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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776
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Protest of Half a Million Haredim to Shut Down Jerusalem on Sunday

The Haredi protest against Lapid’s drive to draft them is only the first shot in what promises to be an ugly war.

Haredim plan to paint Highway 1 black at the entrance to Jerusalem Sunday.

Haredim plan to paint Highway 1 black at the entrance to Jerusalem Sunday.
Photo Credit: Flash 90

Approximately half a million Haredim are expected to turn out for a massive “million-man” rally in Jerusalem early Sunday afternoon to protest the pending legislation to jail Haredim who refuse to report for duty in the IDF.

Highway 1, the major highway from Tel Aviv to the capital, will be closed at the entrance to the city from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m., as well as Yafo (Jaffa) Road and other main arteries.

The Jerusalem branch of the Histadrut national labor union has issued a call to employers to release all workers from work by 12:30 p.m., with a full day’s pay, so they can head for home before mammoth traffic congestion. At least 1,700 buses are expected to bring Haredim to Jerusalem form all parts of the country for the protest, according to Daniel Bonfiel, director of the Jerusalem branch of the Histadrut.

That works out to more than 120,000 Haredi protesters, not including those from Jerusalem. However, Bonfiel predicted that 600,000 Haredim will attend the demonstration

The number of people who are defined as “Haredi” in the entire country varies from a bit less than half a million to 900,000.

The weather forecast favors the Haredim, with temperatures expected to be higher than usual for this time and no rain in sight.

Given this winter’s drought, one of the worst in recent memory, the Haredi community is wasting a wonderful opportunity to use their physical and spiritual powers to pray for rain.

But why waste prayers for rain that would help Zionist farmers, and anyway, who needs the water from the Kinneret since it may not be Kosher for Passovers, so who cares? The Haredi demonstrators will most probably leave the chore for praying for rain to the less Orthodox Jews and carry on with their protest.

Sunday’s black-hat rally is only the first shot in the Haredi war – and that is the correct word – against the Knesset in general and specifically Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh {arty who paraded through the last general elections on a platform that included getting rid of the rite of exempting Haredi youth from serving in the IDF so they can stay in yeshiva. That includes a large number who are listed as yeshiva students but spend most of their day at home, working for money “under the table” so they don’t have to pay taxes, or catching up on the latest Internet YouTube videos.

A vast number really do learn in yeshivas, supporting their rabbis’ claims that their devoting time to learning Torah is Israel’s real defense.

Let’s leave that issue aside for the reader and God to decide.

Lapid has either climbed up a very safe political leader or has crawled out on the longest limb on the highest tree he could find. There is not way he can retreat, and the Haredi rabbis refuse to compromise. For them, the IDF is treif. There is no middle ground.

Lapid has the support of a large majority of Israelis, who for years have suffered from the Haredi stranglehold on almost every government coalition, the budget and even the future of Jews in Judea and Samaria.

For decades, money for yeshiva has been their platform, which explains why the Sephardi Haredi party backed the Oslo Accords lest the government coalition fall.

Two year ago, Lapid’s success and that of the Jewish Home changed everything. The only way that the Haredi parties will be needed in a government is if the coalition breaks up over U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace talk follies, and that is unlikely, much to the dismay of Kerry and his boss.

That leaves the Haredim and Lapid to fight it out.

Following Wednesday’s report that Lapid is literally in the crosshairs of some Haredi zealot who might want to “solve” the problem by assassinating him, assuming the Haredi attack knows in which direction to aim a gun, police have gone on high alert for any over signs of violence.

If Lapid can compromise without losing the faith of his followers, or at least those who have not already given up  him, and if the Haredim can learn the word “compromise,” this ugly war of Jew against Jew can be averted.

That is about as likely as Sunday’s protest turning into a prayer rally for rain.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.


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