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March 12, 2013 12:44 am

The True Source of Religious-Secular Tension in Israel: The Arrogance of Ben-Gurion (and now Naftali Bennett)

avatar by Moshe Averick

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David Ben-Gurion, first Prime Minister of the State of Israel

As the latest round of coalition-building maneuvering plays out in Israel – with Bibi Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett (the new false-messiah of religious nationalists; the previous one being Ariel Sharon), and Yair Lapid locked in that time-worn political dance we’ve watched so many times in the past – it is critical to understand the history behind one of the issues so fiercely debated in the current political situation: the “universal” draft of yeshiva (rabbinical) students. It is this very issue which has, until this point, prevented the formation of a government. Bennett has declared that his Jewish Home party will not join Netanyahu’s coalition unless a universal draft law is enacted. The fight over yeshiva students and army service is at the core of much of the tension between the secular/non-observant and religious/hareidi communities in Israel. In fact, the roots of this tension extend back well before the founding of the State of Israel in 1947.

A little bit of background information is in order here. Most people have a profound misunderstanding regarding the nature of the secular/political Zionist movement which was inspired by the publication, in 1886, of Theodore Herzl’s manifesto Der Judeenstaat (The Jew’s State). The movement was about much more than creating a homeland for Jewish people. Most of the leaders of political Zionism were swept up in the zeitgeist and were ardent socialists and nationalists, two of the great ideological movements of those times. Many were rabidly secular/anti-religionists who looked with contempt at the “backward” and “anti-modern” Hareidi/Hassidic/Orthodox Jews. Their contempt for the “medieval” Sephardic/Arab Jewish communities ran even deeper. Ben-Gurion (the first Prime Minister of the State of Israel) once referred to Moroccan Jews as “savages.”

The secular/political Zionist dream was to create – along with a Jewish homeland – a completely new definition of the Jew and the Jewish People; a Jewishness that unambiguously excluded the concept of a covenantal people loyal to the Torah and the commandments. In other words, the Judaism that had sustained the Nation of Israel for the previous 3,400 years was to be discarded and replaced with a modernistic amalgamation of nationalism, socialism, enlightened western culture, and ethnic Jewish identity.

Naftali Bennett, head of the "Jewish Home" party

From the World Zionist Organization website:

For some Zionists, especially the East European Jewish intellectuals, Zionism was not only a national movement committed to the establishment of a Jewish homeland. It also wished to create a modern, secular Jewish identity. According to this formulation it was not religion that was to provide the basis for Jewish identity but ethnicity and nationalism. The Hebrew language, the land of Israel, Jewish history, literature, customs, folklore and their interplay were to provide a new more open-ended paradigm for Jewish identity.

Historian, Rabbi Ken Spiro, in his essay on Modern Zionism elaborates:

The key factor which shaped their [secular Zionist thinkers] worldview was a nationalism based not only on the notion of creating a physical Jewish homeland, but also of creating a new kind of Jew to build and maintain this homeland. Many of these early Zionist thinkers felt that centuries of ghettoization and persecution had robbed the Jews of their pride and strength. To build a homeland required a proud, self-sufficient Jew: a Jew who could farm, defend himself, and build the land.

The pious, poor, ghettoized Jew—who presented a pathetic image of a man stooped-over and always at the mercy of his persecutors—had to be done away with. To build a state required something all-together different—a “Hebrew.” The early Zionists called themselves “Hebrews” and not Jews, and deliberately changed their German or Russian or Yiddish names to sound more Hebraic and nationalistic (for example, David Gruen became David Ben-Gurion. Shimon Persky became Shimon Perez). It was a deliberate attempt to create a totally new Jewish identity and rid themselves of any aspect of the religious, Diaspora Jewish identity…These early Zionist leaders knew of course that religion had preserved Jewish identity in the ghettos and shtetls of Europe, but in the modern Jewish state, they felt there would be no need for it. Of course the Bible would be used as a source of Jewish history and culture but there was no room for religion or ritual in the modern Jewish state.

This obsession with creating a “new Jew” even trumped the basic values of Jewish brotherhood, the imperative that all Jews are responsible for one another, and that nothing takes precedence over saving lives. David Ben-Gurion shockingly wrote the following in 1938, one month after Kristellnacht:

“If I knew it was possible to save all [Jewish] children of Germany by their transfer to England and only half of them by transferring them to Eretz-Yisrael, I would choose the latter—-because we are faced not only with the accounting of these [Jewish] children but also with the historical accounting of the Jewish People.”

In a cloud of obliviousness born of arrogance secular Zionist leaders were certain they would emerge triumphant in their plan to redefine the entire direction and purpose of the Jewish people. Left-wing politician and journalist Urey Avnery wrote the following in 2002, capturing the attitude shared by many of the early Zionist ideologues:

People of my age can remember the situation. Ben-Gurion, like all of us, believed that the Jewish religion was about to die out. Some old people, who spoke Yiddish, were still praying in the synagogues, but with time they would disappear. We, the young new Israelis, were secular, modern, free from these old superstitions. Not in his darkest nightmares could Ben-Gurion have imagined a time when religious pupils, some of whom are not taught in their schools even the most basic modern skills, would amount to nearly half the Israeli Jewish school population.

The number of religious shirkers now deprives the army of several divisions. [Orthodox yeshiva students are not required to serve in the army, one of several concessions Ben Gurion granted Orthodox leaders in return for their political support.] Step by step, the religious community is taking over the state. The religious settlers, the religious anti-Arab pogromists, their allies and ultra-right collaborators are gaining new footholds by the day. Just now the army has announced that 40% of candidates for junior officers’ courses are wearing kippahs. In 1948, when our army came into being, I did not see a single kippah-wearing soldier, not to mention an officer.

Dr. Chaim Weizman, first President of the State of Israel

(As an aside, note the schizoid attitude – shared by many left-wingers in Israel – expressed by Avnery. First he complains about the number of “religious shirkers” who do not serve in the Army. He then goes on to express his shock and disgust that 40% of candidates for officer’s courses in the Army are kippah-wearing religious Jews! Like the joke about the elderly woman who complained that not only did the food at her hotel taste terrible….but they served such small portions! Avnery’s hatred of religious Jews creates such cognitive dissonance that it’s impossible for him to perceive the absurdity of his position.)

The stage was now set for the inevitable clash with the great Torah sages and the Orthodox community who certainly had no intention of accepting David Ben-Gurion’s “new Jew.” Even before the turn of the century, the illustrious Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Tzadok HaCohen Rabinowitz (1823-1900), wrote the following: “It may be assumed that if the Zionists gain domination they will seek to remove from the hearts of Israel, belief in God and in the truth of the Torah…they have thrown off their garments of assimilation and put on a cloak of zeal so that they appear zealous on the behalf of Judaism. They are in fact digging a hole beneath our faith and seeking to lead Israel from beneath the wings of the Divine Presence.”

By 1918, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, President of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and later to become the first President of the State of Israel, was already embroiled in bitter personal debates with Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, Chief Rabbi of the Ashkenazic  Hareidi community of Jerusalem, which had roots going back to the late 18th century. The debates were over the future of Jewish education in the Holy Land. Weizmann tried to convince Rabbi Sonnenfeld that the Hareidi schools must change their curriculums to be more “modern” and that if they would agree, WZO would provide much needed funding to the impoverished Hareidi community. Rabbi Sonnenfeld was outraged that a man who cared nothing for the Torah and traditions of Judaism would try to dictate to his entire community how they should educate their children. It goes without saying that he flat out refused both to make any changes in the educational system and to accept any funding from WZO.

Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld (1848-1932), Chief Rabbi of the Hareidi community in Jerusalem

The majority of the world’s leading Torah Sages, vehemently and indignantly denied WZO’s claim that it represented the entire Jewish people. Rabbi Sonnenfeld, in the name of Agudas Yisroel (a European based organization representing Orthodox Jews) and the Eida Chareidis (the official name of the Hareidi establishment in Jerusalem) was determined to conduct his own negotiations with both the British rulers of Palestine and with the surrounding Arab leaders, particularly in Trans-Jordan. They were not interested in WZO’s dream of an independent Jewish state, not only because of its secular/anti-religious nature, but because they rightly feared the inevitable bloodshed that would occur in a conflict with the Arabs if the drive for statehood continued. They wanted to have a harmonious relationship with the Arabs, were fully prepared to accept British rule, and only wanted autonomy so that they could continue living as a Torah-based community. As it turns out, the Hareidim were the original “Peace Now” movement. (Ironically, in modern Israel, nowhere is the hatred of the Hareidi community stronger than in the leftist “peace camp.”)

