Sat Feb 9, 2013, 12:11 PM
Jefferson23 (30,099 posts)
Bringing Ultra-Orthodox Traditions to Israel’s Parliament, Olive Branch in Hand
By JODI RUDOREN
Published: February 8, 2013
BEIT SHEMESH, Israel
Dov Lipman’s introduction to the conundrum of the ultra-Orthodox in modern Israel began more than two decades ago, when he was a 19-year-old American student in a Jerusalem yeshiva. It was during the gulf war, with Scud missiles threatening Tel Aviv, yet the prayer for Israeli soldiers that is commonly said daily in synagogues worldwide was not recited at the school.
“I couldn’t understand any ideology that justified living here and not praying for the soldiers who are risking their lives for us to be here,” said Mr. Lipman, who grew up in Maryland. But when he questioned the yeshiva rabbis about it, he said “they had no answer” beyond “it’s complicated — it’s politics.”
Now, Mr. Lipman is playing a critical role in trying to unravel those complicated politics and integrate the insular ultra-Orthodox into the broader society. They have long lived a world apart: they attend separate schools with a curriculum short on math, science and English; rarely serve in the military; and have large families living on welfare because men study Torah rather than work. He was among the 19 people elected to the Israeli Parliament last month from the new Yesh Atid Party, whose primary platform is to “equalize the burden” between the ultra-Orthodox, known here as Haredim, and the rest of society.
But unlike the party’s secular leader — and the vast majority of its voters — Mr. Lipman, an ordained rabbi, has an ultra-Orthodox background and has tried to position himself as a constructive critic from within.
5 replies, 1088 views
Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Bringing Ultra-Orthodox Traditions to Israel’s Parliament, Olive Branch in Hand (Original post)
Response to Moonwalk (Reply #1)
Sat Feb 9, 2013, 12:30 PM
Jefferson23 (30,099 posts)
2. They do? I don't need to log into anything to read it in full. Could you let
me know at what point you could not read any further and I can copy and paste the remainder in another
post for you.
Btw, the rest of the article is worth a read imo, he speaks about the differences and is specific
about what he includes in his lifestyle and what he has rejected and his hopes to bridge differences
*edited for clarity.
Response to Moonwalk (Reply #3)
Sat Feb 9, 2013, 02:50 PM
Jefferson23 (30,099 posts)
5. That is odd. Ok, here is the remainder from where my initial post ends:
“I share the same value system,” Rabbi Lipman said, citing the importance of studying Torah, the “fears about societal influence” and the desire to limit interaction between men and women. “The Haredim have done themselves a disservice by saying it’s us against them and we will not be part of Israeli society.”
Sworn in on Tuesday as one of 48 first-time lawmakers — the most since the earliest days of Israeli independence — Rabbi Lipman, 41, is the first American-born member of Parliament since Rabbi Meir Kehane was elected in 1984. The new 120-seat body also has more Orthodox members (39 of them) than ever and more women (27), including the first born in Ethiopia, and the youngest member ever elected, Stav Shaffir, who is 27 and was a leader of the 2011 social protest movement.
Rabbi Lipman, an educator and author of three books, is also the first legislator from Beit Shemesh, a city of 80,000 people halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that became an international symbol of the Haredi conflict when a group of men spit at an 8-year-old girl on her way to school in late 2011 because they considered even her modest dress inappropriate. Rabbi Lipman’s activism after that episode and in other Beit Shemesh controversies paved the way for his political future, but also created many critics close to home.
He is beloved by many of the modern Orthodox in Beit Shemesh, but several Haredi leaders here questioned his legitimacy as a spokesman for their community, pointing out that the Yesh Atid Party received 1,273 of the city’s 29,593 votes. They also noted that Rabbi Lipman does not pray in a Haredi synagogue or send his children to Haredi schools, and said he did not understand the “nuances” of Haredi culture. Some have called him a “rabbi of Purim,” a holiday in which children don costumes.
