Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community is facing public anger. Some regret aligning themselves with Netanyahu’s reforms.
Shortly before he died on May 30, Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, the leader of Israel’s “Lithuanian” (non-Hasidic) ultra-Orthodox Jews, issued an unequivocal directive to Haredi MKs: Lower your profile.
As the controversy over the judicial overhaul grew fiercer, Edelstein asked them not to speak publicly on the subject. His rationale was simple: It’s not our affair.
From the perspective of time, Edelstein’s directive can be seen as a wise but tardy move, because in the public’s consciousness the Haredim have long since been welded to the architects of the so-called reform.
About a month before Edelstein’s death, the protest movements held a demonstration against the government’s legislative moves in the largely Haredi city of Bnei Brak.
“The Haredi leadership is cooperating with the dictatorship with one hand, and with the other hand is looting the public coffers,” one demonstrator said.
About two weeks ago, a thousand people demonstrated outside the headquarters of the rabbinate in Tel Aviv, and the word “shame” was sprayed on the building. Similar demonstrations were held outside the rabbinical courts in Haifa, Rehovot and Ashdod. Last week, two women from the Imahot Bahazit group (Mothers on the Front, which calls for “equal service by all – with no exceptions”) went to the home of Moshe Gafni, leader of the United Torah Judaism party, handed him a draft notice for his 18-year-old grandson and told him, “You and your associates in the Haredi leadership have declared war on us.”
Yishai Cohen, a journalist with the Haredi website Kikar Hashabbat, says he anticipates that this is only the beginning. “Now they are trying to practice damage control and to explain that they are not part of the [judicial] reform and are only supporting it because of their commitment to the coalition. But it looks like it’s already too late.”
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Photo: A secular protestor confronts a Haredi man at a demonstration in Bnei Brak in May (REUTERS/Corinna Kern)