Dr. Jacob Israel de Haan, a secular Dutch journalist and intellectual who had become increasingly religious while forming a close relationship with Rabbi Sonnenfeld, represented the Eida Chareidis in negotiations with the Arabs and British. His prominence, intellectual acuity, and skill as a negotiator represented a real threat to WZO’s self-appointed position as the exclusive representative of the Jewish community in dealings with the British or Arabs. De Haan was labeled a traitor by the Zionist establishment. On June 30, 1924, in a shocking display of arrogance, brutality, and abandonment of Jewish values, the Haganah (para-military wing of WZO), under the leadership of Yitzchak Ben-Zvi (a future President of the State of Israel), assassinated De Haan as he emerged from the synagogue of the Shaarei Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem. It was this same sense of arrogance and self-aggrandizement that Ben-Gurion used in June, 1948, to justify his ordering the murders of 16 members of the Irgun, a group representing his political rivals.

The murder of De Haan achieved its goal inasmuch as it effectively stopped the Orthodox community from further progress in their own negotiations. However, the Zionist leadership faced a much bigger problem. A large percentage of the new immigrants were from Arab countries. They had religious traditions stretching back hundreds or even thousands of years in their respective communities and had no interest in the concept of a “new Jew.” These immigrants represented a serious political threat to the Ashkenazi (European Jews) dominated Socialist Labor party. It was imperative that their children be prevented from continuing with their traditional Jewish education and to be indoctrinated with modern Zionistic ideology.

Jacob Israel de Haan, assassinated by the Hagganah in 1924

Although Israeli law mandated that parents could choose a religious or secular stream of education, it was decided by the Ministry of Education not to extend this option to the immigrant camps. The only education available was the secular curriculum. In order to ensure implementation of this indoctrination process a Department for Imparting Culture and Absorption for Immigrants was formed, headed by Nachum Levin. In his book, The Melting Pot in Israel: The Commission of Inquiry Concerning the Education of Immigrant Children During the Early Years of the State (Suny Press, 2002), Zvi Zameret writes:

“The instructions to the teachers in the immigrant camps reflect the overall worldview that the Department of Culture wished to instill in the children. The pedagogical objective was to draw the immigrant children closer to accepting the Zionist revolution and the image of the “new man” that it wished to create.”

Many young boys had their peyot (sidecurls) forcibly cut off and everything was done to coerce them to violate the Sabbath and eat non-kosher food. A prominent religious intellectual in Israel, Dr. Yeshayahu Leibowitz complained of religious coercion in Kfar Lifta near Jerusalem. He claimed that the local instructor explicitly threatened the new immigrants that should they insist upon religious education, they would be penalized in terms of provisions of food, clothing, and jobs. In his testimony before the Frumkin Commission (established to investigate the scandal) he said:

“I came into contact with the new immigrants in a number of moshavim (new towns)…I found the local instructor used threats against the new settlers…there is interference [in their religious observance and education] and at times…brutal means of threats and coercion. We are forced to put up a fight in each and every place.”

If there is any doubt as to the truth of these accusations, here are the words of Nachum Levin himself, Director of the Department of Culture and Absorption and the man responsible for the educational system in the immigrant camps. He spoke these words in a closed session of the Histadrut (Israel Labor Federation):

“All of the camps today are flooded with yeshiva students…they represent the powers of darkness. They will not educate these children or youth to a life of pioneering or to go to the Negev. The struggle here is a struggle for the character of the immigrants…this is a battle not about religion, but for political influence over the immigrants and the future image of the State of Israel.” Enough said.

Yemenite immigrants on their way to the new State of Israel. Immigrants like these posed a political threat to Labor Zionism

It is against this backdrop that the conflict arose over mandatory army service. Under no circumstances was the orthodox community prepared to put their young sons – during the most impressionable years of their lives (18-21 years of age) – in the hands of a government that looked at their way of life with disdain, contempt, and outright hatred; a government that was even prepared to murder other Jews to achieve their goals.

David Ben-Gurion realized that any attempt to force the issue would result, literally, in civil war. The government reluctantly amended the draft law to exclude orthodox men who were learning full time in Yeshivot (rabbinical seminaries). However, none of these men would be permitted to work legally unless they did Army service. This act of spiteful cruelty was a typical outgrowth of the unbridled arrogance of Ben-Gurion and his ilk. The message to the Hareidi community was the following: If you don’t do it our way, we will strip you of your basic human dignity; that is to say, the ability to work and support oneself and one’s family. If you want to live your way of life you will be forced to live on either government handouts or charity. In other words, the Hareidim effectively became 2nd class citizens in the new State of Israel. After forcing the Hareidi community into this situation and forbidding them to work unless they toed the secular-Zionist line, they then accused them of being “parasites” because they didn’t work!

The “parasite” canard along with the accusation that the Hareidim refuse to “share the burden” of serving in the army, has been used as a stick with which to beat the Hareidi community since the founding of the State of Israel. It has also been effectively used by secular ideologues to demonize Hareidim among non-observant Israelis. Imagine how different it would have been if instead of doing everything in his power to marginalize the Hareidi community Ben-Gurion had held out his hand in brotherly love and said the following:

“We are brothers, the sons of one man” (Gen. 42:13) All of us are here because we are Jews. We all love the land of Israel and we all agree that a Jew must serve the needs of the Jewish people. Our sons will serve by joining the army, your sons will serve by keeping alive our moral and spiritual legacy by studying Torah. After both complete their years of service they are free to work and become productive members of our society.

How different it could have been indeed.

Now, in 2013, Naftali Bennett – ostensibly an orthodox Jew – instead of using his newfound political power to help heal these terrible wounds in the Jewish people, has decided to pour salt on them instead. It is obvious that something is horribly wrong when even the radically left-wing Ha’aretz (!) in a 3/6/13 op-ed piece points out that Bennett’s approach may destroy all the progress that has been made until now in healing the religious/secular rift in Israeli society.

My son, Danny Averick, who was stationed at the Erez/Gaza Border Crossing during his service in the Israeli Army. The girl gleefully posing with him wearing his army beret is his little sister Malka, with her twin, Tirtza, to the left. This picture was taken in Jerusalem, at the engagement party of my oldest daughter, Sara Razel.

All of this is a shameful chapter in Jewish history which is unknown to most Jews and rarely talked about by those who do know. It is time for the Israeli government to confess its sins and accept the orthodox/Hareidi community for what it is. What could be more absurd than a group of people tripping over themselves while trying to make peace with those who have been violently trying to destroy us for the past 70 years, and yet are unable to reach out and make peace with their own brothers?!

Let us all pray that soon we will truly enter an era that reflects the words of the Psalmist:

“How goodly and sweet it is when brothers sit in peace together.”

Rabbi Moshe Averick is an orthodox rabbi, a regular columnist for the Algemeiner Journal, and author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. It is available on and Kindle. Rabbi Averick can be reached via his website. If you wish to be informed when new articles appear, send an email to with the email address and the word “Subscribe” in the subject line.

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  • Apollocreed

    Page 7 of The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl:

    About two years ago I wanted to solve the Jewish Question, at least in
    Austria, with the help of the Catholic Church. I wished to gain
    access to the Pope (not without first assuring myself of the
    support of the Austrian church dignitaries) and say to him:
    Help us against the anti-Semites and I will start a great move-
    ment for the free and honorable conversion of Jews to

    Free and honorable by virtue of the fact that the leaders of
    this movement — myself in particular — would remain Jews and
    as such would propagate conversion to the faith of the majority.
    The conversion was to take place in broad daylight, Sundays
    at noon, in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, with festive processions
    and amidst the pealing of bells. Not in shame, as individuals
    have converted up to now, but with proud gestures. And be-
    cause the Jewish leaders would remain Jews, escorting the
    people only to the threshold of the church and themselves
    staying outside, the whole performance was to be elevated by
    a touch of great candor.

