Thursday, August 21, 2008

fight and study

A recent BBC article about the ultra-Orthodox Haredim Jews of Jerusalem yields some interesting facts about this community. For instance, because they study at seminaries, the men are exempt from military service:
"It's an ancient concept in Judaism that the spiritual and the physical are united, that to win a war you need both spirit and strength," says Moshe Eliahu, a Haredi father of two and full-time student at a Jerusalem seminary.

"You need people fighting, but you also need people learning and praying."

According to government figures, the majority of Haredi men do not have paid jobs.

The Haredim take studying very seriously:
Mr Eliahu says Israel and the world need the "positive energy" that comes from learning Torah.

"This sounds funny to the western ear - what can a man learning in a yeshiva all day possibly give back to the world?" he says. "Torah learning that we do is the hidden code of the physical existence of all mankind, and if for one single second there is no Torah learning in the air, all the world would go back to chaos."

Mr Eliahu's wife, Miriam, teaches English at two Jerusalem schools and takes care of their children. "There's no point to our physical existence without a spiritual purpose, and I, as the husband who is learning all day, am primarily responsible for that," he explains.

But they still value women:
He also rejects the view that Haredi gender roles are primitive. In Judaism, he says, women are actually considered to be closer to God than men. ''They are the ones who create life, they are the queens."

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