I met talk show host Yaron London only once—the same Yaron London who on Tuesday urged secular Israelis to, instead of drafting the Ultra Orthodox into the army en masse, “we should aim to reduce their birthrate.”
Back in 1994, Yaron London was doing a story for Israel TV on Lubavitch messianism in America and promised to pay me $1000 to introduce him to key movement figures (my book, “Dancing and Crying,” on the demise of the Rebbe, had just come out).
He never paid, but I still believe Yaron London is a decent man. And if he resorted to an article that’s more than a little bit reminiscent of Der Stürmer, it must mean that a tectonic shift has occurred in Israel’s secular society, and it may also mean that many of my own preconceived notions no longer apply.
London writes today in Ynet: “Israeli society is sick. The illness is Jewish fundamentalism. National service to Haredim who refuse to join the army is the medicine offered by the witch doctor. Yet there will be no wide-scale national service, and should it be established after all because of weak politicians, it would be corrupt and terribly expensive.”
He’s not entirely wrong. Some Haredim I’ve spoken to are pained over the slowness of the process of mainstreaming their sector’s contribution to Israel’s society at large, particularly through compulsory service of some kind. Many Haredim have told me point blank they’d do anything to avoid service.
London analyzes astutely why any attempt which is in motion these days is doomed to failure. He floats quickly through his reasoning, assuming his readership already knows all of it and agrees with him to begin with. He must be right.
And so, London proposes: “As Haredi education rejects a life of work and participation in defending the homeland, and as we cannot imprison tens of thousands of yeshiva students (and those pretending to be such), and as national service would hold justice in contempt, and as purely Haredi regiments are a recipe for an armed civil war, and as the Haredi community mushrooms as a result of natural growth – the national majority has no choice but to embark on a determined cultural war.”
Spelling stuff out, on occasion means it has been brewing beneath the surface for quite some time. I get the feeling London had been sitting on this view for years, moving, like many secular Israelis, from bemused dislike of things Ultra Orthodox to outright loathing of anyone wearing a black hat and a beard.
“Time is of the essence,” this wager of a cultural civil war is urging. “Should the majority lose this war, the Zionist enterprise would be remembered as a short-lived historical episode.”
You see? When Jewish settlers in the land of Zion are uprooted onto trucks, lock stock and barrel, when Jewish dwellers are attacked by government goons who illegally rip off their name tags before grabbing helpless women and children off the land they call Zion – that is done in support of the Zionist enterprise. When an army of Arab thugs are imported from North Africa armed and uniformed and given dominion over whole regions of Zion – that, too, is done to promote the Zionist enterprise.
When the Arab Waqf is handed the keys to Temple Mount, five minutes after a Zionist army had conquered the place, spilling its blood to bring us home, at last, to our holiest sanctuary – that was one heck of a trick in service of Zionist enterprise.
But when tens of thousands of Ultra Orthodox men are not responding fast enough to a social experiment which is already bearing fruit; when several thousand such men are already doing their national duty with pride and distinction – but a majority of their brethren are still reluctant to take the same leap of faith – they must be annihilated, figuratively or symbolically, in a cultural war.
And so, London, at last, articulates his agenda: “There is no choice but to let the draft-dodging Haredim be, but we should aim to reduce the number of their grandchildren. This is not an impossible mission. It is not an abusive mission either. This is a mission of salvation.”
I’m tempted here to break my long-time rule that whoever mentions Hitler in an Internet debate first loses. Holding myself back, I still have to say clearly that the method anyone chooses for limiting the number of Jewish grandchildren doesn’t matter. I don’t believe London is suggesting concentration camps for the Ultra Orthodox, God forbid. But he is recommending starvation – cutting off funds, state stipends, housing allowances, and food.
I am appalled. And I demand my thousand dollars back.