    We, the steadfast men, would have constituted the last gen-
    eration. We would still have adhered to the faith of our fathers.
    But we would have made Christians of our young sons before
    they reached the age of independent decision, after which con-
    version looks like an act of cowardice or careerism. As is my
    custom, I had thought out the entire plan down to all its minute
    details. I could see myself dealing with the Archbishop of
    Vienna; in imagination I stood before the Pope — both of them
    were very sorry that I wished to do no more than remain part
    of the last generation of Jews — and sent this slogan of mingling
    of the races flying across the world.

  • Apollocreed

    What an amazingly well written and well researched article! Thank you very much!

  • Joshua David

    The article states, ” The early Zionists called themselves “Hebrews” and not Jews, and deliberately changed their German or Russian or Yiddish names to sound more Hebraic and nationalistic (for example, David Gruen became David Ben-Gurion. Shimon Persky became Shimon Perez). It was a deliberate attempt to create a totally new Jewish identity…”
    It was not an “attempt” to create a new identity. The Jewish PEOPLE have always been the Hebrews. But while other nationalities had and have maintained control and consciousness of both, such as an Italian Catholic, The Jewish (Hebrew) people somehow became estranged from our national identity. I have an old photo of a group of people in a Forest in Romania. They are standing beside a gravestone in honour of a number of my family members who were gunned down in those woods by the nazis. My grandfather and uncle are among those in the photo.
    The language on the gravestone is in Hebrew not Romanian. Why would those men have Hebrew on a gravestone if they were only Romanian Jews? In my heart and soul I know that European last names are not the true ethnic names of my people and I know I am Hebrew.

  • The pious, poor, ghettoized Jew—who presented a pathetic image of a man stooped-over and always at the mercy of his persecutors—had to be done away with. To build a state required something all-together different—a “Hebrew.” The early Zionists called themselves “Hebrews” and not Jews, and deliberately changed their German or Russian or Yiddish names to sound more Hebraic and nationalistic (for example, David Gruen became David Ben-Gurion. Shimon Persky became Shimon Perez)

    well, tell me if you don’t think the poor ‘pious’ ghettoized Jew shouldn’t be done away with. tell me if you don’t think reviving Hebrew was a good idea(by the way, thye first batch of Zionist leaders, those who came from Austria nad Germany, in particular Herzl himself, actually weren’t even “Hebrew-ists, they wanted to make German official language of new state). Tell me also that a ‘new” Je we speak of, capable of maintaining his own homeland, is not MORE like the one of Torah, than the poor pious ghettoized one.
    3 minutes ago · Like
    Aleks Yakubssohn as for Ben Gurion’s remark about saving all Jewish kids of Germany in England, or half in Israel, first of, it’d be nice to have a link to it; secondly, he was known for sharp and figurative manner of speech; and thirdly, how is it bad for someone to care for the Jewish identity? Damned if he is, damned if he’s not, isn’t he? It’s unacceptable for a modern day left-wing Zionist journalist of never being satisfied with religious people, whether they serve in army too much or don’t serve at all–but it’s ok to bash a founder of Israel for having too much care for Jewish people and identity?
    after all, the ‘pious’ went essentially almost all up in flames, quite possibly due to not following the Zionist call, so it’s not for them to complain about Zionists ‘sacrificing’ Jewish blood. at least Zionists saved some, and their sacrifice wasn’t futile

  • jerry hersch

    This discussion is getting to be as good as a Talmud study camping trip and three days of around-the-campfire non-stop disputation.

  • Nan

    I have read enough memoirs and biographies of Mizrachi Jews and the grief they went through after being brought to Israel, to have any doubt of the veracity of what the rabbi is saying here. When I visited my (Ashkenazi) cousin in Israel in 1979, the comment she made about Mizrachi Jews reflected the very superior self regard of those of European descent referred to here. I have my arguments with the Haredi but that does not change history or how it is being played out today. Just as those of us in the US must face the darker parts of our history (and I propose our history is very dark indeed), so must we acknowledge the darker side of Israel’s history.

  • Miriam Eisenstein

    I would like one simple assertion verified. Is it a fact that today, Hareidim are “forbidden to work” unless they have served in the army? Is there in fact any law that prohibits potential employers from employing a qualified Hareidi because he has not served? Was there ever such a law? If so, when was it passed and what is its exact content? Until this is answered, I see no point in any further argument about the apparent refusal of the Hareidim to work and/or to pay taxes.

    • a yeshiva bocher

      there is no law stating that someone who wants to go to work will be put in jail rather he will be forcibly drafted into the army inasmuch preventing him from joining the workforce until he is older when he starts without an education while married with kids

    • r borowski

      Miriam, I have been living in Israel for the past 28 years. There is a tremendous amount of disinformation being passed around. Here is some important information about Hareidim in the workforce and Hareidim paying taxes.

      1. Men were not allowed to work without serving in the army or alternatively getting an exemption from the army. This was true until last April, when a new law (or guideline, perhaps) was passed allowing men to learn half day and work half day without an exemption.

      2. Many hareidi men serve in the army; however, many defer their serve until an older age after learning full time in yeshiva or Kollel for many years and then serving.

      3. In Jerusalem, where I live, one can see hareidi men in uniform, the older ones usually doing their reserve duty.

      4. The army often does not take the hareidi men when they are ready to go out and work and are prepared to serve. When men are ready to be conscripted at age 28 with children, the army simply doesn’t take them. Therefore, they can and do go out to work. Many many many men are working, earning, and paying taxes. Yes, they are hareidi. Yes, they may spend several hours a day learning in ADDITION to working.

      5. Taxes. Who’s not paying taxes? I work and pay taxes. My husband works and pays taxes. He also learns more hours a day than most people work. My married daughter works and pays taxes while her husband learns in yeshiva and doesn’t work yet. My daughter-in-law is a small business owner and pays taxes. Her husband learns full time. But taxes are paid.

      6. When Hareidi men need to go out and work and need some marketable skills, they get them. In Jerusalem, there are adult training programs specially geared to hareidi men to give them skills to go out and work in programming, technical writing, q an a, electricians, and many other fields. Some of these programs today lead to a B.A. or B.S.

      7. Hareidi men who choose to sit and learn day and night for decades are studying to be our sages, our poskim, our leaders. These people get phone calls from all people, all walks of life with questions in Halacha, questions in Jewish thought, advice and so on. My husband, a poseik, can receive 30 phone calls a day on myriad subjects. He tries to answer each one patiently and tries to be as available as possible to answer each person. The rabbonim and poskim are there for klal yisrael, giving of themselves. Who is serving the country and klal yisrael?

      I hope this sheds a small bit of light on the disinformation spread to malign hareidi Jews.

      • ScottAdler

        Ah, so they are “ready” to go into the army at age 28?

        After they already have five or six kids to support, they are ready to put on a uniform for three years?

        This article is more paranoia, more lashon rah from the Heredi camp. The Arabs would never have allowed the local ghettos the autonomy they wanted. They would have done in Jerusalem what they did everywhere else — forced the Jews to run.

        By the way, it was outside secular communities, working through western governments, that forced the Turkish authorities to allow building outside the Old City in 1878. Without non-Heredi Jews, Meah Shearim could never have been built.

        • Nathan Hirsch


          .1. No one is ever “ready” to go into the army.

          .2. The arabs didn’t “allow” anything. They have fought the Jews tooth and nail, every step of the way, as has the rest of the world, in the establishment and continuation of a Jewish state.

          .3. The first building outside the walls of Jerusalem in our times (1860) was Mishkenot Sha’ananim. The project to “grow” the Jewish people beyond the ancient walls was developed and managed by Sir Moses Montefiore, who was a ba’al teshuvah. HaSar Moshe was said to travel with his own shoichet. Funding was through Judah Touro, again, raised in a frum family. Without these two religious founders there would be no state of Israel today!

  • NuritG

    I am making this comment before even reading the article because if we, as members of the Jewish nation, all are equal under OUR ONE God, no matter how religious we are, and if we do not learn to respect each other and accept each other for who we are, whether secular, somewhat religious or religious or Haredie, and we stop forcing on each other our way of thinking and behavior and if we do not learn to live on amicable and mutual grounds and in harmony, we are doomed and we will find ourselves losing our last opportunity to have a sovereign country we have received ONLY 65 years ago after already 1-of-3 Jews was exterminated in short 5 years period. Ben Gurion was irresponsible to Klal-all Israel and so is Bennett and Lapid and ALL of those who do not follow my mindset as above. We are a nation that does not know how liver together. My late mother used to say that Jews without an enemy will destroy themselves! God help us.

