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Naomi Ragen
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The Ghost of Hannah Mendes Jephte's Daughter Sotah (A Woman Under Suspicion) The Sacrifice of Tamar

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Count Me Out, Rabbi Porush      (February 7, 1999)

by Naomi Ragen

We see it all the time. The secular talk show host invites the haredi guest - usually Rabbi Porush, Benizri or Ravitz - and what ensues is a strange dialogue in which the real issue is never actually discussed.

And whatever the trigger, the issue is always the same: the huge monetary burden of supporting a population whose philosophy permits them to marry and raise families blessed with 10, 12 or even 20 children, but does not permit them to work and support themselves.

This time, the trigger was the insolent, almost unbelievable demand of haredi MKs to receive huge sums for their yeshivot, their pet projects (a million shekels for a campaign to encourage Sabbath observance!) and their cronies' non-profit associations (amutot), in exchange for their votes to assure that the country actually has a budget for 1999.

This time the talk show host was Gabi Gazit, on Channel 2's The Morning Show; the guest: Rabbi Porush of United Torah Judaism. The exchange went something like this:

Gazit: Do you think that when Moses took the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, he had this in mind?

Porush: What do you mean? It's all the same game. Likud, Labor - in the end they always come to us, the dati'im [religious], and ask for our support. This centrist party, they'll do the same. You'll see.

Gazit: And do you think that this is right, this robbery of the nation's money?

Porush (aggressively, shamelessly): What robbery? And they didn't give the kibbutzim NIS 15 billion? There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of that. Until you make a law that the dati'im are second-class citizens, that you're allowed to take the milk from my child's cup, we have the same constitutional right as everyone else to ask for funding.

Gazit (taken aback): No one is talking about taking milk from your child's cup!

And that's where the argument, as usual, ended. With a commercial break.

And with Rabbi Porush - or Rabbi Benizri, or Rabbi Ravitz - smiling into the cameras, getting into their chauffeur-driven cars and laughing all the way to the bank.

As one who is no less religiously committed than Rabbi Porush and his followers, I resent his appropriation of the word dati'im to describe whom he is championing when he robs our country blind.

Don't include me, Rabbi Porush. I don't ask for this money, I don't need it.

The truth is, that you're putting your hand into my pocket, and the pockets of most dati'im, stealing our hard-earned money - and the milk in our children's cups - when we, like all tax-paying Israelis, pay 50% of everything we earn to support you and your cronies in your indolent "holy" lifestyle.

In a recent survey of Jerusalem's population, it was found that 80% of the heads of haredi households are unemployed by choice. Eighty percent! What Rabbi Porush and his ilk don't seem to understand or care, is that when they rob the till, they are taking milk from the cups of the children of those who are not unemployed by choice: people in development towns, the crippled, the sick, the weakest segments of our population.

If our country, which is small and not rich, has to support thousands and thousands of able-bodied men who are too holy to work, then someone's milk cup has to be emptied.

And since the unemployed, the mentally ill, the autistic, and the crippled don't have strong political parties, or a government willing to fight their battles, I guess they'll have no choice but to forget about milk and drink water.

That is, until they can't afford to pay their water bills. And then, Rabbi Porush can look at them and say: What, no water? Then let them drink kiddush wine!

So please, Rabbi Porush: Don't use the word dati'im to describe your constituency.

Because most of us who fit that description are mortified to be included in any agenda you represent.

 

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Last modified: February 07, 1999