Monday, December 15, 2008

Charedi Zealots - Insignificant Fringe or Mainstream Thinking?

I received the following e-mail yesterday. It is in two parts. The first part is from the sender as an introduction to the second part which is from a young Rav trying to deal with this situation peacefully. It is published here in its entirety:

Below is an important letter about recent horrific events that occurred in Beit Shemesh.

The young rabbi who wrote it has been at the forefront of trying to peacefully solve the issues between the Dati Leumi neighborhood in the Givat Shaaret neighborhood (Sheinfeld and Nofei Aviv) and our neighbors in Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet. He has met with their "Rav" and leader, set up lines of communication to deal with issues as they arise, and even arranged a project where the people in the DL neighborhood gave Shaloch Manot to our neighbors.

I'm giving you this background so that you'll understand that the person who wrote this letter is not given histrionics on this issue.

This is a very sad time for us here in Beit Shemesh. You all have to realize that we are not dealing with some small insignificant fringe, the numbers below put the lie to that. We are dealing with a systemic problem in the Chareidi world that is spreading like a cancer. The more the chareidim make political advances like they did here in Beit Shemesh, the more they will be emboldened to behave in the manner described below.

If you consider yourself "chareidi" and this offends you, I'm sorry, but the massive silence on the part of the greater Chareidi community toward this behavior has made all chareidim accomplices to this terroristic activity.

This cancer must be eradicated. Preferably by isolating it and cutting it off from its source, but if that can't be done then more drastic means will be necessary. We are talking about nothing less than the heart and soul of Yiddishkeit.

We here in Beit Shemesh WILL react to this and we hope all good, decent Jews will join us.

Sincerely, Menachem


Dear Friends,

I am sorry to report that there has been a recent surge in violent activity in the neighborhood.

1)Last Friday night some boys and girls were sitting together on the steps from Gad to Herzog and were confronted by some gold garbed hasidim. It was all verbal and related to "we don't do this in our neighborhood." But, of course, what is now verbal can quickly escalate to more as you will see in the next item.

2)This past Friday night things went to a much worse level. Three properly dressed girls were walking from Sheinfeld to RBS at around 9:30p.m. They were not making any kind of noise or drawing attention to themselves. After they past the bridge and began making their way up the hill they were confronted by many men - it began at like 20 and swelled to close to 50. The men were yelling that they should get out of their neighborhood.

Two managed to run away but one was caught. They grabbed her, threw her to the ground, and kicked and beat her. A boy from our neighborhood was walking on the other side of the street and ran over to try to help. They beat him as well and he was told that if they saw him there again they "would kill him."
(emphasis mine - HM)

Thank G-d, neither had to be hospitalized despite their bruises and scratches and thank G-d a chareidi family in the neighborhood called for them to run to them for shelter which they did.I assume you are as enraged and as shaken as I am and we cannot remain quiet. The question becomes what to do.

There are political options (I don't think it is a coincidence that these events happened on the heels of the new Mayor taking power and these people feeling they now can do as they please), police related options, press related options, and

I am sure there are other ideas which some of you might have

Once again we see violence in the name of God. When an innocent young woman is physically beaten by a gang of male Charedim, It ceases to be about Judaism. It then becomes about turf. These Charedim have lost their way.

Maintaining community standards is a legitimate concern. But violence in defense of them is not. And surely violence against those who standards are high but not 'high enough' is not. It is in fact purely criminal and an outrage. As the e-mail indicates this is not just a small group of hooligans. This isn’t some small ‘insignificant fringe’.

These are the zealots who represent much of the community thinking. They believe this is their turf and no one is going to come into their neighborhood and lower their standards. Whatever it takes, they will eradicate it from their mist.

How long it will take for the first death by the hands of these people is anyone’s guess. But the way things are going now, it shouldn’t take too long. Rachmana Litzlan!

Those who try and separate violent Jews from violent Muslims by saying that our violent Jews are motivated by Torah while their violent Muslims are motivated by the Quran are missing the point. Both groups believe they are acting in the name of God. And both groups are wrong. Yes, Muslim extremists are exponentially more violent extremist Jews. But it is still only a matter of degree and both are doing it for God as they understand Him.

I’ve suggested many times how this should dealt with. It’s all about what their rabbinic leadership does. Those whom these people look to for religious guidance, Those who condemn them for their violence and yet while look the other way when it comes to forcing severe consequences upon these Zealots.

Their rabbinic leaders are so anti State that virtually every time there is any contact between them, the secular authorities are seen as the enemy. Those rabbinic leaders then always take the side of the Zealots once the police get involved – trying to protect them from the evil and unfair secular justice system.

These zealots are Reshaim Gemurim. And their rabbinic authorities with their anti state bias are their enablers. These rabbinic leaders are the very same ones who teach them how 'vital' their own strandards of Tznius are. It doesn’t take much of a leap for a zealot to take matters into his own hands thinking he is doing the will of God.

I don’t know what the solution to this problem is. But it is not violent reaction. That will only make matters worse.

I've said this before. The solution in my views is to get their rabbinic authorities to back up their lip service condemnation with actions. Those actions should include co-operating with the authorities. They should include making certain these thugs are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. They need to go to court and sit on the victim's side of the courtroom. And they need to urge the judge in every case to throw the book at them. And most of all they have to teach tolerance to their masses.

The problem as I see it is that they are not only unwilling to do this, they seem to oppose it. They instead tend to be so anti authority that they treat their zealots as victims – once they are in the system. It then becomes about Pidyon Shevuyim – getting their ‘people’ out of the Israeli jails as soon as possible!

I guess the real answer is to put some kind of pressure on their rabbinic leaders to stand up and do the right thing. I’m not sure what kind of pressure can be exerted - or by whom. Perhaps the new Charedi mayor of Bet Shemesh can do it. After all what ever issues they have with the gvienrment, they still need their municipal servcies to survive.

There has to be some way to reach them and make them understand that the disease of Charedi violence in the name of God - is far worse than the disease of tolerating a lesser standard in others.