  • DF

    That Moshe Averick – ostensibly an orthodox Jew – can write this nonsense is embarassing. This is “unknown to most Jews and not talked about by those who do”??? Please – all of this is alteh toireh. For every one of the parade of horribles offered up by Averick for the Zionists, not only additional ones but even the same, mirror-opposite ones can be shown on the part of the Charedim. So they’re both terrible, right? The difference is, one of them actually built a thriving state providing home and haven for millions upon millions of Jews. The other did absolutely nothing.

    Shame on Averick.

    • Defender

      please state examples of the “not only additional ones but even the same, mirror-opposite ones [that] can be shown on the part of the Charedim”!

  • D. Rosenberg

    Certainty the old Zionist establishment did not look favorably on ultra-Orthodox Jewry, but the Haredi world did not and still does not have the slightest respect for the non-religious or even the national religious camps. Indeed, the statement by rabbis and ultra-orthodox political leaders about non-Haredim are far more insulting and demeaning than anything I’ve ever seen a secular leader say.
    But the Haredim want it both ways. They are happy to take the non-Haredi population’s tax money and are happy to defended by them. Indeed, when they need medical help or their car fixed they’ll go to someone with a secular education, not to a Kollel student. But when they are asked to give anything back — army service,labor, pay taxes — then we are told that that would be oppressive, anti-Semitic and (despite the fact that outside Israel, the ultra-orthodox do all these things) anti-Torah.
    Averick’s piece could not be less relevant to the debate. It is simple another seemingly desperate excuse for shirking army service.

    • D. Rosenberg,
      You didn’t address even one of the points I raised in the article. Thank you for you profoundly shallow comments.

  • HaDaR

    One CANNOT pick-n-choose among the mitswoth of Torah.
    Defense of Jews from pursuers and persecutors is an OBLIGATION involving several positive and negative mitswoth, among which “DO NOT STAND IDEL BY YOUR BROTHER’S BLOOD”, which NO ONE in 3500 years, except the black-clad Babylonians has taught it means “study and pray to stop the attackers”. We are taught CLEARLY to follow our forefathers’ example. Avraham fought. Moses fought. Yehoshu’a and Caleb fought. King David fought. Rabbi Akiva fought. Who do these people think they are? Do they think they are better than all the above to just sit and study and pray? Should the Israeli Police and Army allow the Arabs to enter Bene’ Braq and Meah Shearim and all the places where people don’t contribute to Israel’s defense even by paying taxes? Is our kids’ blood less red than theirs?
    Enough with this JUSTIFICATION OF SIN, because, as Pirqe’ Avoth teach: “ALL Torah that is not accompanied by labour, is destined to be NULL and BRINGS TO SIN”.
    It’s not a Jewish custom to wear black but an idol-worshippers’ custom (see Rabbenu Bachye and Ben Ish Chai and ALL THE TANNAIM) and it is an idolworhippers’ custom to stay away from work and from wordly occupations.
    It is high time that they go back to the Torah of the Land of Israel and abandon the TORAH OF EXILE.

    • mz

      I am all for torah but what the haredim say is torah is just a bunch of man made rules to have control over the people. In fact the main reason most jews are not religious is because those people add add add to the torah to the point of making it impossible to follow. What they follow is not the torah of moshe rabeinu given in sinai but the torah given in babylon. “You shall not add to that which I command you and you shall not subtract from it, to keep the commandments of the L-rd your G-d…” (Deut. 4:2). Where does it say in the torah you can not mix meat and milk??? This is just one example of what this people do in twisting the torah so they can have power over the people. Create a problem to sell a solution.

  • Bracha

    A more accurate comparison, (politically) would be Naphtali Bennett and Menchem Begin. Naftali Bennett, (who no one believes is meshiach, despite R. Averick’s comments), like many Orthodox Jews who combine Torah and social responsibility, does not denigrate the importance of Torah. The Bayit Yehudi party promotes combining Torah study and army service. This philosophy is threatening to the point where it has become the accepted trend among Charedim to blame the national religious movement for the current situation. These tensions have been building for years and are not a new development that arrived when Bennett was elected. I agree that Ben Gurion and Mapai had a lot to answer for, but so does Aryeh Deri and his support for the Oslo Accords.

    • Bracha,
      Please see my post below regarding Shas and Oslo.
      Anyone who knows anything about the amount of chesed that is done in the Chareidi communities also knows that they combine “Torah and social responsibility.” Naftali Bennett is an Am Ha’aretz/politician, and has zero authority to decide who should learn Torah and for how long. The leading posek in the Haredi/Le’umi community, Rav Dov Lior opposes his policy. In your comments you completely ignored most of the things that I wrote in the article.

      • Nathan

        You are very sensitive to people responding to you according to your standards. You like insulting more than responding.

        • Moshe Averick

          You are correct and I apologize for being overly testy in some of my replies. I was frustrated that many of the commenters did not read the article carefully and in my opinion missed the point. Next time I will try not to write replies when I am in that type of mood.

      • jerry hersch

        “.. who should learn Torah and for how long”
        It is useless to study Torah if you shut out the world.
        The Torah is is a breathing living entity -it grows with each generation-and each generation has a responsibility to add to the understanding ..perhaps creating new Talmudic thought.
        We were not given a brain to learn by rote that which was-but to learn that which was known and from that move ahead to greater understanding through BOTH study and real world living.
        What understanding can be gained by cloistered living ?? How can one add unless one is exposed..
        A numbing repetion of Talmudic writing..not all Talmuds mind you…agaainst what is this learning set.How can new avenues be explored when living in an unreal false existence ??

  • David Levy

    In the introduction to Em Habanim Smecha, the amazing book by Rabbi Teichtal, the Rabbi explains how he held the views of the pre-WW2 orthodox, namely total rejection of zionism, until his great epiphany while hiding from the Nazis, which led to his book exhorting the orthodox to return to Israel. His comments illustrate clearly the rejection of zionism by the pre-WW2 orthodox. On the other hand, had they embraced zionism in strength, they could have had numbers and influence, and then, to quote Averick: “How different it could have been indeed”. Instead, like 10 of the 12 spies of the biblical exodus, the majority of the orthodox turned their back on Israel and so wrote themselves out of the great endeavour of establishing the modern state of Israel. The only way for the orthodox to remedy their great mistake today is to have a major change of heart and begin fully to participate in the life of the modern state, starting with service in the army, learning trades or professions and getting off welfare.

    • Unfortunately, Rabbi Teichtal wrote his sefer while hiding from the Nazis in an attic, and had no knowledge of the politics of the British Mandate in Palestine or the Jewish Agency control of Certificates for immigration to Palestine. These Certificates were divied up by the Jewish Agency under the leadership of Ben Gurion based on representation in the Jewish Agency Executive and on the basis of the “need” for socialist, pioneering youth. Accordingly, the Jewish Agency only allowed from 4% to 6% of Certificates to be issued to “Charedi” Jews. So the Zionists refused to allow Charedim to come to Palestine, and then they blame them for not coming and building the country. Like the story of the son who killed his father and claims to the judge that he is an orphan. The better question to review is the morality of the Jewish Agency in the 1930’s in deciding who would live (socialists and the anti-religious) and who would be stuck in Europe (those over age 35, those not trained in agriculture, those who were religious).

  • Okey

    If the Haredim were the majority in Israel they would abolish secular curricula in schools; they would abolish universities; they would abolish scientific research and progress; they would abolish the defence forces; they would abolish the state. They would force other Jews to observe a lifestyle against the latter’s wishes.
    And they would subjugate themselves as well as the non-Haredi Jews to the Arab yoke.
    If the Haredim don’t like Zionism let them emigrate to Brooklyn.
    Shame on the writer of this article even though he is a Rabbi. He clearly is as extreme as he claims the early Zionists were.

    • Let’s Tour Eretz Yisoel

      Dear Okey,
      Learn a bit of History We were here before the Zionist were even around. Why should we leave?

