There is a civil war looming in Israel, but very few are talking about it.
I’m not referring to the potential of a civil war between Israelis and Palestinians, nor am I referring to a war with bombs and guns and knives. I’m referring to an ideological war that has the potential of tearing the nation in half.
It is the war between ultra-Orthodox Jews and liberal Israelis. The rift is large and growing, and it was underscored by the conflict this week between LGBT activists and ultra-Orthodox rabbis.
But first, some important demographics.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews (called haredim) are the fastest growing segment in Israel, currently making up roughly 15 percent of the Jewish population (about 1 million out of 6 million). And based on current birth rates, the haredim could make up more than one-third of the total Jewish population of Israel by mid-century. (Ultra-Orthodox Jews have very high birth rates coupled with very little assimilation into the secular culture.)
As explained in 2016, “While haredim made up just 9.9% of the Israeli population in 2009, with 750,000 out of 7,552,100, by 2014 that figure had risen to 11.1%, with 910,500 haredim out of a total Israeli population of 8,183,400. [These figures refer to the total population of Israel, including Arabs.]
“By 2024, the study predicts, haredim will make up 14% of the Israeli population, rising to 19% by 2039, and 27% by 2059. At that point haredim will be a whopping 35% of the total Jewish population, outnumbering the secular, traditional, traditional-religious, and religious sectors.”
But there’s more to the story.
Israel is a very fragile democracy, by which I mean that it takes a coalition of various parties to lead the nation. It’s not as simple as electing President Trump or President Obama. Instead, Israelis vote for parties, which are led by individuals. Various parties then work together to get a total of 61 seats in the Knesset (Parliament).
In the last election (2015), Prime Minister Netanyahu’s party, Likud, got the most seats. But in total, Likud only won 30 seats, meaning that it had to work together with other parties to reach the magic number of 61. (Overall,10 different parties won seats; there were a total of 25 parties that competed.)
To put his coalition together, Netanyahu had to include two ultra-Orthodox parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas, both of which won just 6 seats. But they are major power brokers in the government with disproportionate influence, since Likud could not govern without them.
Despite their small size, they can demand special benefits, including government support so more of their men can devote themselves to day and night Torah study, along with exemption from serving in the military.
What makes this even more interesting is that many haredim are anti-Zionist. Their leaders opposed the modern state of Israel before 1948, feeling that: 1) it was up to the Messiah to regather the exiles and reestablish the nation; 2) a secular Jewish state would be an abomination in God’s sight; and 3) an Israel established by man rather than God would increase world anti-Semitism. To this day, most haredim do not celebrate Israel’s Independence Day; some actually mourn.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Brown