Peter Martin had a very informative article in Saturday’s Toronto Globe & Mail about the rapid emergence of a new kind of religio-nationalists in Israel.
They even, he says, have a new name: “Hardal”– a cross between “haredi” (an ultra-orthodox Jewish believer) and Mafdal, Israel’s longstanding National Religious Party.
The piece starts like this:
- Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has come a long way.
No longer are they the inward-looking anti-Zionists who only cared that the government provide them with money for their separate schools, welfare and exemptions from military service. These days, many of the Haredim – the word means “those who tremble” in awe of God” – have joined with right-wing religious Zionists to become a powerful political force.
They now are equipped to redefine the country’s politics and to set a new agenda.
Two decades ago, they were confined mostly to a few neighbourhoods in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Today, they have spread throughout the country, in substantial numbers in several major communities, as well as building completely new towns only for their followers.
One Haredi leader who almost won Jerusalem’s mayoralty race last fall, boasts that, within 20 years, the ultra-Orthodox will control the municipal government of every city in the country. And why not? Of the Jewish Israeli children entering primary school for the first time this month, more than 25 per cent are Haredi, and that proportion will keep growing. There are between 600,000 and 700,000 Haredim in Israel, and they average 8.8 children a family…
Martin includes quite a lot of quotes from Dr. Nachman ben Yehuda, who has a book on the Hardal coming out next year.
- Ironically, considering these religious leaders have made such use of the democratic process, they continue to say democracy is not consistent with Halacha.
“In many ways these guys are closer to Islamic fundamentalists than to anything else,” Prof. Ben Yehuda said.
They also do not shrink from violence.
Prof. Ben Yehuda’s research found that violence is the number-one criminal infraction among Haredim. He also found that most of that violence is for political purposes.
This past summer witnessed many vivid examples…
He makes a short reference to the relatively recent entry of some haredim into the IDF. A bigger story there, though, is probably the rise up the officer corps in recent years of substantial numbers of non-haredi religio-nationalists, and their influence within the IDF’s rabbinate.
Anyway, a fascinating article. I wonder when we’ll see one like it in a mainstream US publication?