Published in The Jerusalem Post on May 2, 1999
He’ll join any government, support any peace treaty, back any policy – just as long as haredim aren’t involved. He’ll eat any pig or grasshopper, patronize any culture, promote any cosmopolitan idea – just keep the haredim down and out.
He’ll fan any flame, stoke any hatred, invoke anti-Semitic imagery and falsify figures – all this and more is justified in the campaign to crush the haredi monster and get himself elected.
Tommy Lapid is here to “enlighten” us, to save us from the Ultra-Orthodox hordes menacing our freedom.
Of all the disgusting things about this election campaign, of all the nastiness and vitriol – Lapid’s base propaganda takes the cake. His advertising – “we have to stop *them*” — reeks of unmitigated hatred. Just what we needed in today’s already-badly-divided Israel.
Lapid has his sights set clear: he wants to join a haredi-less government. “Any government on condition that it doesn’t include haredim” in his own words. The Arabs – that’s o.k. The far left, the far right – fine. Just not the black hats. “We have to stop them”. “Them”. Those creepy, crawly black things that are “nibbling away at our lives”.
I’ve tried to fathom just what it is that drives angry Tommy to such depths of visceral antipathy. He is, after all, supposed to be “charming, erudite and enlightened” (The Jerusalem Post, February 1998), if not particularly polite or tactful.
Beyond the usual complaints about haredim – many of them justified but nothing that leads me to wish them such harm – what puts them beyond the pale of acceptability, in Lapid’s feverish mind?
Two issues stand out in Lapid’s incessant, overbearing appearances on the TV talk shows and political programs.
Firstly — the high haredi birth rate. “I want to liberate the haredim from the subhuman lives that they lead”, Lapid told *Makor Rishon* last month. “I want to open their eyes. I will be performing a service for them by doing this”. (Real enlightened liberal, this guy is). “I say to religious women in Bnei Brak, ‘You do not have to have ten children’. You haredim, stop locking-up your women in the delivery room”.
In order to achieve this decline in the nefarious haredi birthrate, Lapid then proceeds to advocate the cutting of government baby bonuses to families with many children – because most of them are haredim. Ugly talk that makes you shiver. Imagine what our reaction would be if the Quebec provincial government were to eliminate its baby bonus system, designed to boost the population of a “culturally unique society”, because too high a percentage of the beneficiaries were Chassidic Jews?!
Too many religious Jewish babies. This is the great Holocaust survivor Lapid talking, a status he brandishes manipulatively whenever necessary to ward-off criticism of his less-than-classically Jewish, jaundiced worldview.
The other issue, which clearly burns away at Lapid’s kishkes, is the dangerous, notorious gastronomical peril, a true constitutional threat to our “freedom”, something that goes right to the guts of our society. Kosher food, oy.
Kosher certification is an unfair tax on the secular public, he argues over and over again. Poor Tommy. He has to eat at McDonald’s where the bread has a *Badatz*, the meat is imported kosher, the Coke has Rabbi Landa’s certification, and the cheese (on top of the hamburger) is *Cholov Yisrael*.
It is a rough life. Lapid’s hands, angling with spoon for the mouth, are “tied behind my back with tefillin straps”, as he put it. *Nebech.*
Of course, the issue is stupid and his facts are wrong, but that doesn’t stop Lapid from allowing his stomach go to his head on national TV. The cost of kashrut supervision is marginal or negligible in big companies, and kashrut supervision *increases* the sales of a product in this country, thereby making it quite profitable for most manufacturers, and bringing prices down. In the US, the kosher food industry is a billion dollar business and growing exponentially. It seems that are more believers than rabid secularists.
So why in this age of serious religious-secular tension over real issues would an adult deliberately attempt to stir up controversy over an issue that has a huge consensus? To bring Knesset debates up to the lofty intellectual and tolerant level of ‘Popolitika’? To satisfy his intestinal cravings?
Does Tommy Lapid really expect us to believe that in a time of painful economic failing and critical peace process decisions – the major issue is ham? Or haredim?
In truth, Lapid just can’t stand Judaism. All rabbis. Orthodox and Reform. All believers. Too medieval. It is a crime, in his eyes, in the Jewish state, to believe in God and keep traditional precepts. Don’t believe for a moment that Lapid’s complaint would go away if the haredim joined combat units (they should) and paid the highest taxes.
Oops, I’m sorry, I forgot that Tommy is a survivor and therefore morally superior and cannot be accused of racism.
Don’t go complaining, Tommy the torch-bearer, that these are harsh words. People that play with fire, get burned.