If one listens to or reads the transcript of Yair Lapid’s address to Haredi law students at Kiryat Ono College, one can see why he won so big in the last election.
For those who don’t know, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party won the second largest number of seats in the Israeli Kenesset (19) after Netanyahu’s coalition party of Likud/Yisrael Beitenu (31).
After reading it, I think I may have actually voted for him too, if I lived in Israel. Lapid won because he is apparently a very wise man who recognizes the truth and is unafraid to speak it.
And yet Lapid scares Haredim. So much so that they have united with Shas to try and form a political block with an equal number of seats as an alternative to Lapid in a coalition alliance with Netanyahu . They fear they may lose out and not become a part of the governing coalition – and therefore not have the power they have enjoyed in recent years. And they may be right.
Why does he scare the Haredim? There are probably many reasons for that. For one thing his father “Tommy” Lapid formed an anti-Haredi party whose purpose was to battle Haredi influence in government. Haredim might think, “Like father like son”. After all where does a person mostly learn their attitudes about others if not from the home?
Another thing they see is his uncompromising demand that Haredim be subject to the draft. This they fear with a vengeance. To Haredi rabbinic leadership, supporting the draft of Haredim into the army is tantamount to supporting the destruction of Yiddishkeit. This has been made clear time and again by their public statements on the matter or in one public protest after another. That alone is perhaps enough in their minds to consider him a Rasha.
In fact it wouldn’t even surprise me if they dismissed his speech at Kiryat Ono entirely even if they did hear it, because of his support of drafting of Haredim. Not that any of them would even bother listening to – or reading the transcript of his speech. Their leaders have spoken and he has been dismissed as a Torah hater – or something akin to it. End of discussion!
Which is kind of the problem with Haredi leadership in Israel. If anyone has an all or nothing approach to things it is them. If a secular Jew says one thing in opposition to their views about Judaism, he is evil.
Which is too bad. Because what Lapid says makes eminent sense. In fact if I didn’t know he was a secular Jew I would say that he was very much a part of the Dati Leumi camp. (Although he does refer to himself as secular several times during the course of his speech.) Much of what he says could have been said by me… and probably has been at one time or another.
What is remarkable about this speech is not only that he pushes for the same things I do. But that he recognizes that Haredim have won! He recognizes the error of Israel’s founding fathers in rejecting Talmudic Judaism in favor of biblical Judaism. He recognizes that the complaint by Haredim that seculars too often believe in “Kochi V’Otzem Yodi” is a valid one. That is the view that all of Israel’s successes in war are due solely to their own military prowess. Lapid says that this belief is a mistake and he recognizes that there is a God in the world. And he says that even secular Israel is now more religious than ever. The majority of Israelis even believe in Torah MiSinai!
He fully admits that the founding fathers not recognizing the spiritual component of Israel was a mistake.
Haredim won the battle between the forces of secularism and socialism that guided its founding fathers. They should therefore no longer consider themselves just a small party – one of many – seeking whatever it can for its own constituents regardless of what’s good for the country as a whole. Instead Haredism is increasingly defining the mainstream by virtue of its exploding demographic and perhaps more importantly by the very nature of Judaism itself: its spiritualism.
Without the spiritual component Israel has little if any real attraction for a secular Jews. Who wants to live in a place where all of your neighbors that outnumber you in geometric proportion want to annihilate you? Why would any human being want to live like that? Without the spiritual component that Haredim stand for, no normal person would want to live in such a hostile and dangerous part of the world.
He acknowledges that Israel cannot exist without Haredism but says that Haredism cannot exist without Israel.
The bottom line for Lapid is that he seems to have done some soul searching and discovered some of the eternal truths of Judaism, its history, and the requirements for Israel’s survival. In a very real sense, this secular Jew is a very spiritual person. And a very honest person. Which makes me wonder how he ever became a politician!
But then again, if ever there was a time for an honest politician in Israel, that time is now. I truly believe that this man is a patriot who is both honest and who has a clear vision for the future. A vision that is inclusive of all!
I don’t know what a new governing coalition will look like, whether it will include Lapid or not. But I hope it does. And it would be nice if Haredim gave him a chance to prove himself to them. He is their friend whether they realize it or not.The full video presentation of Lapid’s speech (Hebrew with English subtitles) follows.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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