Tuesday, January 10, 2012

They are Animals!

My Kind of Rabbi

From VIN:

Jerusalem - A well known Rosh Yeshiva who is also a popular figure in the Sephardi kiruv world had nothing but contempt and scorn for Charedi Israeli extremists.

Rabbi Rafael Zar, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohr Dor – Ohr Yehuda, a noted baal mussar and considered by some as a spiritual leader, had strong words for those who resort to extreme measures, in the name of tznius.

“They are the worst kind of evildoers, far worse than the most secular individual,” said Rabbi Zar. “If I could I would break their arms and legs. This is not just my opinion, it is the opinion of Chazal. They would catch them, give them lashes and break their bones for their appalling behavior.

Spitting on women? I am appalled by this and any true Ben Torah feels the same way about this garbage. The people who do this are nothing more than garbage and they bring a foul stench to the scent of Torah in this world. It is repulsive. To spit on a Jewish Girl? Who do you think you are?

Anyone whose middos are so corrupt, is not a Jew in my eyes. He is an animal.”

“Someone who commits a Chilul Hashem like this does not deserve to have a beard. It is an embarrassment. According to the Holy Tazdik Baba Sali Zt’l there are Jews that when they will go to gehenim, the fire will start from their beard, because they don’t deserve to have a beard.”

Rabbi Zar further continued to lambast those have created the furor over segregation in Israel, saying that those who refuse to sit next to a woman on a bus should get off the bus and take a different bus with fewer women because a true yarei shomayim would not raise a commotion over an issue like this.

He also added that he suspects that many of those who pretend to be overly pious in public are probably guilty of transgressing the gravest sins that can be committed by a Jew in private.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Natan Slifkin's Take

The following was published in the Jeruslam Post. It is a must read.

Everyone agrees that the Battle of Beit Shemesh – my hometown for over a decade – is about a group of hostile, hateful people trying to impose their ideology on a group of nice, normal Jews. But whereas the secular, national-religious and moderate haredim (ultra-Orthodox) think that the group of hostile, hateful people trying to impose their ideology on others are the haredi extremists, mainstream haredim think that the group of hostile, hateful people trying to impose their ideology on others are the secular.

Hadash, the weekly haredi newspaper in Beit Shemesh, was formerly owned by Mayor Moshe Abutbol’s official spokesman. It was sold to new ownership which maintains devout loyalty to the mayor and the haredi community. A giant front-page headline last week screamed “THE BLITZ!” Under that, the article said haredi residents of Beit Shemesh have become “a target of persecution, the likes of which have never been seen.”

The entire issue contained article after article about the terrible, evil secular campaign against the haredim, with each article including a graphic captioned “The city under attack!”The lead editorial ranted on and on about the terrible, baseless persecution of the haredi population and denounced the kippa-wearing people who brought the Banat Orot school situation to the attention of the wider public. There was not a single word condemning the haredi thugs.

Especially ironic was a half-page article about a Haaretz journalist who allegedly spat on a little girl. This was in a newspaper which never prints articles about the countless acts of harassment against the national-religious that have taken place for years in Beit Shemesh – stealing flags, throwing stones, spitting, threatening businesses, attacking children and much more. Even when there was a mob beating of national-religious kids which resulted in my neighbor’s child requiring stitches in his head, the newspaper claimed that it was all the kids’ fault!

JUST AS important, however, the secular interpretation of events is sometimes no more accurate. Many secular Jews possess the absurd belief that all haredim, or even all religious Jews, are of the same mindset as the extremists. Former Meretz Party chairman Yossi Sarid declared that Judaism itself halachically mandates such behavior (!), and that all religious parties should be disqualified from the Knesset.

The widespread talk against religious Jews is no less offensive than the curses heaped by haredi extremists upon others. This also has the effect of encouraging the wider haredi world to adopt a siege mentality and prevents them from acknowledging any wrongdoing in their own camp – which in turn lends credence to the secular charge that haredim are indeed all of the same mindset.

Thus, the ultra-secular and the ultra-Orthodox are locked into a vicious cycle which brings out the worst in each.Yet another interpretation of events was apparently held by the groups that joined the rally in Beit Shemesh, who portrayed the issue as one relating to women. But aside from the question of whether some of them were seeking to force a rift between Netanyahu and his coalition, even those genuinely motivated by a desire to improve the status of women were missing the point.

The events in Beit Shemesh had little, if anything, to do with the oppression of women. The haredi extremists did not object to Banot Orot because it was a girl’s school; they objected to it because it was national-religious. And those who linked the Beit Shemesh extremists to the soldiers who walked out of a ceremony in which women sang got it entirely wrong. Walking out may well have been unwise and even unnecessary, but in that case, the soldiers did not impose their mores upon others; if anything, secular mores were being insensitively and unwisely imposed upon them.

THE INTERPRETATION and reaction among religious Jews outside of Israel is diverse. Modern Orthodox groups such as the OU and RCA issued harsh, unequivocal and unqualified condemnations of the haredi extremists. So did important moderate haredi figures such as Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein and Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz. The mainstream haredi world, however, watered down their condemnations of the extremists by stressing that the (alleged) ultimate goal, of increased modesty, is holy. As in Israel, more extreme elements of the haredi world in America adopted the siege mentality of presenting the entire situation as a secular campaign against Judaism.

