Friday, March 19, 2010

Religious but Primitive Savages

What are we supposed to do when we don’t like our new neighbors? The same thing we always do whenever something happens we don’t like. We react like animals.

That seems to be the motto of the Meah Shearim community. No, not the motto of their hooligans. But the motto of the ‘good guys’. The supposed vast majority of Meah Shearim types who their defenders say do not participate or approve of the violence.

This is the claim constantly being made by those who refuse to criticize anyone with a beard and Peyos. They say that anyone who criticizes them is anti Charedi. It is just a few hooligans who are responsible - hooligans with time on their hands. I have no doubt that hooligans participate in the violence. But they are not alone nor are they the instigators – and I doubt there is any significant disapproval.

You cannot say that the several hundred people who participated in the latest round of rioting are just a few hooligans. As reported in YWN they were called on to do so by community Askanim (organizers) who broadcast on loudspeakers throughout Meah Shearim urging everyone to riot.

The issue they were rioting about seems to be about their new neighbors. They are renting apartments there. The residents do not approve and are protesting the landlords. But the issue is irrelevant. It is the response that is relevant.

Once and for all it should be clear to all that the people of Meah Shearim are little more than religious but primitive savages. Their worldview is limited to their own little four cubit square – their own Daled Amos. They see only themselves as being Torah true. To them purity means living only among like minded people. Their attention to details of ritual is the only thing that is important to them. The outside world does not exist for them. It is all one big Tumah.

Chilul HaShem doesn’t mean anything to them either - outside their own Daled Amos. It doesn’t even exist. There is no such thing as a Tinok Shenishbu. Goyim are seen as props - to be used as needed (hopefully not at all). And any injury to a bystander - even to one of their own - in the cause of righteousness is worthy. Anyone who inadvertently gets injured during a riot should wear that injury like a badge of pride.

This kind of thinking is so primitive and ignorant, it’s a wonder that these people have survived into the 21st century. But not only have they survived - they are growing by leaps and bounds. So much so that many of them have been forced to find housing outside the Daled Amos of Meah Shearim.

But that’s OK. They have managed to create a new ‘Daled Amos’ elsewhere. Like Ramat Bet Shemesh B. And they bring their primitive values right along with them. It is a complete and total intact transplant of Meah Shearim to the suburbs. So there too, when they see something they don’t like they react violently. Like rough-housing a grandmother holding a grandchild because she entered a Mehadrin bus through the men’s entrance. Or beating up a Religious Zionist teenage girl one Friday night as she was passing through their neighborhood.

Is there any real question about the fundamentalist and extreme nature of these people? Is there any real difference between their methods of dealing with religious problems and those Islamic extremists? Different religions - to be sure but both primitive. Islam is just more religious about it and goes even further in their violent ways. But the only real difference is in degree - not in method. Methods that hearken back to the dark ages.

Once again let me be clear. These are not hooligans. These are the solid citizens of Meah Shearim – who have the ‘courage’ to do something about any ‘problem’ that arises. And they are spreading out.

I don’t know what it will take to change their savage ways. Obviously they do not understand what civilized behavior means. They don’t want to understand it. To them civilized means modern. A Modern Jew may as well be Jack the Ripper to them.

I can’t believe that Charedi rabbinic leaders in Israel can continue to just sit back, shrug their shoulders, and say “There is nothing we can do about it!” “They just won’t listen to us.” “All we can do is to say their behavior is wrong.”

But there is something they can do. They can Shrei Gevalt – scream bloody murder! They can ostracize. They can put the entire community outside the pale of Judaism! They can say that anyone who does these things is not considered Orthodox. They can call for boycotts of Meah Shearim. Boycott their businesses. Boycott their products. Boycott their Seforim. Boycott their Poskim.

Yes, there are things they can do. It may or may not be effective. But at least they will be on the right side of the issue with the passion it deserves instead making tepid responses and shrugging their shoulders.

I sometimes wonder if they pull their punches because they have sympathy for their causes - though disapproval of their means.

Perhaps it’s because they see the Meah Shearim rioters as people who look like themselves. I really believe that there is something to that. This can be seen from the fact that they so quickly and strongly condemn a modern Orthodox or Dati innovation they don’t like.

For example they have a far bigger problem with Yoatzot Halacha – women who are taught Hilchos Niddah to the point where they can advise other women on those issues - than they do with beating up a grandmother who sat in the unofficial men’s section of a Non Mehadrin bus.

Of course they disapprove of the beating. But I do not hear the outrage. The punches are pulled for the bearded men with Peyos who beat her up. They were wrong but they are Charedi and their intentions were good. The outrage is reserved for Yoatzot. They are outside the pale of Judaism! Yoatzot do not look Charedi.

I really do think that there is a lot of this kind of thinking going on. And therein lies both the problem and the solution.

Update (12:56 PM CDT): The video originally accompanying this post has been removed. It was misleading in the sense that it did not show the violence described in the original article at YWN. It looked rather meek. Here are some excerpts from YWN that describe the situation more accurately:

Rioting is taking place at this time in the Batei Warsaw in Yerushalayim. The violence began early Thursday afternoon. The loudspeakers called on people to come and take part and within a short time, several hundred people were on hand, some taking part in the violence and other observing. The scene is literally one of chaos and vandalism, random destruction of property.

Some of the shouts include “murderer” and the sounds of what appears to be breaking windows can be heard. A number of MDA ambulances seem to have evacuated injured from the scene...

Yerushalayim askan Yossel Kroizer, a well know personality in the area was injured in the violence at Batei Warsaw, apparently in need of hospitalization but he has refused transport. He is remaining on the scene with his head bandaged. Large rocks have been thrown at one particular apartment, and violence is not abating.

At least five people have been injured in the mayhem, apparently from rocks thrown in the area. The area is shut down and all public transportation has been halted.