Rabbi Dovid Bloch is the official spokesman for the Nahal Haredi, the Netzah Yehuda IDF battalion, was among its founders, and is the spiritual guide (mashgiach ruchani) of its recruits. This part of his record is impeccable, as far as secular Israelis are concerned. Rabbi Bloch studied at Yeshivat Ponivez and for many years served as Rosh Yeshiva of the Midrashia in Pardes Hanah. He currently is a Ram (Rosh Metivta) in Nahora Yeshiva High School and a Rosh Kollel in Jerusalem. That makes his record impeccable for Haredim. This means that his opinion carries a great deal of weight in both camps, and that should give all of us reason to hope for a good resolution of the Equal Burden issue which has been troubling coalition talks these past three weeks.
Now, I ask the reader not to take away from the following text the position that the Haredim are the only ones to blame for the severe gap on so many levels between the two societies inside Israel. But it’s refreshing to read a respected Haredi source with a clear eyed view of the Haredi contribution to the problem.
In an article titled “Maybe the Secular Are Right?” that was published this winter in the Haredi Kikar Hashabbat, Rabbi Bloch asks: “Why is it so common for Haredi pundits and public figures to pin the motives for secular hatred against Haredim only on the formers’ bad qualities, their emptiness, anti-Semitism and the ignorant man’s hatred for the scholar? And another question we should ask ourselves is whether, in some cases, the value benefits from this conduct or another are worth the consequent heavy price of hilul Hashem (desecration of the Holy Name).
Rabbi Bloch then poses 12 questions which he encourages his Haredi readers to ponder.
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.