But virtually the entire religious community commits the error of attributing all the problems to a miniscule group of extremists. (For foreign-born religious Jews, this often stems from sheer horror at the thought that it could be any more than that.) Yet this is no more accurate than the belief of the secularists that every haredi Jew is a rock-throwing, cursing spitter. The problems in Beit Shemesh are more complex and widespread than that.

It is true that the vast majority of haredim would never dream of spitting on people and cursing them. These are the actions of a fringe element that are feared and detested by the rest of the haredi world. But the mainstream haredi community is supportive of the ultimate goals, and does not see such actions as being terrible enough to justify joining with “outsiders” in order to condemn it. A letter expressing support for Banot Orot and condemnation of the extremists was signed by over a dozen national-religious and moderate haredi community rabbis in Beit Shemesh, but not one mainstream haredi rabbi signed on to it or made any similar such public declaration.

In addition, haredi society is pervaded by a fear of not appearing adequately “frum”; people in haredi communities are always looking over their right shoulders. And it is often the zealous elements that manipulate the “Gedolim,” the elderly Torah scholars that are ostensibly the leaders of the haredi world. As a result of all this, those practicing intolerance and extremism always exert a disproportionately large degree of influence in haredi society as a whole.

THE MORE general problem is that at many levels in haredi society, there is inappropriate behavior towards nonharedim, which is felt particularly strongly in the mixed city of Beit Shemesh. For example, as noted, the Hadash newspaper never reports on attacks against non-haredim; haredim are always innocent and non-haredim are always the enemy. And many haredi rabbis in Beit Shemesh have either overtly or tacitly supported mild harassment of non-haredim and attempts to impose haredi mores on the rest of the city.

The Ramat Beit Shemesh district was originally designated as a mixed area for haredi, national-religious and secular Jews. But the latter group fled after harassment, and Ramat Beit Shemesh is on its way to emulating Beitar, where the national-religious were effectively forced out of the city and extreme haredi elements took control. Under the current mayor, this is an accelerating process, as he gears the expansion of the Ramat Beit Shemesh district primarily towards haredi purchasers.

I don’t know what should or even can be done about the larger social problems of haredim vis-à-vis the rest of Israeli society. But I do know that the first step to solving a problem is facing up to its existence and understanding its nature.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It’s Time to Act

Wow! Maybe things are beginning to change. These seems to be a groundswell of Charedi outrage about the the Chilul HaShem that the Meah Shearim crowd has been responsible for - both in Bet Shemesh and on their home turf. The following is a front page editorial published in the very Charedi newspaper, Hamodia. It was written and signed by the publisher Mrs. Ruth Lichtenstein. This is unprecedented. It is republished in VIN. I republish it here in its entirety:

Last Shabbos morning was exceptionally beautiful in Yerushalayim. As always, the streets were full of Yidden going to and from shul, passing walls plastered with a variety of posters and advertisements.

Suddenly I noticed a placard announcing a demonstration in Kikar HaShabbos, to take place on Motzoei Shabbos.

Participants would be required to wear a yellow star and don prisoners’ uniforms, similar to what was worn in the Nazi death camps, and demonstrate against the harassment of the authorities with regard to the mehadrin lines and other similar grievances. I was horrified.
In a subsequent conversation in which I described the placard, its content and style, to a resident of Yerushalayim with a lot of life experience, I was surprised at his calm response. He just brushed it off with a wave of his hand. “Nonsense! Meshuga’im!” he exclaimed.

But this time, these “meshuga’im” overstepped the line. They went too far. What has been imprinted in everyone’s memory, with the eager collaboration of the secular media, is the horrific image of a small child wearing a yellow star, with his arms raised, and, not coincidentally, remarkably resembling the famous photo of a child with his arms raised in the Warsaw Ghetto.
How did the hands of the parents not tremble when they dressed their small child in this horrific uniform?

What does this father know about the Holocaust, about children in the Holocaust, about the significance of such a photo? Obviously, less than nothing. With pre-meditated cynicism, the fringe group to which he belongs has desecrated an iconic symbol for their own ends.
What will this father tell his son when he grows older and tries to understand how his father opted to turn him into a symbol that will haunt him all his life?

It’s not pleasant to be a chareidi in Yerushalayim — or anywhere else in Eretz Yisrael for that matter — these days. During the remainder of my brief stay in Eretz Yisrael, wherever one went the reaction was the same: “You chareidim! Shame on you!”

The more polite, well-mannered people said, “We know they are a radical minority, we know they are casting a stain on the entire chareidi community with their behavior, but why do you remain silent?”

The time has come to shatter the silence. Ignoring these fanatics is no longer an option, since they go out of their way to attract the secular media in order to broadcast their warped messages to the entire world.

I make no demands on this group, since they are not rational. The father of that child and his cohorts not only did not apologize or explain themselves, they even pledged to continue in their ways, according to secular media reports.

