Explaining that Massive Ultra-Orthodox Protest

Monday, March 10, 2014

Thousands of Orthodox Jews gather in lower Manhattan March 9, 2014 to pray and protest against the effort by the Israeli government to pass a law to draft religious Jews. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty)

Yesterday in lower Manhattan, 30,000 (organizers say 50,000) Haredi Jews gathered to protest an Israeli government proposal to remove the exemption ultra-Orthodox have from military service. Jane Eisner, editor of the Jewish Daily Forward, discusses the protest and the larger context of the ultra-Orthodox in Israel and the US today.


Jane Eisner

Comments [23]

James Lerman

Somehow even though I run a factory and employ many people-and pay a lot of taxes- I am ultraorthodox. I only learn at Lakewood Yeshiva two days a week because of working the other days. The Yeshiva emptied out because of this prayer session. I missed the others at the Yeshiva. I am not worried about what others think- I am worried about what the Almighty thinks. None of the posters of this email will ever have an effect on this issue.

Mar. 11 2014 09:05 AM
Sima from New York City

It's about time. In all the years I lives in Israel and been through the wars it was the fighting soldiers , men and women who protected the country and not these praying leeches.
If they want to live in Israel they should go to the army, pay taxes and stop mooching everybody else.
I hope that Israel finally does it. LONG OVERDUE.

Mar. 10 2014 07:29 PM
henry from MD

When Ben Gurion exempted the then existing ultra orthodox community from the duty of serving the nation in the military or otherwise that community numbered a mere several hundreds. It has now grown to some 11% of a Jewish population of over six millions. So the difference either comes from their high birthrate or immigration after the establishment of the Jewish State.

With all respect to many among the orthodox it must be said that they have been operating for much too long as a giant umbrella under which thousands of others with less idealistic excuses are hiding away from national service. The orthodox may think that the old ways and philosophies are good for everyone, but they did not protect hundreds of thousands of their fellow orthodox in Europe from being murdered in the Holocaust, so don't sell that recipe to the rest of us.

They need to serve in some way like the rest of us. It is high time that they update their conscience.

Mar. 10 2014 04:30 PM
Pinchas from Nyc

The fact is that the Orthodox Jews have a much stronger connection to the land than their secular brethren. They cherish living in Israel just as the forebears for thousands of years. They do not have a nationalistic drive though, it is purely religious. Therefore if hypothetically they can live peacefully and securely under Moslem rule it would be perfectly ok for them. They have a problem though. The reality is that they need to live under the guard and security provided by the secular Israeli army.

David Ben gurion an ultra-secular Jew created the army not only to protect the jewish state, but also as a melting pot to create a new Israeli Jew. The orthodox didn't buy into this and caught on quickly to his motives. So here they are in a difficult situation. On the one hand, the army is not friendly to their culture of Shabbat, kashrut, etc, on the other hand, the rule is that they cannot get a job without joining the army. And their numbers are growing because their are many newcomers to orthodoxy who are inspired by Torah and the. Birthrate is very high.
The only answer to the problem is to create a voluntary army just as in the USA. And, to delink the military with the economy.

Mar. 10 2014 12:54 PM
dave from NY

If most of the comments found here or on other websites were made in reference to any other religious or ethnic group people would be embarrassed to write them. I personally know many of the people who were at yesterday's group prayer and like myself they and their spouses work hard to support their families, do not receive welfare and pay their fair share in taxes. In fact, the range in professions among the "ultra" orthodox community here in America includes everything from money managers, real estate moguls, to store managers and clerks just like you'll find in among any other group of hard working intelligent peoples. Many are also rabbinical students and do indeed devote themselves to their religion full time which includes not only intense in depth study of the Torah and all of it's many branches, but also constant work on one's character improvement and betterment as person.
The false oversimplification coming from many commentators perpetuating the idea that in Israel those who study are "parasites" is either disingenuous or ignorant of Israel's short history as a state. Well before 1948 - in fact for thousands of years as there are well documented books written by those who studied there dating back over a thousand years - there have been dedicated religious Jews who lived there very humbly and simply who studied their Torah full time. This practice dates back to the Talmud and older (one of them actually was written in Jerusalem hence the name "Talmud Yerushalmi"). In 1948 many secular Israeli's decided it was a good idea to create a "Jewish State" sparking years of conflict with the rest of the world. These Jews had lived there for decades wholly in dedication to their religion and then they were forced to accept upon themselves "statehood". Early on it was recognized how preposterous it would be to mandate these Jews to serve in the army and force them from their traditions as they had been there well before the "zionists". As with everything else time erodes people's memories and antisemitism fosters even among secular Jews for their brethren. What was once understood as a fact of Jewish identity and life, is now being demonized by many and it is a sad state of affairs.

Mar. 10 2014 12:17 PM
BK from Hoboken

This is starting to look and sound like the "welfare queen pumping out kids" from the 80s all over again.

Mar. 10 2014 11:37 AM

Robert from NYC -

...HUGE amounts of welfare!

Mar. 10 2014 11:34 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Ana, LOL, I was going to post that ... a great old Israeli saying.

Mar. 10 2014 11:34 AM
Robert from NYC

Do the ultra orthodox also receive welfare here?

Mar. 10 2014 11:30 AM
john from office

These people belong on leaky boats in the ocean. A drain in Israel, a drain here. Check out welfate, wic and section 8 housing sent to the hasidim, off the charts!

Put them out to sea.

Mar. 10 2014 11:28 AM
Ana from Manhattan

“There is a famous joke we (tell) in Israel,” outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak told CNN in an interview. “One third of the country wakes up to work, one third is paying taxes, and one third is serving in the (army) reserves. Unfortunately it is the same one third.”

Mar. 10 2014 11:28 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

If the ultra-orthodox refuse to participate in society then they can find another country/island/planet for themselves.
Many of them are anti-zionist, which makes them hypocritical bums for accepting gov't handouts while complaining about the existence of the country in which they live.

Mar. 10 2014 11:27 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Why do the anti-zionist ultra orthodox jews live in Jerusalem?

They should move to Gaza and live under Hamass rule where you would expect they would be welcomed as fellow anti-zionists.

Mar. 10 2014 11:27 AM

…wait a minute!!!

Bibi is NOT the Messiah?!?!?!

Mar. 10 2014 11:26 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Yossi Klein Halevi's new book "Like Dreamers" made that distinction between the Haredi and religious Zionists.

Mar. 10 2014 11:26 AM
JZ from Brooklyn

I somehow managed to get stuck on these trains on the way to and from Manhattan yesterday. The looks on people's faces as these trains pulled into the stations was priceless.

Mar. 10 2014 11:25 AM

More religious kookism!!

Mar. 10 2014 11:25 AM
Robert from NYC


Mar. 10 2014 11:24 AM

…first ones with their hands out and the LAST ones to give back.

Mar. 10 2014 11:24 AM

Why in NYC ??

Mar. 10 2014 11:23 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

The ultra-orthodox are delusional, super-insular and simply insane. Secular Israeli Jews refer to them as "dosim" - crazy people. With good reason!

Mar. 10 2014 11:23 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

If they won't serve in any function, let alone defend their own lives ... THROW THEM ALL IN JAIL.
Israel won't miss them since they contribute little.

Mar. 10 2014 11:22 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

King David and King Solomon were warriors too.

Mar. 10 2014 11:21 AM

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