“He has created a kind of Haredi that allows him to don the black kippa, wear the suit of a yeshiva student, while being part of a party with values that are opposite of the values of the Haredi sector,” said Moshe Abutbul, the ultra-Orthodox mayor of Beit Shemesh. “It is as though I would put on a white robe and call myself a doctor.”
Rabbi Lipman, who wept last month upon renouncing his American citizenship — which Israel required that he do before entering Parliament — acknowledges that he does not quite fit in. He has a black hat, the signature Haredi accessory, but wears it only to pray or meet with rabbis. His suits are pinstriped, not solid black, and he occasionally wears a blue shirt (most Haredim stick with white). While many ultra-Orthodox shun television and the Internet, he allows his 15-year-old son to watch ESPN highlights on the computer, cautioning him to avert his eyes when immodestly dressed women are shown on screen.
He said he took his four children, now ages 8 to 15, out of ultra-Orthodox schools because he wanted his son to be able to play baseball and his daughters to marry men educated to work as well as study Torah. He is also an oddball within Yesh Atid: he is the rare skullcap-wearer in the room, and often the only one there who avoids shaking hands or hugging women. “It’s destroying us as a people — the labeling and having to fit into a label,” Rabbi Lipman said. “How a person serves God or doesn’t serve God is a personal thing, and we have to find a way to create a Jewish country where people can be themselves and everybody respects each other regardless.
“A lot of people look at me and say I’m naïve,” he added. “I’m not naïve. I understand we’re talking about a process that could take 100 years, if not more. You have to be ‘kumbaya’ and have that vision and start working toward that vision.”
The son of a United States federal judge, Rabbi Lipman grew up in Silver Spring, Md., where he was a star point guard on the basketball team and leader of the student body at his Orthodox high school (in the yearbook, an English teacher predicted he would become a United States senator). Shortly after he moved to Israel in 2004, he was hit by a rock while observing a Haredi protest near his home regarding desecration of graves. He keeps it on his desk, along with a basketball trophy and two autographed baseballs.
“I was not prepared to have a rock thrown at me by another Jew — psychologically, theologically,” he said. “That’s where this switch went off in my head: I have to do my part to heal these wounds and get this society back on track.”
He tried to get involved in city affairs, planning a concert for the Sukkot holiday, but the ultra-Orthodox did not come. He suggested a museum honoring Jewish heroes, but was rebuffed by the mayor. As tensions grew between Beit Shemesh’s Haredim and modern Orthodox, he found himself working with secular forces from elsewhere who were fighting the draft exemptions and advocating religious pluralism.
“We need people who speak the language of the other side,” said Tal Baron, a student leader at Hebrew University. Ms. Baron, 24, recalled that when she accidentally invited Rabbi Lipman to meet at a nonkosher restaurant in Jerusalem, he sat and had coffee with her. “I don’t know any other religious person in Israel who would do that,” she said.
Rabbi Lipman started the Beit Shemesh branch of Yesh Atid last summer. In October, he was tapped as a candidate, promising to vote with the party “on things that might be difficult for the ultra-Orthodox.”
He never expected to make it — he was No. 17 on Yesh Atid’s list, and pre-election polls predicted that the party would win 13 seats at most. Suddenly, he has a $125,000 salary plus perks: a new Mazda 5 minivan, the first family car that has room for everyone; an iPad; and allowances for clothing and language lessons (most lawmakers are polishing their English; Rabbi Lipman plans to upgrade his Hebrew).
Beyond the Haredi integration question, Rabbi Lipman sees himself as a representative for English-speaking immigrants. He also wants to ease the conversion process for Russians and other immigrants whose Judaism is questioned by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate; is prepared to evacuate some West Bank settlements if there is an internationally sanctioned peace agreement with the Palestinians; and would overturn the law under which women have been arrested for praying at the Western Wall wearing prayer shawls traditionally used by men.
“I’m very lonely,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of people that agree with the combination of where I’m coming from.”
Irit Pazner Garshowitz and Myra Noveck contributed reporting from Jerusalem.