Sunday, July 19, 2009


It seems like the cat is out of the bag. What is preventing rabbinic leaders from speaking out more forcefully is fear. Fear for their own safety.

To be sure there is also the fact that many Charedim simply do not trust the police. They claim to have had bad experiences with them in the past. I am not in a position to know one way or another. But It is foolish in my view to always assume the worst - when that is clearly not the always the case. It is foolish to always take the side of the accused when there is also evidence to the contrary.

If one believes in the innocence of the accused then one should hire the best attorneys available. Even to those who believe the system is corrupt - no democratic system of jurisprudence is is so corrupt that it will ignore evidence and judge someone guilty who is clearly innocent. Prejudice can only take you so far in a democracy. I am in fact aware of many judicial decisions that were decided in favor of Charedi litigants over secular ones.

I think Israeli leaders probably realize this to be more or less the case. In my view it is mostly fear that keeps them relatively silent.

The thugs involved in the kind of violent protests we have seen of late will not only ignore rabbinic injunctions and criticisms. They will apparently resort to the type of violence against them that will actually endanger their lives.

These are not Modern Orthodox thugs. They are not Religious Zionist thugs. These are Charedi thugs who are very scrupulous about ritual observances. They are as careful of Minhagim like clothing styles - such as long frocks and Chasidic style black felt hats - as they are of Mitzvos. They are very strict in such Halachic matters as growing a beard and peyos - not shaving off a hair on their beard or strand in their Peyos. Their wives are so strict in matters of sexual modesty - that they shave their heads - taking to an extreme the Halacha of Sar B’Isha Erva – the hair of a married woman is considered nakedness!

But as religious as they are about ritual and custom – they are at the same time capable of murder! R’ Sternbuch and every other rabbinic leader apparently knows this. This is what in essence is being reported on Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn’s blog – Daas Torah:

Regarding why Rav Sternbuch has not been more direct and forceful in denouncing these riots, the simple answer is that he realizes that he is taking his life into his hands.

This is not the first time I have heard this reason stated. I have heard it from others about Charedi Kannoist thugs right here in America. One Rav who has a very close relationships with members of the Agudah Moetzes told me not long ago that this is the reason they do not speak out here more forcefully! They are mortally afraid of these Charedi thugs!

I don’t know how we have gotten to this point. I am happy to see that Rabbi Eidensohn is now reporting this publicly. He is a man for whom I have much admiration and respect. He is as Ehrlich as they come.

One can debate the level of leadership about those who do not take action out of fear for their lives. I for one do not blame anyone for refusing to endanger his life by making statements that they believe will not have any effect. As Rabbi Eidensohn has indicated - R’ Sternbuch displayed courage by coming out against them even in an indirect manner.

Now I am not accusing every single protester of being capable of murder. But I do believe that many – maybe even most of them are. It isn’t that much of a stretch to say that those who so carelessly burn dumpsters in their own neighborhoods without a care about how the noxious fumes affect the elderly or sick are also capable of murder. It is not such a stretch to say that the people who beat up Miriam Shear on the number 2 bus are capable of murder. It is not a stretch to say that those Ramat Bet Shemesh B who beat up a young Dati girl who entered their neighborhoods on a Friday night are capable of murder - or those who put into the hospital one of their own Charedi residents because he tried to protest the violence by putting up posters against it. Or those who torch clothing stores, or pizza shops… ad infinitum - they are all capable of murder.

So I don’t blame R’ Sternbuch for being afraid. The question is how did we allow this to happen? How did it we let it get to this point? And what do we do to stop it?

To answer the last question - I have already suggested boycotting the Edah HaCharedis Hechsher. One might counter that is is not the Edah leadership that is violent. And that they are even opposed to it. Indeed it is not the Edah leadership that R’Sternbuch is afraid of.

But the Edah is guilty of implanting the kind of hatred into its constituents that creates an environment that produces this kind of thuggery. By infusing their young with such a strong rejection of the Zionist State and their founders and members - their community becomes a crucible for violent response. It is not an unreasonable conclusion by many of them that the government and all its agencies – especially the police - are Reshaim – evil villains responsible for every single incident. Villains that are often compared to Nazis!

As such they are to be fought by any means necessary. They are after all fighting Nazis! This is the kind of indoctrinations they receive which is manifested in its most extreme case by Neturei Karta members hugging the truly Nazi-like Mahmoud Ahmadinajd. This is the kind of hatred they teach. There is no gray. All secular Zionists are the same.

True - the Edah leadership would never themselves burn dumpsters. Or throw rocks. Or spit on reporters. They are probably upset by it and perhaps even somewhat disgusted by it. Nonetheless, I believe that in large part - it is the hatred they teach and preach - and absorbed by the masses - that fuels the mob violence.

The Edah HaCharedis still lives in the past. Living off the memory of every single atrocity they believe the early Zionists perpetrated. They see a secular Zionist conspiracy against Charedim behind every incident. They cite those old atrocities at every opportunity as justification for their hatred. As if the the Yaldei Teheran were still being kidnapped (as they viewed that event). Today’s secular Israeli leaders many of whom weren’t even born yet during that episode are seen just as guilty as if they had done it themselves. The Edah can therefore justify turning a blind eye to the current violence even while tepidly condemning it.

The only way this will end is with a combined strategy of financial pressure via a boycott and a concerted effort to encourage the police do their jobs. The police must apprehend, arrest, and convict every single individual caught setting a fire, throwing a stone or in any the way violating the law. Those found guilty must be punished with maximum sentences applicable in each case. The Edah HaCharedis needs to be convinced that the larger Charedi community cannot take it anymore and will no longer stand passively by.

All religious Jews who care about the deterioration of Yiddshkeit these people are responsible for have an obligation to organize, protest, and petition the police department to get tough on Charedi crime –where ever and whenever it happens.

I see this as a war - a war between the forces of good and the forces of evil – an evil with a ‘Frum Yetzer Hara’. Intimidating the lives of religious figures is the last straw. We need the good guys to win!