  • David Hoffman

    Except for sniping at Naftali Bennett and a side mention in one quote (about which more below), this article totally ignores the role of the National Religious (NR) community. The NR community by and large AGREED with the secular Zionists that the chareidi way of life was inappropriate to life as an independent people in Eretz Israel and that accepting exile among the nations was no longer a viable option. It profoundly DISAGREED with their conclusion that the “baby” of Torah study and mitzva observance must be thrown out with the “bath water” of a worldview that rejects self-defence, scorns the study of math, science, and foreign languages, and clings to Galut modes of dress and thought. The NR community has created yeshivot, kehillot, and rabbanim in no way inferior to those of the chareidi community, fully integrated with military service (those 40% of officer candidates decried by Uri Avineri are overwhelmingly NR, not chareidi), technological prowess, and a strong work ethic. Why shouldn’t both the secular and the chareidi be encouraged to adopt this model?

  • Fredric M. London

    I have to admit, I was totally ignorant of this issue. Thank you for enlightening me, I would be delighted to learn more.

  • jerry hersch

    OY !!
    Perhaps if those Haredi rabbis would allow for real Torah study and disputation-allowed the experiences of the real world…and forsook the role of demi-god cult leaders…Perhaps if these Torah “pacifists” would not spit .throw stones and yell and disparage others..
    Much of the Haredi Judaism is a perversion of Talmud is a an anathema to all who believed in contributing to the lives of others.
    Perhaps is other societies “get ye to a nunnery” would have been a road for other people..Now it is get ye to a yeshiva all day.. anyone can tell you that all day long singular study leads to is brainwashing-epecially if led by hereditary rabbis who have their “cult” following. Study that takes place without the backdrop and human social intercourse needed has no basis in reality.
    In the shetls those sons who were most capable were involved in the families wellbeing,its livlihood,trained to take over famiy leadership..absorbtion into this socio-economic microcosm was limited..many sons ,as in a feudal society, were left out.They became the respected Yeshiva boys..far better than saying that this son was incapable of leading the family affairs.
    The typical image of a Jew plow in one hand,sword in the other and wrapped in the writings of faith is a long past image. Perhaps that is why it is accepted by the State.Inadequate mental heath services in Israel that could not support financially,personnelwise or with community commitment the shift in the 1980s and 1990s from a hospital setting to a community based living environment. It is always better perhaps to say my son the yeshiva bucha -than my son,the institutionalized one,
    This gives shelter and protection to the unassimilable…and renders the completely incapable of independent functioning.
    Ten percent of Israels population now soon it will hit 20+% -who will bear the burden-certainly not the ‘Holier than God’ Haredi rabbis who bask in their adoration.
    No nation can last when 10-20-30 % of its people refuse to contribute -Even were there no nation it is incumbent upon Jews to serve.
    The power of these rabbis must be broken..or Israel is lost-from within

    • DAvid,

      You seem to be largely ignorant of Jewish History. The British were not allowing jews in to Israel in order not to exacerbate tensions with the Arabs. If the orthodox turned their backs on Israel, who were the secular Zionists fighting with over education in jerusalem? Your comments are incoherent and do not address anything that I wrote in the article, which seems to be a consistent pattern in the comments so far.

    • Jerry,

      What have you been smoking?

  • Martha

    Thank you for this fascinating, informative article. (And congratulations on your beautiful family – best wishes!)

  • joshua 5737

    “Without Torah there is no point to the State of Israel, period.”

  • Marcelo

    I agree with the author’s emphasis on the importance of Torah study, but disagree with his policy. The haredim are free to study Torah while serving the army and risking their lives like the non-Haredim.

  • Chaim F

    enjoyed article very much. would like to see more on this subject and, in particular, the arguments between the great Rabbis and the Mizrahi ones. Clearly, in retrospect, the Haredi Rabbis were correct (not only in retrospect but in retrospect Mizrahi should accept that they were wrong) as the State of Israel has become, in many ways, a facilitator of terror against the Jewish people (by negotiating and thereby encouraging terrorists and surrendering land, etc). Clearly, the “new Jew” the Zionists hoped to develop is himself one without a Jewish identity who represents a danger to his fellow Jews (e.g. Vanunu, Sharon, Peres, Rabin, etc, etc)

    One point, though, is that the issue of Army service is a purely political issue since the Army really doesn’t want to form new Chareidi units and has stated that it doesn’t even want to draft as many soldiers as it is currently forced to draft. Bennett is surely aware of this and is simply using the issue, as is Lapid, to keep out the Chareidim from the govt. in light of their penchant to compromise Halacha itself in achieving their important goal of obtaining money for their communities. Isn’t this why Agudah supported the expulsion from Gush Katif? These actions encourage terror and harm, in so many ways, the Jewish people (not to mention the terrible consequences for the people forced out of their homes).

  • David S

    This article, while an interesting historical debate, ignores the simple fact that Chazal lauded the combination of Torah study with work in the general economy. Indeed Maimonides says as follows.

    “Anyone who decides to study Torah and not work, making his living from charity, desecrates Hashem’s name , disgraces the Torah …and any Torah that is not accompanied by work will lead to it’s own undoing and cause sin….”

    If it is indeed a Chillul Hashem and a sin, who is denigrating our Mesorah. It would seem to be the so-called Torah scholars that forgot this simple lesson.

    Yes, I know that in a different statement, Maimonides appears to contradict himself.

    “but any person whose spirit moves him to separate himself and stand before Hashem, to serve Him in order to know Him…behold he has become sanctified as the Holy of Holies, and Hashem becomes his portion, his inheritance for ever. And He will provide his basic necessities for him in this world, as with the Kohanim and Levi’im…”

    This is a very high bar indeed…someone who is almost completely a spiritual being who clings to God as another would need food. It does not suggest that this person should be supported by other people however, it suggests that Hashem himself will provide. So if a person is supported by God and does not ask anything of his fellow Jews, indeed that is permitted.

    To understand how rare that person is, we need only look at Maimonides himself who worked as a physician.

    Indeed most of the sages were working in various and sundry professions even lowly ones like tanning, winemaking etc. A butcher is supposed to be especially holy! To suggest that Torah is a profession is to suggest that the students of today are holier and superior to the Sages of the Talmud themselves. People who suggest that are in fact the ones stripping the dignity of the Torah itself.

    What could be holier than defending Am Yisrael at risk of his life, while at the same time studying Torah! The so called torah-scholars missed the important lessons! If this is what they are learning, teaching has been degraded into a joke.

    • The Rambam also said that someone should only work 3 hours a day and learn 9 hours a day. How does an Avreich who tutors between sederim or translates or opens a store for a few hours fit in with that halacha? Seems to me quite well.

      And what about their wives who work? Do they count. It may not be the ideal situation, but if a couple is willing to do it so that the husband can learn then that seems to me to fit within what the Rambam is saying (i.e., not living off of charity).

      In terms of Kollel stipends from the state. Let’s remember that the state taxes all of us heavily and their stipends are rather minimum – certainly no where near what is needed to survive.

      In terms of child support – almost all (or perhaps all) European countries have child support. I think the US gives tax credits or something to that extent. Here’s an interesting article on the subject:

      In terms of defending Am Yisrael – well, it’s a bit complicated in Israel. The army isn’t just about defense, it’s about helping to create the new Jew. And it’s not just about defending Am Yisrael, but also the Jewish State – an idea that the Chareidim never agreed with. And there is more to defense than fighting – such as the ability to avoid getting into fights in the first place.

      • MC

        “The Rambam also said that someone should only work 3 hours a day and learn 9 hours a day. How does an Avreich who tutors between sederim or translates or opens a store for a few hours fit in with that halacha? Seems to me quite well.”

        This scenario was obviously presented as an example, not a psak halachah that a person limit his work day to 3 hours if doing so is fiscally untenable.

        The Rambam’s work schedule as a physician itself was much more demanding than this example he provides in the Mishneh Torah, as an extant letter of his demonstrates.

        • Moshe Morris

          Example or not, if one can do it then it fits within the Rambam. Same goes if one wife’s works. The point is not to make one’s living from charity.

  • Barry Kupfer

    Hello Moshe – old friend,

    For some reason, you don’t hear much about the early days of the state “political” debates. But where the Chareidim went ‘wrong’ was by joining the government politically and in accepting money – against the desires of some of the earlier gedolim (from what I’ve heard).

    It seems that the Chareidim are not addressing the issue honestly. They realize that their growth rates are making them a large percentage of the general population. At some point, approaching fairly quickly, they will need to integrate more into the running of the country outside their communities. A simple acknowledgement of this and some generalized plan for the future would go a long way to comfort those that think the Chareidim want nothing to do with them – ever.