My demand is from us: How did we, in our naiveté, think that the actions of this fringe group could just be ignored? How did we give them a platform, allowing them to act as the representatives of chareidi Jewry?

What we desperately need is a serious media campaign to present the true position of Torah Jewry to the world. As my father, Rabbi Leibel Levin, z”l, and Rabbi Moshe Sherer, z”l, understood when they founded Mercaz L’hasbarah Datit and Am Echad, respectively, for this purpose, we dare not relinquish the spokesmanship of Klal Yisrael to irrational, irresponsible and self-serving fringe elements.

If we want to survive, if we want to merit understanding in Israel and abroad as Orthodox Jews who want to live our lives in accordance with the Torah, we must act — immediately!

Postscript: VIN also has this from Rav Ovadia Yosef. Finally the righteous outrage I have been waiting for!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

An Orgy of Hatred

On my main blog today, I wrote about one secular Jew in Israel that turns my stomach. I usually try and give secular Jews the benefit of the doubt. But Yossi Sarid has made that virtually impossible in his case because of the screed he wrote.

But not all secular Jews are alike. Amnon Levy - who if I read correctly is actually an atheist - has my respect. His article is published in Ynet. It follows.

In recent days I’ve been quarreling with all my friends. They are good people, these friends – liberal, tolerant, moderate and sensitive to any injustice. These are people that in our complex reality were never confused between good and bad. This is why I love them, among other things. I’d like to think that we are cut from the same cloth. That’s why I’m so amazed to see how uncaring and hateful they become when a group of people known as the haredim comes up for discussion.

My liberal friends propose various steps against the haredim and religious: A cadet who cannot bear female singing will not be an officer in the IDF, said one friend. As simple as that (“as simple as that” or “at once” are words that always accompany discussions about the haredim.) A segregated bus shall be stopped! The driver and bus operators should be sent to jail. A yeshiva that will not teach the core curriculum shall be closed at once! We shall not allow primitive ignoramuses to be raised here, and at our expense no less. A neighborhood that features separate sidewalks for women shall immediately lose its municipal services! They can go ahead and choke in their own garbage.

There are more proposals that are even more terrifying. Disconnect haredi neighborhoods from electricity, water and whatnot. The same people who would quiver, and rightfully so, if such proposals were made about Gaza, forget that behind the dark clothes, odd views and challenging (and annoying) behavior lie human beings. They are different than us, but they are human beings.

I’ve been following haredi society for many years yet I don’t remember such anger. And that’s odd, because the secular fury comes at a time when secularism is winning while the haredim are on the defense. Once upon a time the haredim sought to educate us. They made pretenses of telling us where and what to eat, what to do on Shabbat, where and how to be buried, and how to get married. Some time has passed, and the seculars won most battles.

Today it’s the seculars who wish to educate the haredim. The seculars are upset by the segregated bus routes. This doesn’t upset haredi women, but it does upset the secular Tania Rosenblit. The seculars are upset that math is not being taught at yeshivas. They know better than haredi parents what’s good for their sons. The seculars are upset by the relationship between men and women in haredi society. Why can’t the haredim be like us?

Wild incitement
I look at the holy secular anger and fail to understand it. It lacks the modesty of one who looks at another society from the outside. It has no hesitation – maybe we are wrong after all? Perhaps we failed in understanding the other?

I, for example, very much want the haredim to study the core curriculum, I will try to convince them this is needed, but I won’t enforce it upon them. Why? Because somewhere in my head I’m not certain that the core curriculum is truly important for the life meant for a haredi child. Perhaps for him math and English are less necessary than another Talmud class? In all such matters I will hesitate, because in my view when a civilized liberal looks at someone who is different, this should be done with the required modesty.

However, the seculars are furious and are unwilling to show any modesty in the way they look at the haredim. Had I been a religious Jew, I would be concerned. I would take this fury seriously and understand how I contributed to it. I would try to calm the atmosphere through some concessions.

And here I get to the heart of the matter: We need a new social covenant. The old status-quo may have secured political calm, yet caused a flare-up in secular-haredi relations. Both sides must be brave and go for a new covenant premised on a simple principle: Life in the country will be secular in every way. The haredim will let go of their need to care for our secular souls. This means buses on Shabbat, civil marriage and everything associated with a modern state.

On the other hand, the secular majority would allow the haredim to have full cultural autonomy within their neighborhoods. This means letting go of the need to education them and allowing them to live their life as they see fit. And yes, this means segregated buses in haredi population centers and tolerance to haredi education.

That’s the principle. Implementing it isn’t simple because there would be red lines, of course. If the haredim want to educate their children by beating them up, we won’t agree to. However, within the boundaries of logic, we must make every effort to accept the differences of the other.

In my arguments with my liberal friends, one of them sometimes places a hand on my shoulder and asks in a concerned voice: “Amnon, what happened to you? After all, you are secular, a devout atheist; what’s happening to you?” So here is the answer: It appears to me that being a liberal, progressive and humanist today means resisting this blatant incitement against the haredim; standing up against the bon-ton and saying: I’m not taking part in this orgy of hatred.