daniel lived in Israel where he pursued his graduate studies focussing on Israeli policy. Daniel is now back in his home country of Canada studying law. Come check me out at http://danfrank.ca/