    As Orthodox Jews, I think you would agree, we have the responsibility to always be Mekadesh Hashem (bring honor to God). There should be better PR campaign by the Chareidim to not be seen as ‘parasites’. Until Moshiach, there will always be the hard core atheists. But, IMO, the vast majority of secular Israeli’s would not be so anti-Chareidi if the Chareidim dealt with the situation better. Perhaps there was a time the Chareidim needed to put up walls, but it seems quite evident that this is no longer the case.

    I’m curious what your opinion is on having the Chareidim do something like sherut le’umi? Personally, I think it is a failing of all yeshivot around the world of not having the men required to do a minimum amount of chesed per week.

    So what political party would you be part of in Israel today?

    • Hello Barry,

      I think one of the reasons why the Chareidim eventually took money from the state is because they are taxed by the state.

      In terms of a PR campaign – it’s difficult when the powers that be our against you – which is certainly the case in the media in Israel.

      • Barry Kupfer


        re: PR campaign. How about just standing still for one minute during Yom Hazikoron during the siren so the media can’t film them ignoring it?

        Why can’t the gedolim get up and say “thank you” for your protection or make a mishebeirach in shul for the soldiers?

        When the walls are so high that they cannot show any hakoras hatov for what they do get from the state, there is a problem.

        • Moshe Morris

          well, they don’t think it’s a protection. They think that the state caused unneed problems with the Arabs – 100 years of war, exile of all the Jewish communities in the Middle East, etc.

          In other words, they DISAGREE with you. I think in a free society one is not required to hold by the rituals, beliefs or opinions of others. Evidently, that notion doesn’t apply to the Chareidim.

  • Jeremy Lynn


    1. We’ve chosen, for understandable educational reasons, to withdraw and live in exclusively Haredi cities and neighborhoods, avoiding as much as possible any social contact with the secular.

    This is legitimate and understandable, but as a result they don’t really know us, amd so they naturally view us as bizarre, in our manner of dress, our behavior, and our language. This creates aversion and alienation. Why, then, we are angry at them for treating us this way?

    2. We chose, for educational reasons—although some of us really believe it—to teach our children that all secular Israelis are sinners, vacuous, with no values, and corrupt.

    This could possibly be a legitimate view, but, then, why are we shocked when the secular, in return, teach their own children that the Haredim are all primitive, with outdated and despicable values?

    3. We have chosen, for the sake of the preservation of Torah in Israel, to prevent our sons from participating in carrying the heavy burden of security, and instead tasked them with learning Torah.

    Of course we could not give that up, but why are we outraged and offended when the secular, who do not recognize nor understand this need—or rather most of them are familiar with the issue, but argue that there should be quotas—see us as immoral, and some despise us as a result?

    4. We chose for our sons who do not belong, by their personal inclination or learning skills to the group of Torah scholars (Yeshiva bums and worse), to also evade enlistment—including into perfectly kosher army units. And when it comes to the individuals who have joined the Haredi Nahal, we do not praise them, but despise them instead, and we certainly show them no gratitude, while the Haredi press ignores them—in the best case.

    Why, then, are we outraged when the secular don’t believe our argument, that the purpose of keeping yeshiva students from enlisting, is to maintain Torah study and not simply the Haredim’s unwillingness to bear the burden?

    5. We chose to teach our children not to work for a living, and to devote all their time to Torah study. Clear enough, but, then, why are we shocked when the secular—who do not consider Torah study an all encompassing value—feel that we are an economic burden on their necks, as a mere 38% of us take part in the labor force, and they hate us for it.

    6. We chose not to teach our children any labor skills, and we condemn those who do pursue a profession. As a result our kolelim include all of those who do not belong among the scholars and still prefer not to work for a living.

    Why, then, do we complain when the secular feel, and say so with an increasing volume, that we are parasites, living off of their efforts?

    7. We chose (for educational considerations?) not to educate our children to show gratitude to the soldiers who risked their lives and were killed or injured for our sake, too. So we do not mention them in any way by any special day or prayer or special Mishna learning that’s dedicated to their memory. Moreover, not a single Mashgiach or Rosh Yeshiva ever talks about it in a Mussar Schmooze, and you’ll find no mention of it in the Haredi press.

    Why, then, are we surprised that the secular feel that we are ungrateful and despicable, and that the reason for our not enlisting is simply because we are parasites, living off the sacrifices of others in society?

    8. When extremist, delusional groups behave in ways that besmirch the name of God—e.g. the spitting in Beit Shemesh, dancing during the memorial siren, burning the national flag—our rabbis chose not to condemn them, clearly and consistently ( except for a few faint statements here and there). Why, then, are we explaining away the fact that the secular believe we all support those terrible acts? Why do we insist that their hostility stems from their hatred of the scholars?

    9. We’ve opted to allow our public officials and pundits to curse out all the secular all the time. Why, then, when the secular media treat us the same way, are we offended and cry out that they’re persecuting us?

    10. The Haredi press will never offer any praise of or express support for secular Israelis who perform good deeds. Why, then, do we jump up and down when we are rewarded equally? And, in fact, while Haredi spokespersons rarely point anything positive about secular society, the secular media often gives positive coverage to Haredi organizations like Yad Sara, Hatzala, Zaka, etc.

    11. We would not agree, under any condition, that secular Israelis turn up in our schools to teach our children heresy, and we would have kept them from putting up stands with books of heresy in our areas. Why, then, do we not understand when the secular do not agree that we seduce her children into denying their parents’ heresy?

    12. We do not agree—in my view, rightfully so—that secular people move into Haredi neighborhoods. So where do we get the arrogance and audacity to call anti-Semites those secular who don’t agree that Haredim move near their homes, in secular neighborhoods?

    • Gavin

      “1. We’ve chosen, for understandable educational reasons, to withdraw and live in exclusively Haredi cities and neighborhoods, avoiding as much as possible any social contact with the secular.”

      In my opinion, this is understandable, but NOT legitimate, it is akin to the sin of the spies, who wished to remain in the desert and not deal with the real world. All that is achieved by withdrawal, is the creation of a “desert,” in order not to deal with the real world!

      “2. We chose, for educational reasons—although some of us really believe it—to teach our children that all secular Israelis are sinners, vacuous, with no values, and corrupt.”

      In my opinion, this choice is a chilul Hashem, since he instructs us to love fellow Jews as ourselves. The Lubavitcher Rebbe ×–”ל said that this means we need overlook their imperfections – as we overlook our own!

      We need to be teaching our children that these Jews are precious, although mistaken and that they should be loved as such.

      “3. We have chosen, for the sake of the preservation of Torah in Israel, to prevent our sons from participating in carrying the heavy burden of security, and instead tasked them with learning Torah.”

      In my opinion, the Torah is eternal, the belief that it needs our protection in Israel is due to a lack of faith. See also my answer to (1) above.

      4 – I agree with your question, there should be no surprise at all!

      “5. We chose to teach our children not to work for a living, and to devote all their time to Torah study.”

      See my answer to (1) above, as for the shock, why indeed?

      “6. We chose not to teach our children any labor skills, and we condemn those who do pursue a profession.”

      See my answer to (1) above, also, why complain, trust in Hashem!

      The majority of your questions are rhetorical and answer themselves. They of course are also answered by the Torah, מידה כנגד מידה!

      Of course, within the rligious community, there is also demonising of those who hold differently. The hareidim are very good at denouncing others as being less observant. I won’t eat that shechita etc. etc.

      I don’t believe that anything is beyond repair, and that goes for the relationships between hareidi and secular Jews. What is needed here, is for everyone to recognise each other, along with the responsibilities that go with it, i.e. “what is hateful to you, do not unto another.”

      This of course, is a very tall order, but we are blessed and can achieve anything.

      Hashem values achdut amongst us above all else, and it is sad, that many of the hareidim seem to have forgotten that the mitzvot between Adam v’chaveiro are more important than those between Adam l’Makom.

      We want Moshiach NOW!

      Will he come without achdut?

      • To Gavin:

        You write that it is akin to the spies. Well, what would you make of the halacha in the Rambam that at times one is REQUIRED to retire even to a cave if need be to ensure that they can keep the Torah? Is that also ‘not dealing with the real world’ or perhaps is it very much dealing with the real world, just not in the way that others would like one to deal with it?

