Still two separate worlds
by Jonathan Rosenblum
August 29, 2005
Talk of the "chareidization" of the national religious world in the wake of the Gaza withdrawal is much in the air. Most of those making such predictions, however, know little of the national religious world and even less of the chareidi world.
Rabbi David Dudkevitch of Yitzhar, the rabbi of the so-called "hilltop youth," for instance, is frequently cited as one whose approach is closer to that of the chareidi world. Why? Because, in his view, "cleaving to the Land" is not synonymous with "cleaving to the state".
But the chareidi world does not just stand on a negative ideology – opposition to the state. Indeed the radical disillusionment of some segments of the national religious community with the state finds no parallel in the chareidi world, which never imbued the state with a redemptive mission in the first place.
Nor is it likely that most chareidim would understand "cleaving to the Land" in a manner similar to Rabbi Dudkevitch. The late leader of the Lithuanian yeshiva world, Rabbi Elazar Shach, frequently decried the distortion of the Torah when any mitzvah – including settlement of the Land – is elevated above all others. For chareidim, the old Mizrachi slogan – the Land of Israel for the people of Israel according to the Torah of Israel – appears as an inversion of the proper order.
Devotion to Torah study, not rejection of the state, remains that central value of chareidi society. It is hard to imagine many of the hilltop youth warming yeshiva benchs with the same intensity they currently show for manning barren outposts.
The cultural divide between the chareidi world and the national religious world is not one that will be easily bridged. The bitter divisions between the national religious and secular communities over the withdrawal make it easy to forget that the two worlds largely share a common culture.
As Sarah Bedein, an Efrat resident, wrote recently, members of the national religious world hum the same tunes, root for the same sports teams, watch the same TV shows as the average Israeli. Now they have discovered that the bridge they thought they were building runs only one way.
To the extent that the IDF uniform is no longer viewed as "priestly clothing" by the national religious world, some in that world may look less contemptuously on the chareidi world. But chareidi culture will remain largely foreign territory to them.
Those in the Mizrachi world most closely identified with the chareidi world in terms of their standards of religious observance and emphasis on the centrality of Torah study – the so-called chardelim – are also the most intensely ideological. And that ideology, particularly the emphasis on the role of the state in the redemptive process, ensures that the charedlim will not move over into the chareidi camp.
There has always been movement on the individual level between the national religious world and the chareidi world. Most of the leading rabbis in their 40s and 50s in my Har Nof neighborhood, for instance, are products of national religious high schools who went on to study at one of the yeshivos for such young men, before the purge of chareidi teachers from the national religious educational system two decades ago.
Unquestionably the withdrawal has provoked a good deal of soul-searching in the national religious world. As a consequence, some members of the community will channel their intense idealism in a more internal direction. And of those, some will find their way to the chareidi world. But to speak of the imminent "chareidization" of a large swath of the community is ridiculous.
Related Topics: Disengagement, Israeli Society
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