Ultra-Orthodox daily calls for Haredi ‘autonomous zone’
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Ultra-Orthodox daily calls for Haredi ‘autonomous zone’

Hamodia suggests self-rule for Israel's strictly religious Jews as a solution to increasing secular interference

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews holding a prayer rally in Jerusalem's Shabbat Square in opposition of the government's plan to start drafting yeshiva students into military and national service, June 25, 2012 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews holding a prayer rally in Jerusalem's Shabbat Square in opposition of the government's plan to start drafting yeshiva students into military and national service, June 25, 2012 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An ultra-Orthodox daily newspaper proposed the establishment of an autonomous zone within Israel where the strictly religious community could thrive, immune to the influences of the secular state.

As the Knesset works on legislation that could see most ultra-Orthodox men required to serve in the IDF or other national service frameworks, and planned budget cuts threaten the community’s already strained economy, Hamodia, the mouthpiece of the ultra-Orthodox Agudat Yisrael party, suggested self-rule was the best answer to unwanted secular intrusion.

“Autonomy means independent administrative rule for internal matters without sovereign political status, with legal and financial independence and police, but without an army or foreign policy,” the paper reasoned in an editorial published Wednesday.

The editorial began with an attack on the national religious leadership for making a pact with the secular Yesh Atid party which, it claimed, contradicts the religious principles of Orthodox Jews.

“Led by the high courts that are sustained by a left-wing anti-Semitic funded media, they have chosen to renounce the status quo,” the essayist wrote.

The paper listed “provocative conversions,” civil marriages and meddling with ultra-Orthodox public life as examples of the conventions that are now under threat.

“If there is no turnaround to our benefit, and with no other choice, there is an option that needs to be considered — to establish a Jewish autonomy within Israel.”

Hamodia predicted that the venture would be financially viable as its ultra-Orthodox citizens would be able to find work without the need for academic qualifications or overcoming discrimination. Furthermore, the editorial asserted, “there will no need to waste funds on things like sports budgets, delusional culture, prisons or rehabilitation facilities.”

Pointing to what it called the successful establishment of ultra-Orthodox towns such as Bnei Brak, Elad, and Modi’in Illit, the paper said full self-rule is also feasible.

“We will also manage to set up electric companies, roads, and everything else that is necessary,” the editorial said.

The two ultra-Orthodox political parties were, for the first time in decades, not included in the recently formed government coalition, and now face the threat of greatly increased secular influence on state affairs. Both Yesh Atid and the Jewish Home national religious party made the implementation of universal army conscription an absolute condition to their joining the government. The ultra-Orthodox communities largely abhor the notion of army service and in the past received exemptions on condition of several years spent in religious studies.

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