The last few days brought with it several personalities active in this attempt to shift or change some of the fundamentals of Torah life today in Israel. In addition to Rav Kook who returned to Israel prior to last Shabbos we also had the opportunity to hear Rabbi Moshe Meiselman of Jerusalem’s Yeshiva Toras Moshe expound on the subject at length.
“This is not an attack on Torah per se,” he said over Shabbos at Congregation Shaaray Tefila. He explained that in his estimation what is taking place is an assault on a culture in Israel and an effort to systematically break apart the Torah community. “In twenty years the Chareidi, Torah oriented community in Israeli will be 35% of the population, the Rabbi said and the objective of the nonobservant Jews in Israel today is to hold that growth and the development of the ultra-Orthodox community in check, he explained.
On Saturday night in a forum on the subject that was held in a home in Far Rockaway a panel was assembled that included two Rabbi’s and two journalists. The forum was sponsored by Mishpacha Magazine and its publisher, Rabbi Eli Paley who presented the case for leaving the Yeshiva system in Israel unchanged and unhampered with in a very cogent and logical way.
Rabbi Paley, a native Israeli and a Yeshiva graduate who did a stint in the IDF as well, said amongst other things, that if it can be said that the vibrant Torah community in Israel failed in anyway, it is in their inability to effectively communicate the vital connection between Torah study and the security of the state of Israel. Instead the critics of Torah and the noninvolved and non observant Israeli’s see Torah being used as a crutch by tens of thousands to avoid sharing the burden, staying out of the IDF, away from national service and abstaining themselves from involvement in the workforce. While that criticism may be true in some cases, it is not the attitude or approach of the overwhelming number of Yeshiva oriented Torah Jews in Israel.
There were moments in the Saturday night program where Rabbi Paley sounded a similar theme to that of MK Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid partry when he was here a few weeks ago. Paley said in response to a question about the nature of Chareidi life in Israel that, “There has to be improvements and adjustments,” to the current somewhat untenable status quo.
Rabbi Paley was most likely referring to the unsustainable nature of the current dynamics of the economy that today demands that tax payers support hundreds of thousands of Yeshiva students and their growing families in Israel. He said that with the passage of the new Perri Law that mandates that Yeshiva students register to be eligible to serve the country in some capacity many of the efforts to help integrate the Chareidi population into the workforce has been set back considerably.
The Saturday night panel in Far Rockaway that included Rabbi Yakov Bender of Yeshiva Darchei Torah, Rabbi Ayeh Z. Ginzberg, Rav of the Chofetz Chaim Torah Center and a contributing editor to 5TJT, Eytan Kobre a columnist for Mishpacha and Rabbi Paley. The thrust and theme of the evening was that Yeshiva life in Israel is under attack and its existence is being threatened by legislation being passed by the current government.
That MK Lipman has said that Yesh Atid leader, Yair Lapid, is a good and even wonderful person, who means well, does not mean that he does not harbor some animosity and perhaps even disdain for the religious way of life in Israel. Lapid as a youngster was led to believe that the frum lifestyle was ultimately going to be ground itself down and would eventually dissipate. One of the panelists mentioned that Prime Minister David Ben Gurion was so magnanimous toward the Yeshiva community sixty-five tears ago because he believed it was a relic of the past and that it would soon be gone.