        Secondly, I would argue that since the enlightenment, most of the serious problems that have faced the Jewish people have roots and/or connections from those Jews who thought they knew how to deal with the real world – and I’d include the early zionist in that camp (we can add various other enlightenment and assimilated Jews to that list – such as the Jewish communists, various Jewish intellectuals, etc.).

    • I’m going to reply only to your first point for now:

      1. We’ve chosen, for understandable educational reasons, to withdraw and live in exclusively Haredi cities and neighborhoods, avoiding as much as possible any social contact with the secular.

      This is legitimate and understandable, but as a result they don’t really know us, amd so they naturally view us as bizarre, in our manner of dress, our behavior, and our language. This creates aversion and alienation. Why, then, we are angry at them for treating us this way?

      The decision to withdraw happened well before the state and goes back to the times of the Chosom Sofer and Rav Hirsch in response to the inroads of the enlightenment and the reform movement. It was seen as a measure of self-protection. Originally, Rav Hirsch was against this move, but eventually he also pushed for it as he saw the alternative untenable.

      In terms of how the non-religious view the religious, I think the chronology is actually the other way around. I think first came the attacks, ridicule, etc. and then the withdrawal. That, at least, is the impression I have received from what I have studied of that time (although I admittedly need to do more research).

      You are right that the situation can be self-perpetuating – with more aversion and more withdrawal, etc.

  • DS

    When an Aish haTorah rabbi is cited as an “historian,” you know that the quality of research and the caliber of such writing is subpar.

    Ken Spiro is a kiruv professional. Dr. Salo Baron, z”l, Dr. Irving Agus, z”l, and Dr. Jacob Katz, z”l, and nowadays, Dr. Marc Shapiro, among others, were/are historians and real scholars, with peer-reviewed scholarship, not apologetics to their names.

    Also, Dr. Arthur Hertzberg, zt”l, was the leading historian concerned with thr History of Zionism in our time. It is telling that this article ignores any legitimate scholarship and passes off Aish haTorah kiruv material as scholarship.

    Having semicha and producing a well-researched article are not mutually exclusive of each other.

    I do not necessarily disagree with the conclusions of this article, but I believe that the quality is shoddy and an embarassment to this publication.

    • Hello DS,

      I think it would be more helpful to note whether or not Rabbi Averick made any factual mistakes.

      You say that you agree with the conclusions – what about the points he made that led up to the conclusions? Were they accurate? Did they leave out any important or relevant facts? Was the quote from Rabbi Spiro informative and helpful?

      If not, why not point those out rather than single out the source that he quoted?

      If so, then what is the criticism about – that he could have quoted a more academic or professional source? So what – in the context it is at best a true, but irrelevant point.

    • DS,

      You may be correct that ken Spiro is not a historian of the same caliber of some of the others that are mentioned, but the simple point I was making is not something that is in dispute among historians of the Zionist movement. It’s kind of like saying that George Washington was the first President of the United States. Rabbi Spiro’s concise statement of the obvious historical fact was easily accessible and readable. It’s a column in the Algemeiner, not a doctoral dissertation. That being said, I stand by it’s historical accuracy 100%.

  • Dear Sirs,
    I see by some of the comments that what I’ve written has been misunderstood. The point to the article was to explore the roots of the religious-secular tensions that exist in Israel. It is not about the “peace” process, economic policies, or whether or not Israel should expand its rail system. I think Shas made a terrible blunder by supporting Oslo. They, like many others in Israel at the time (I was living in Israel then) sincerely believed that it was a gamble that had to be taken. Most Israelis now believe (correctly in my opinion) that it was a disaster.

    I am not a pacifist and it is clear that Jews must be protected from the murderous attacks by the Arabs/Palestinians who hate us. Whether or not things would have been better if the path of Rabbi Sonnenfeld had been taken is an interesting, but largely, academic point. The State of Israel is here to stay and the Jewish people have as much right to their country as the French, Canadians, and Americans have to their countries.

    Be that as it may, the study of Torah is as much a service to the Nation of Israel as serving in the Army and should be recognized as such. It is anti-Jewish to glorify the military unless it is in service of a higher cause. It was the Jewish people who taught the world that being a great warrior is not the highest expression of human accomplishment and nobility. It took a long time for the world to at least play lip-service to that idea. Without Torah there is no higher cause to the Israeli military nor to the shedding of blood (whether our own or our enemies). Without Torah there is no point to the State of Israel period. It is a crime of the highest order to strip the dignity of our Torah scholars by calling them parasites and implying that they are not “sharing the burden.” It is also time for self-inflated egotists like Naftali Bennett to learn a little humility.

    • Alexander

      The Jewish law demands the participation of all Jews in the so-called “mandatory wars” which include, as far as I am concerned, the wars of self-defense fought by Israel.
      According to Torah itself, the study of Torah does not, can not, and must not exempt a student (or a sage of appropriate age) from the duty of military service… unless he just married, planted a garden, or a coward.
      Ben Gurion’s decision to kill deHaan (similar to decision to expload Altalena) were absolutely necessary to keep unified command.

      • To reach a pesak halacha about what to do in a given situation, its not sufficient to quote one law out of context without looking at other relevant laws and the situation at hand.

        The question is, what should one do when

        * they believe that others Jews have violated the Three Oaths and thus unnecessarily provoked a conflict with the Arab world

        * in a state that created an army that they believe seeks to (or at least seriously contributes to) secularize their youth

        * with a political and military echelon that decides when and how to go to war and fight independent and even possibly contradictory to the dictates of the Halacha

        * after the holocaust when the Yeshiva world and its scholars was utterly decimated

        * in a time when the overwhelmingly vast majority of the worlds Jews have no interest in or show open hostility to the Torah

        • Alexander

          These are not arguments “clever” excuses.
          1. Arabs have always wanted to grab our land and have been cursed for it by G-d in our Holy Scriptures.
          2. Noturai Carta and Satmar-like sects suck such ideas out of their figures. Israel has plenty of Torah-observant Jews serving in IDF. The hallakhah Jewish enemies of the State of Israel appeal to is their private law not the Law of People Israel.
          3. It is in great part the guild for the anti-Zionist position of these “sages” before WWII that contributed to inaction of their communities and their death at the hands of Germans that motivates their hostility to the Jewish State of Israel.
          4. Jews love Torah, what they don’t care for is mishugas that pretends to be Torah.

    • Liz

      Thank you, Rabbi Averick, for this enlightening article. Is Ben-Gurion’s edict still in effect? Are yeshiva students, today, not permitted to work unless they serve in the military?

      • Liz,

        Yes, it’s still true today.

        However, many work ‘off the books’ (and that’s a national affliction here that is not limited to Haredim).

    • cvmay

      Can the simple question of Charedi youth who are NOT learning in Yeshiva, by choice be answered…
      What should a Charedi young man, single who is not spending his time learning in a Yeshiva responsibility for “sharing the burden” be?

    • josh

      Two items. 1) The Jewish people’s right to Eretz Yisrael is different than those of the French etc. The fist Rashi in Bereshit explains why. The French got their territory by ‘accident’; we were placed in Eretz Yisrael by the specific design of the Boss. 2) From your writings you appear to take Jewish law and Jewish values quite seriously. It therefore surprises me that you forgot about a comment of Rashi on Bereshit 11:5 in which he deduces from the verb, “and He went down” that judges need to see for themselves before rendering judgement. This directive is quite germane to your determination that Bennet is an self-inflated egotist. Unless you can prove to me otherwise, I assume that you have never met the man or spoken with him. The best you can summon is hearsay forwarded to you by the media of all it’s persuasions. Hence, I cannot fathom how you, bearing the mantle of righter of wrongs and social critic, can write the man and his ideas off from wherever it is that you live. I personally did not vote for Bayit HaYehudi so I have no allegiances to Bennet or to his party and its platforms. I do have a son who is a ben Torah who will be joining the IDF through hesder soon along with his cousins and friends and I cannot fathom how a Jewish mother or father can say that, ‘my son doesn’t need to help out in some tangible way whether it’s through military service or national service’. How can they sleep at night or look at themselves in the mirror when they know that someone else’s beloved Jewish child may very well be in mortal danger just so that the people back home are safe. This is not about Zionists apologizing for past misdeeds of decades ago; they were terribly misguided as were many characters in Jewish history. This matter is about Jewish life here and now.

