Monday, April 07, 2008

Distorted Values

There has been a torrent of articles with negative news about the Charedi world in Israel in the last couple of days. I have been virtually been bombarded with article after article sent to me by alert readers. I could write a post about each one. And in fact, I have written posts about stories like these. It’s just more of the same. Sex abusers, child abusers (in one case a mother put her own child into a coma!), and Charedi rioters on airplanes. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

There seems to be no end to events like this happening. I keep hearing - and I believe it to be true - that it is a small minority that behaves this way. In a conversation with a friend who has relatives living in Jerusalem, I was told that her yoiung nephew hates this behavior which he sees in his friends. He added that the reasons they act this way is because they have nothing else to do with their time.

Sports and other leisure time activities are forbidden or at least strongly discouraged by Charedi leadership. So they pass their time throwing rocks at buses with just the slightest bit of provocation. They consider it fun.

Her solution was to allow kids to participate in sporting activities. If that were done this type of violence would go down. I’m sure she’s right. But you have to ask, is that the solution to the problem? Or is it just a diversion tactic? I think it is the latter.

This isn’t just about how to expend one’s energy… which is a legitimate concern. It is about values that are being taught to significant numbers of Charedim. My friend told me that most Charedim are appalled at this kind of behavior and I agree. But does it really matter that the majority are appalled when there is a sizable minority of young people that think throwing rocks at buses is fun? This young person said his friends enjoy it which appalls him. But it is that his friends enjoy it that is the problem. What is it about Charedi Chinuch that produces so many young people in Israel that think throwing rocks at buses is a fun?

There are those who will continue to insist that these are the bad apples by which we should not judge all Charedim. I agree. They are bad apples. But there seems to be an awful lot of them. And it isn’t just young people. This was evident on board that El Al flight. A group of Chasidim rioted when a promise not to show a movie on board was violated.

El Al may have been wrong in violating a promise, if that was indeed the case and not just a misunderstanding. But it’s outrageous in the extreme to riot, disturb, and even frighten other passengers during a flight, when they are all basically in a captive situation.

Is this how a Jew is supposed to act when he does not get what he’s promised? These rioters are not much different than the young stone throwers, except that they were adults. I doubt that diverting their energy into some other activity would have worked there. It’s about values… or the lack of them.

Somehow the values of the ‘street’ are OK when it comes to the violations of Bein Adam L’Makom. That’s seems to be a constant theme in these circles. It is not just a bunch of hooligans. It seems that there is a certain mindset among a large group of Charedim where hooliganism is bred into their behavior patterns these days. They feel that they are now big enough to flex their muscles and they are going to get their way by hook or crook!

I’ve experienced it myself, in a milder form a few years ago on a flight to Israel. A group of Chasidic Jews acted like they were royalty from the moment they got on the plane - ordering the flight crew around like they were their personal servants. This was a not Jewish flight crew. It was on an American carrier. I was extremely embarrassed by their behavior and apologized to one of the flight attendants who I thought got the most abuse. She took it very gracefully and said she was used to it from these people by now.

I believe there is haughtiness and arrogance combined with a sense of self righteousness that contributes to this problem …as does an absolute disdain for others outside of their own very narrow community. This segment of Charedi or Chasidic Jews is taught to believe that they are the chosen by God. - princes among men. An Am Bechira. A Mamleches Kohanim V’Goy Kadosh. Yes, the Torah does tell us that. But they are not taught how act as holy people. They act instead like gangs, thugs, and mafiosos!

Secular Jews and non Jews are looked at as virtually subhuman. And if they get in their way…watch out! - They have to be dealt with effectively by whatever means necessary. It doesn’t matter what ‘the goy’ thinks! Nor does it matter what the hated Chiloni thinks. The world is their oyster and was created to serve them. This is how they are brought up from the day one. They are so sheltered that they have no opportunity to learn alternate ways of thinking.

So giving young people sporting events to participate in will not change these attitudes. It will just divert and delay such behavior for another time. Like in an airplane when an unwanted movie is shown.

Which brings me to this Jerusalem Post article on the IDF’s new Glatt Kosher commandos, which I believe is a Kiddush HaShem. Perhaps the answer to the problem lies here at least in part. If a young person has a penchant for aggressive behavior that is the best place to be. The army will direct that energy to good use. There will be discipline and rules. And they are the great equalizer. There is no ‘I’m better then you’ attitude allowed there. There is discipline and strong sanctions for rules violation.

If there are so many young people that don’t get the right Bein Adam L’Chavero values in their homes, they will get them in the army. I’ll bet that no one who serves in Nachal Charedi will ever riot in a plane.

If I were the Charedi leadership, I would mandate army service in Nachal Charedi for every young person who is ever caught throwing a rock at a bus. No exceptions. If anything can change this unholy mindset of theirs, it is the army.