So, strangely enough, this week’s most desirable damsel is Naftali Bennett and his band of Srugim (“knitted” – and Srugot, of course). Everybody needs Jewish Home (now, there’s a slogan for you!), and they’re going about it in all the wrong ways. Which brings us back to Yehuda Schlesinger and Matti Tochfeld from Israel Hayom.
“In recent days,” they write, “a series of meetings were held between senior religious Zionist rabbis and ‘senior hasidic rebbes’ (whatever that means) of the Council of Torah Sages, to strengthen their relationship and to signal to Bennett not to embrace Lapid excessively on burden equality. The Haredi rabbis are seeking to stop Bennett’s sweep in Lapid’s direction, by getting to the spiritual patrons of the Jewish Home chairman and his party.”
They actually wrote “spiritual patrons,” misunderstanding both the concepts of patronage and spirituality. Israel Hayom continues:
“Well known rabbis such as Rabbi Haim Druckman, Yaakov Ariel, Zvi Tau and Shmuel Eliyahu have attended those meetings with, among others, the rebbes of Ger, Belz and Vizhnitz. One of the [Jewish Home] rabbis who attended the meeting told Israel Hayom: ‘The Haredi world has undergone a rattling this past election, and now there are two choices – either try to force the Haredim to enlist, or try dialogue and agreement. Naftali need to relax his embrace of Lapid. We are not against Torah study. We are for the opportunity for sharing the burden. We must not go too far.’ The Rabbis even told Bennett: ‘You not Lapid.'”
It should be noted that Jewish Home is comprised of several factions, one of which, centered around Beit El yeshiva dean Rabbi Zalman Melamed, is potentially more concerned with “what would they say about us in B’nei B’rak” than others in the party. This means that Bennett, who has been restrained on the topic of equal burden, and has even absorbed nobly the slur about his party being composed of goyim, has to tread carefully when it comes to the differences between himself and Lapid on Haredi military or national service.
But Lapid, too, has been restrained on the topic, and the thrust of his appeal to the Haredi public has not been one of scorn, but of a recognition that they are now a substantial element in Israel’s population, and should no longer view themselves as a persecuted minority but as part-owners of the country. And that entails a radically different perspective on issues such as service and responsibility.
Crisis is a combination of risk and opportunity, says the Chinese character every motivational speaker shows his audience at the start of a session. In this instance, the opportunity in the coming few weeks of negotiations would be to really see up close the nasty, egotistical motives and maneuvers of Israel’s leaders, and the risk is that soon enough we’d be covering our eyes and our ears begging for it to stop.