I was struck by this Haaretz headline, which noted that a half-million Haredim had barricaded Jerusalem shut from the inside. They’d sealed off the city entirely to protest the government’s attempt to compel Haredi men to serve in the IDF. They currently obtain an exemption because their Torah studies presumably serve as potent a weapon in protecting the State as those they would physically wield serving in the army.
In reality, the Haredim, almost 10% of Israel’s population, are in varying states of denial and rejection of Israel as a state. They’re more than happy to take social welfare payments and all the subsidies that are offered to them by the State. But when it comes to recognizing the State in a formal way such as by sending your children into harm’s way on behalf of all the citizens of the State, the Haredim generally balk.
Further, there is a sizable minority of the settler movement which rejects the current State (especially its security apparatus) and seeks to replace it with a heavenly-appointed halachic kingdom.
Which brings me to the ultimate irony: Abu Mazzen is being pressured by Obama and Bibi to recognize Israel as a Jewish state as part of the current round of peace talks. Aside from the fact that this is both a stupid and preposterous demand (for reasons I’ve explained in the past here), why should any Palestinian be expected to recognize Israel as Jewish when nearly a million of its own Jewish citizens don’t?
Unless the Haredim were joined by other Israeli Orthodox at this rally, I’m unsure how this rally could’ve drawn 500,000 protesters since there are only approximately 650-750,000 Haredim in Israel. But that’s another matter…