|One of the many Orthodox organizations that have condemned extremist violence|
American Orthodox Jewish organizations have stepped forward to condemn the recent attacks perpetrated by Israeli religious extremists towards the IDF and Israeli police. The leadership of the Orthodox Union, Rabbinical Council of America and National Council of Young Israel have issued official statements at the behest of David Nyer, Orthodox activist. Over the last few months, there has been an increase in violent attacks against religious IDF soldiers and Israeli police.
Moishe Bane, president of the Orthodox Union, warns that “violence by one Jew against another, whether physical or otherwise, is an assault on the Torah values that have been passed down through our mesorah (tradition), from generation to generation. Any such attack by Jews against soldiers of the IDF, to whom every Jew owes immeasurable respect and gratitude, is an attack against each and every member of the Jewish community, and provokes shame and regret in us all.”
Rabbi Mark Dratch, executive vice president of the RCA, states further, “These attacks against both Israeli soldiers and police are violations of Jewish law and show a gross lack of appreciation and respect for those who defend all the citizens of the State of Israel. These attacks further divide and alienate segments of the Jewish community from each other and from Torah.”
Just this past week, a religious IDF soldier and his family were pelted with stones in the Mea She’arim neighborhood and had to be extricated by the police. Farley Weiss, President of the National Council of Young Israel, strongly believes this ought to be “the responsibility of the community itself to protect soldiers instead of needing the police to intervene.” Dozens of bystanders have been reportedly observing while these acts of violent extremism are committed. Jewish leaders in the United States urge witnesses to safely take an active role in protecting those who protect the country of Israel, stressing the Torah obligation and moral imperative.
There have been instances where both soldiers and police have been injured by extremists. In January, an IDF soldier was taken to the hospital as a result of being struck by stones when driving through Ramat Beit Shemesh. Haredi extremists have a history of attacking IDF soldiers who enter their neighborhoods, claiming that the soldiers’ presence is an affront to their belief that religious men should not serve in the army. Another such incident was reported in February when an Orthodox soldier was attacked when praying in a synagogue in the Beit Yisrael neighborhood of Jerusalem. Mr. Weiss asserts that, “those who commit acts of violence against the IDF or police must be prosecuted to the fullest extent afforded by the law.”
The Orthodox Jewish leadership in Israel has been largely quiet on this issue. Mr. Weiss appeals, “to all Jewish Rabbinical and communal leaders in Israel to join us in condemning these reprehensible actions and we must do all in our power to prevent these attacks.”
Rabbi Avi Shafran, spokesman for the Agudath Israel of America, was approached by Nyer and asked for a response to the situation. AIA serves as an umbrella organization for Charedi Orthodox Jewry in America. Rabbi Shafran declared unequivocally that, “such unwarranted violence and abuse against any fellow Jew is beyond outrageous. Assault of Jewish brethren, especially those who have dedicated themselves to the protection of Klal Yisrael in Eretz Yisroel such as IDF soldiers and Israeli police, is indefensible, ugly and wrong.”
Nyer asked for Shafran’s position on the role of eyewitnesses observing extremist violence. Rabbi Shafran stressed that he is not a posek but that it “would seem that, if it could be done safely, bystanders would have a chiyuv (obligation) to intervene and protect anyone placed in harm’s way.” When questioned what he believes the appropriate response to these perpetrators should be, Shafran concurred that, “these individuals who assault the IDF or police must be prosecuted to the fullest extent afforded by the law.”
This initiative was spearheaded by David Nyer, LCSW, an Orthodox activist. He can be reached via email at email@example.com for any questions or comments.