Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Charedi Juvenile Delinquents

Yeshiva World News reports of yet another Charedi riot in Israel. This time it was at Kikar Shabbat the heart of Jerusalem's Charedi shopping area:

The scene was one of chaos and black acrid smoke at Kikar Shabbos during the afternoon hours on Wednesday. Commuters were compelled to get off of buses and out of taxi cabs near the center of town, and at the corner of Yechezkel and Shmuel HaNavi Streets as a result of the unrests, with local chareidi youths setting garbage receptacles ablaze and rolling them into the streets.

Lest anyone think this is an exaggeration I have provided a photo from YWN’s site.

The reason? Autopsies. This has been an ongoing issue in Israel. Halacha requires that a corpse be buried intact. Autopsies by their very nature make that impossible. This does not mean that every autopsy is forbidden. Just like any other Mitzvah in the Torah there are exceptions. When there is a question of Pikuach Nefesh – the saving of lives – of course it is not only permissible, it is required.

This Torah concept is as odds with modern day police procedures. Autopsies are routinely done by police department crime labs all over the word to determine cause of death or to look for evidence of a crime. Halacha does not allow a corpse to be tampered with for these reasons.

But the State of Israel does not have an Halachic approach to Autopsies. In fact I think they have a policy of automatic autopsies on every corpse. But as I understand it, religious Jews have an exemption. But every so often, for example when a crime is committed, the police will do it even on a religious Jew. This is consistently protested by the religious community, most of the time successfully.

But this time it hasn’t. Not that an autopsy was yet done. There was an accident that led to a death of a religious Jew. But his body has been delayed burial because of the government suspicion that a crime was committed. There must be a reason. Maybe they feel the accident was a cover-up of a crime. So they are insisting on an autopsy.

I am not going to get into the merits of the governments case, even if I knew the details. Nor am I that conversant with the possible Halachic exceptions to autopsies. That is not my issue here. What I am going to get into is an explosive response by to it by Charedi hoodlums - the response so vividly shown by the photo.

I am frankly tired of the standard reply to this kind of event by the Charedi world. It usually goes something like this: These people don’t represent Charedim. They are criminals – hooligans. Don’t paint Charedim with a broad brush.

Well, I don’t. But I will repeat what I said before. These hoodlums are Charedim. They come from the Charedi world – the most extreme fringes of it. And they are acting on a Charedi issue.

This kind of violence keeps happening over and over again. And all we get from Charedi leadership is at best - lip service. A few public condemnations and that’s it. Nothing is done beyond that. They come out with a strongly worded Kol Korei in the form of a wall poster, and then it’s back to business as usual.

I re-iterate what I have said before. There has to be more than the standard lip-service condemnations by Charedi leaders. They can enforce bans on concerts, they can have Tznius police, they ought to be able to enforce sanctions against their own juvenile delinquents - people who give little thought to who they hurt with their disgusting violence. It is a pure Chilul HaShem - in the name of Kiddush HaShem.

There has to be a reason for Charedi reluctance in prosecuting these delinquents. I think it may be sympathy for the goals of the protest. Or the fact that they are after all ‘Unzereh’ -one of ours! If these juvenile delinquents would not be protesting what the leaders themselves protest, or they were not from ‘Unzereh’ they would be all over them with sanctions. But since their acts are based on the very same thing that Charedi leaders are themselves fighting in a civilized and legal way - they seem to turn a blind eye to it.

I’ve said it before. Every Torah leader in the world from as many segments of the Torah world one can find should join together in a joint condemnation of this act. And it must be done without reference to the cause - in this case a protest against a potential autopsy. That should not figure into the condemnation at all as that will weaken it.

But protest is not enough. They must see to it that every one of those juvenile delinquents be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Witnesses must be encouraged to come forth. Let not their manner of dress be the determinant for leniency. Let justice prevail. These thugs are no better than what one finds in any large metropolitan inner city. They are the same violent criminals. They just dress differently. Throw them all in jail. Fill those jails with as many of these Charedi criminals as possible. And then take photos and spread them out to the media with a message: this is how we deal with criminals!

Enough already!