Economy Minister Naftali Bennett held a tense meeting this week with young chareidi men during a preparation event for civil service volunteers from the chareidi sector.
Bennett, who is in charge of the National-Civil Service Administration, welcomed the new recruits and praised the charedi public, but was met with accusations that he is harming the world of Torah through the Peri Committee bill for an equal share of the burden.
The minister, chairman of the national-religious Habayit Hayehudi party, argued that the outline initiated by the Peri Committee would benefit charedim too, as it recognizes Torah studies as a national value for the first time and incorporates this recognition into the law.
“Don’t belittle this,” he said. “We are making history in this sense.”
According to Bennett, “Studying Torah is a fundamental part of the burden, and it’s very hard to wake up every morning and study Torah till the night. It’s as hard as things I did in the army.”
The young charedi men went on to accuse him of boasting cooperation with rabbis to draft charedim while disobeying “Da’as Torah.”
Bennett urged them to stop using slogans and not to turn themselves into “victims.” Instead, he suggested that they study and familiarize themselves with the details of the Peri Committee proposal and discuss the heart of the matter.
The minister admitted, however, that he had made mistakes in recent months which led to the creation of an unnecessary discourse of hatred between different parts of the Israeli society, and said he regretted that.
Yet Bennett blasted those who “grabbed the opportunity” and instead of speeding up the integration of charedim into the Israeli society, stopped the process. “There is a feeling that you’re being persecuted and that people want to harm you, but it’s the exact opposite,” he said.
In the heat of the argument, Bennett’s yarmulka fell off his head, and one of the new recruits noted, “It would be better if it stayed that way.”
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