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November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
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An Autonomous Haredi State: Having Their Cake and Eating It Too

The suggestion is intriguing, self serving and frankly somewhat humorous.

Neturei Karta kids burning an Israeli flag on Israel's 65th birthday.

Neturei Karta kids burning an Israeli flag on Israel's 65th birthday.
Photo Credit: Flash90

The Haredi publication Hamodia (as reported by The Jewish Press) has called for establishment of their own autonomous zone in Israel. The feel that they have been mistreated.

Here is how the Times of Israel put it:

As the Knesset works on legislation that could see most ultra-Orthodox men required to serve in the IDF or other national service frameworks, and planned budget cuts threaten the community’s already strained economy, Hamodia, the mouthpiece of the ultra-Orthodox Agudat Yisrael party, suggested self-rule was the best answer to unwanted secular intrusion.

Hamodia said:

Autonomy means independent administrative rule for internal matters without sovereign political status, with legal and financial independence and police, but without an army or foreign policy.

I find this approach to be both intriguing and at the same time very self serving. And frankly somewhat humorous. I have always thought that places like Meah Shearim ought to be given what they want – complete independence from the State of Israel. They don’t think that the Jewish people have a right to their own state pre-Moshiach? That’s fine. Give them Meah Shearim and they can give it to which ever non-Jews they choose to live under. I hear that there are some Palestinians that might be interested.

But this is different. Hamodia isn’t talking about only the rejectionist Jews of Meah Shearim. They are talking about all Haredim – including those who have in the past worked with the government.

And they aren’t talking about seceding from Israel. They are talking about living there autonomously. They want to build a society of their own. They claim to have the ability to build their own infrastructure. They will have their own judicial system; their own political system; their own electric companies, roads, water works… and everything else necessary for a society to function independently. They look to Haredi cities likes Bnei Brak and Beitar as their models for success.

Really? Hamodia thinks that a society that does not educate their children in anything but Torah study will enable them to build a society that functions? Where are they going to get people with the expertise to build all of the necessary components of a modern society? The engineers, the doctors, the dentists, the lawyers, the accountants, the urban planners, the police, the judges and the myriad other trained people who will be qualified to do the things that a city needs to function? From Brisk?

But let us grant that they will somehow find a way. Maybe they will change the paradigm a bit to allow some of their students to learn those disciplines so that they can have such a society. (Although I doubt it.)

But here is the problem. They still want army protection. That is the advantage of having autonomy. You can then eat your cake and have it too. They will graciously allow secular and Dati Leumi Israelis to put their lives on the line for them. Isn’t this what the whole debate is about in the first place?!

It does not cease to amaze me how clueless some of these people are. How can they think that this would in any way be acceptable? How will this new autonomous entity share the burden? Maybe they think this is all about money… that their offer to live autonomously means that they will relieve the Israeli taxpayer of the burden of supporting them. I don’t know… that is an enticing concept. But if so, where will they get the money to replace what they receive now? How will this under-educated (aside from Torah knowledge) class with little marketable skills survive?

The only way their sincerity about living autonomously can be tested is if we require them to have their own army. That would be fair. Without it… all this amounts to is formalizing the status quo with respect to sharing the burden. Only they will be doing so in the form of an autonomous state. Why would the government of Israel want to do that? In my view it would be an act of true humanitarian nature to deny this option to them. Because they will surely fail – even if they are granted protection by the IDF.

What about Bnei Brak or Beitar? I doubt they could exist as autonomous states. Don’t they realize that?

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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


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2 Responses to “An Autonomous Haredi State: Having Their Cake and Eating It Too”

  1. David Willig says:

    Having them in the army is more trouble than they are worth. Lat them be autonomous. How they will survive without tax subsidies I do not know. The Amish in Pennsylvania are, for all intense and purposes autonomous, and they thrive, but they believe in hard wok. To the Chareidim, work is learning Torah. I agree that learning Torah is hard work, but I do that out of love. No one pays me for it.

  2. Stan Brin says:

    Sure — give them a border, a flag if they want it, and charge custom duties. Require a visa to come and go. They'd starve.

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