So long as we are talking about taking steps against ultra-Orthodox maniacs who spit on little girls or act violently, we are on the same page; we are members of the same nation that champions tolerance and condemns violence. But from this to secular condescension that attempts to hijack Haredi society by force, the distance is great.
True, there are ideological differences between us on the ideal Jewish character of the state; these issues remain to be discussed in the democratic forum of the Knesset. But recently we have begun to see the emergence of the self-proclaimed “teachers of enlightenment,” those who come to “educate” the Haredi public. For example, to lower the birthrate — “You’re harming your children” (Dr. Avi Simchon). Then there are those who feel responsible for Haredi education — “We have to narrow the gaps and [banish] ignorance in the haredi public” (MK Hotovely), and “go to work, it’s for your own good” (MK Ben Eliezer) and a host of other “teach them a lesson” Super-Nanny sessions, and of course it’s all for our own good. Everyone only wants us to feel good and have wonderful, happy lives.
We know that the year is 2012, that Israeli society is shaped by reality TV, that all Haredim have the opportunity to go out and work and make money, to drive imposing jeeps, to live a life of luxury and raise only two children and a cute dog. But shouldn’t you stop and ask yourselves: Maybe we also know how to manage our own lives?
Thanks for your concern, but we know what is good for us and our children. We think that studying Pirkei Avot [Ethics of the Fathers] is more important than British history, that Jewish values are just as important for the identity of the state as core curriculum subjects. And yes, there are those who choose to live a life of privation, who are content with little, who waive a career and money to preserve the paradigmatic Jewish value throughout the ages — the value placed on Torah study.
To all those worriers and “teachers of enlightenment”: Where were you when Former Mossad Chief Ephraim Halevy said, “Haredi-ism is more of an existential threat to the State of Israel than Ahmadinejad”? Or when journalist Gabi Gazit attacked us, “I would pack them all up and send them to join their primitive brothers in Brooklyn”? Where were you when a resident of Ashdod was interviewed on Channel 10 and said, “One day I’ll take an Uzi [submachine gun] and shoot some Haredim, ten of then”?
Evidently, you were in recess.
Recently, the “teachers of enlightenment” decided to make order in the world of the Haredi media. Israel has 24 radio stations including stations targeted at the Arab, Russian and religious sectors. Some broadcast only Israeli music, others only non-Hebrew music, some Mizrahi [Sephardi] or only classical music. All you have to do is choose.
But the Haredi public, about 120,000 households, had never received its own radio station -- a station that would transmit the kind of content it wants to hear. This sector was forced to listen to pirate stations and search for crazy solutions to create a broadcast media.
And finally, the Second Radio Authority took the wonderful step of extending a tender for operating a Haredi radio station, “Kol Barama” — and within three years, this station was a frontrunner with hundreds of thousands of listeners.
You remember that the Haredim have the “old-fashioned, dark-ages” custom of separation between men and women? In the synagogue, at events, conferences, everywhere. Yes, that’s what’s good for us. So we separated radio-time as well: hours assigned to women and for women, and hours not. After all, radio reflects a cultural need and, thus, is broadcasted to a specific audience. But, not surprisingly, the teachers of enlightenment were horrified; “excluding women using public resources!” they shouted. And again, Minister Limor Livnat, “it's unbelievable.” And MK Hotovely, MK Orbach, and reform groups protest: How awful, those Haredim are segregating again!
Doesn’t that sound petty and narrow-minded? It sure does.
Stop trying to ‘teach us a lesson.’ Just leave us alone. Please.
Avi Mimron is program manager of Kol Barama Radio, host of “Main Edition,” and an ex-soldier.