Reza Aslan’s “Believer” on Sunday night about the ultra-orthdox group in Israel, the Haredim, led to his essay “Why I worry about Israel’s future”.
Aslan considers himself a secular and socially moderate Shiite Muslim, whose family fled Iran in 1979 when the revolution against the Shah turned it into a religious state and led to the 444-day hostage crisis. Secularism tends to promote not just freedom but its own brand of accompanying inequality.
But in Israel the Haredim is growing in political influence. It’s high birthrate has caused it to rise to 13% of the population. The men don’t work, but spend all their time studying the Torah. Their leadership considers this their “sacrifice”. The women work and raise all their kids. But the group has a legal exemption from compulsory military service. It’s rather like the old US system of student deferments during the Vietnam War (or maybe comparable to conscientious objection).
The documentary showed some Haredi-majority communities where non-Haredi are bullied for not following Haredi practices, like modesty and strict gender segregation, which ironically parallels Islam.
Wikipedia attribution link for picture by Chesdovi under CCSA 3.0 showing Haredi gender segregation.