  • very very nice article. Really loved it. very interesting..sent it to my family and friends,

  • G. Fränkl

    Moshe Averick is a willing, not too bright dupe if he tries to operate with Haaretz, when he doesn’t see or realize where all that quasi-antisemitic paper’s moaning is coming from. The very fact that Bennett is extremely successful beyond any prior imagination, quadrupling (!!!) the number of MKs of his party is enough to piss off Haaretz. If Averick does not see that for them the over-the-top success of the patron of the hated “settlers” is just sour grapes, then he is clearly extremely dumb and shallow…

  • It never ceases to amaze me – sixty years have past since Ben-Gurion and the Left’s attacks against Torah Judaism, the Left is dissappearing, there are more yeshivot and Lomdei Torah today than at any other time in the history of our people, yet some people are still entrapped in a reality which has long passed from this world. By 2020 over 50% of all children in elementary school will be religious – this is the future of the People of Israel in the Land of Israel. Wake up and join the 21st century before you yourselves will end up being the cause for Churban Beit Shelishi before it is even built!

    • MC

      It’s precisely because the Torah observant Jews (national religious, charedi, etc) are going to comprise a larger percentage of the population that they all must take the obligation to contribute to the country more seriously. This includes military and civil service. The land of Israel remains the holy land, regardless of the auspices under which the current government was established. But the Chareidim consistently refuse to acknowledge how good they have it–would an Arab state have subsidized Torah education the way THE JEWISH STATE has done?!! Elements of halachic observance are part of the governance of the State. This is an unprecedented development in galus!

      No one wants to send their children out to die on a battlefield. It is a terrible situation for a parent and child to be in. But unfortunately this is the burden that the people who live in Israel are faced with.

      Unfortunately I see no serious mention of the national religious in this article–it is as if they do not exist. Yet there are hesder yeshivos that involve lomdei Torah who also serve in the military. Considering only the Torah observant for the time being: on what basis should one serve, and the other learn in yeshivah full time? Mere affiliation with Chareidi Jewry should not automatically place one in such a priviledged position. More objective criteria should be used.

      Re: the push to establish a renewed Hebrew language. At one point in its development Yiddish was not considered the holy language that many in certain segments of the Torah world (esp. the chassidic groups) seem to regard it. It was merely yet another unfortunate departure from the holy tongue. Ivrit may be regarded as a departure from the holy tongue as well, but it contains within it the seeds of reestablishing the holy tongue, especially as lomdei Torah comprise larger segments of the national population.

      History marches forward. Like it or not the establishment of the state of Israel is an historic development–roughly half of world Jewry lives there now, and Hebrew is the spoken language. It’s likely here to stay.

      Yes, the Chareidim need to be “forward thinking,” and learn to live in the “modern world.” Such a culture has been made of rejecting such notions, because they are automatically associated with the Haskalah, and frei yidden in general, but the running of a country requires a competent citizenry–this is how it has to be. At its core, such a commonsensical notion has nothing to do with atheism, zionism, or antireligious feelings.

  • Shlomo Scheinman

    I did not vote for Naftali Bennet, I voted for the more right wing and more religious party of Rabbi Mikhael Ben Ari that failed by 9000 votes to get into the Knesset.
    Nevertheless, I think Rabbi Averick, in this article you are misrepresenting the reality.
    Shas under Rabbi Aryeh Deri was willing to support the importation of tens of thousands of terrorists, armed them and gave them money and parts of the land of Israel, which led to the killing of 1800 Jews so far. These were called officially the Oslo accords. They also backed another, treaty of the same type during the first Netanyahu government, called the Wye accords.
    Shas and Aguda (Yahadut Hatora) in the most recent Netanyahu government sat idly by while, the Defense Minister Barak on the Sabbath ordered even religious soldiers to destroy settler outposts. Nor did they apply any real pressure to save Migron.
    As far as Aguda (Yahdut Hatora) is concerned they propped up the Sharon government to enable it to expel 10000 religious Jews and destroy their synagogues and Torah study centers and uproot Jewish graves. Evidently harming religious zionist is not considered in their eyes “harming Olam Hatora”, the world of Torah.
    Netanyahu was planning with R. Aryeh Deri who was returned by Shas to its leadership, to form a Chareidi, Likud, and far left government, which would further damage the institutions of religious zionists and national security by making new concessions to Terrorists and land withdrawls.
    Naftali Bennet in light of all this is taking a gamble, that if he makes the New Netanyahu government dependant on his party, by allying with Lapid and keeping the Charedi parties and Labor out, he can save, the Olam Hatora of religious zionist, and perhaps national security, who Charedi parties have proven not to care about in the past when it conflicts with their interests.
    I, myself would not take this gamble that Bennet is taking for several reasons, but I understand why Bennet is doing it. It is not out of hating the Charedim but out of self defense.
    To a lesser extent in Bennet’s opinion, some of the Charedim are not living a lifestyle according to Torah ideals and he wants to use the government to encourage changes. This is another reason he is stressing the need to draft Charedim.
    Again I hold that given the current state of the I.D.F. halacha does not require the draft of Charedim, but at least I understand Bennet’s position.
    As far as peace with the Muslims are concerned you should know that both Rambam and Ohr Hachaim who lived in Muslim lands in pre-zionist times accused the Muslims as being the worst nation to ever oppress us. It was not the Zionists that caused the problems with Muslim Arabs. It is Islam itself.
    Furthermore, Zionism first started as a religious movement with the students of the Vilna Gaon, and later Rabbis like Rabbi Alkalai and Tzvi Hirsh Kalisher. It was later overshadowed by the secular Zionism movement of Herzl, but it still exists.
    You made it sound as if the entire religious community inside and outside the land of Israel had the pacifist and delusional ideals now proclaimed by the left wing “Peace Now” movement. Historically that was not the case.
    I also read in Ish Al Hachoma which is a biography of Rabbi Sonnenfeld, that much of the motivation of De Haan for separate negotiation with the Arabs, was just to apply counter pressure to the Secular Zionist movement, which was harming the Charedi community economically as well as waging a culture war against them.
    To Quote From one of my articles at
    Topic 6: Appendix: The Thing which Saved the Jews of Jerusalem from the same type of Destruction that came to the Jews of Hebron in 5689 [secular year 1929]

    In the book, Ish Al Hachoma [ The man on the Defensive Wall ] , the history of Master Authority, the Genius, Rabbi, Y.C. Sonnenfeld by S.Z. Sonnenfeld, volume 3 pages 315,316 the following incident is brought:

    On Friday in the afternoon hours thousands of Arabs left the Omer Mosque incited after they had been heated up by a hateful and inciteful speech of the Mufti. They marched by the thousands armed with their knives and clubs towards the Jewish neighborhoods. Some of them turned towards the direction of Jaffe Road and another part turned towards Talpiot and Mekor Chaim and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City; however the main force of eight thousand turned in the direction of the neighborhoods of Meah Shearim and Beit Yisrael. At the head of the incited mob that closed in to the direction of Meah Shearim Street was an Arab Sheik brandishing a large sword who was instigating the rioters to launch a pogrom against the Jews and not to have compassion neither on men, women, or children for it was a holy war [Jihad]. The residents were seized by a great panic and all that had the ability took hold of an iron rod, a wooden beam, heavy building stones in order to defend themselves from the bloodthirsty rioters. Also a handful of Hagana defenders that assembled in the flour grinding station of Shabti”l in the city (today in the place stands the Breslav Yeshiva) were lost for an idea how to deal with this wild mob. When the rioters reached the Italian Hospital with calls of battle and murder ripping through the air, two youths exited the flour grounding station and marched towards the rioters. One of the youths, that under his cap bobbed his set of curled Peot, whipped out a gun and aimed it straight at the mouth of the head of the rioters who fell on the spot. When the rioters saw that their leader was killed, a great panic took hold of them and they began to flee in the direction of the Sh’chem Gate. The two youths sniped away behind them and threw a grenade and killed three additional rioters. Now more were killed by one trampling upon the other than were killed by the Jewish defenders in the panicked flight.
    The bearded youth that shot at the head of the rioters and saved the Meah Shearim neighborhood was none other than Rabbi Aharon Fischer (father of the great and important Rabbi, Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov Fischer ZT”L).

    That is to say, that the few that troubled themselves by natural methods to save themselves from danger and did not rely on the British, nor on their friendship with certain Arabs, they were the ones that saved in an actual way.

  • What a wonderful article! Thank you for organizing all this information in one place.