I don’t know any better way to describe what’s going on in Ramat Bet Shemesh than to describe it as terrorism. Much like the terrorism of fundamentalist Islamists. Of course the Jewish ones are not blowing themselves up in suicide missions. But the violent approach to achieving religious goals is of the same kind if not the same intensity. At least not yet. This should not be over-looked. What seems to me to be apparent is that terrorism seems to work. Whether it is in Islamic or Jewish.
The latest terrorism on the part of fundamentalist Jews happened in the ‘Meah Shearim’ section of Ramat Bet Shemesh. I call it Meah Shearim because many of the residents there are transplants from that section of Jerusalem. It was reported in some of the Israeli media. I read about it in Rabbi Natan Slifkin’s blog, Rationalist Judaism:
Last week, one of the worst incidents so far took place. Today I spoke with a neighbor of mine who is the mother of one of the victims. Her teenage daughter was walking with about ten boys back from a Yom Ha-Atzmaut celebration, late at night. They were not being especially noisy or rowdy. One had an Israeli flag wrapped around him. Another engaged in a small act of vandalism, spraying a Magen David on the wall (which is decorated with various posters declaring Zionism to be idolatry, and pictures equating the Magen David with the swastika).
A group of adult men, estimated at around SEVENTY in number, descended upon the group of teenagers, armed with various implements. According to the local "Chadash" newspaper, which blamed the teenagers for the incident, the men first warned the kids to leave. According to my friend's daughter, the "warning" consisted of the mob rushing at them while yelling and brandishing weapons.
The mob knocked the teenagers to the ground and proceeded to beat them, including my neighbor's daughter. She suffered multiple bruises all over her body, and an especially large injury to her head, which is still causing her headaches and loss of sleep a week later. At one point she saw that one of her friends was being strangled, and she managed to bite the hand of the strangler, causing him to let go. Her friend thanks her for saving his life. Several of the kids had to go to the hospital, one requiring stitches in his head.
The comparison between these thugs of Ramat Bet Shemesh and Islamic fundamentalists is apt. These are not rational people. They base their violent acts on ‘scripture’. In the case of Islamic fundemetalists it is the Quran. In the case of the Jewish fundementalists it is the Torah.
Of course any fair minded person of almost any Hashkafa would say that the Jewish fundamentalists who beat up those teenagers do not in any way represent Torah. That is of course very true. But don’t tell that to those fundamentalists. They think they were simply doing the will of God. They stood up against the evils of Zionism and its practitioners who celebrate it on Yom Ha’atzmaut. Zionists are evil. There can be no such thing as religious Zionists. Any positive view of any form of Zionism cannot by definition be considered religious. It’s kind of like Rabbi Aharon Feldman’s view of it.
The only difference between their view of Zionism and Rabbi Feldman’s is in what to do about it. For Rabbi Feldman it is an academic exercise in how to view it. He of course would never countenance any violence and is probably just as opposed to it and abhorred by it as I am. These people however believe that the ‘Torah True’ thing to do is to physically destroy every vestige of it –and beat the hell out of anyone who tries to do the contrary.
They are true believers. They are not your typical hoodlums out to bash a few heads just for fun. They choose their victims very carefully – based on their religious principles. Much like Islamic fundementlists do. So evil are they in their ‘Frumkeit’ I fear that one day they will end up killing somebody, in the name of God! …shouting the Jewish equivalent of Allah Hu Akbar!
If this sounds harsh I mean it to be. These people are evil at the core, no matter how carefull they are in other Mitzvos. They behave like savages and ought to be treated that way. I have repeatedly called for tough action against them by all relevant parties, including their own rabbinic authorities, the police, and Israeli justice system.
But nothing seems to be happening. And with all due respect to those who ask, ‘What are those rabbinc leaders supposed to do? …the answer is – plenty!
For one thing they can change their own rhetoric. They can stop calling the police or any other government authorites Nazis. They can stop seeing every single thing the state does as anti Torah. They can learn to treat fellow Jews with whom they disagree with dignity instead of venom.
Words are not innocuous. The venom that this community spews against anyone with an opposing Hahshkafa about the State of Israel is clear. Although their rabbinic leaders may not be urging their people to pick up their weapons and attack anyone, their rhetoric certainly incites some of them to do it. It won’t be long before someone gets murdered.
Condmenations after the fact by those same leaders ring hollow, when one considers how angry their rhetoric about Zionism in any form is. It that kind of rhetoric that motivates these savages to beat up a small group of religious Jews who happened to believe in celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut.
The rest of the Rabbinic leadership of all stripes ought to ostracize the entire community if their rabbinic leaders do no change their rhetoric.
These people are savages no different than any uncivilized human being brought up in deepest part of Africa cut off from the civilized world. They act the same way.
These savages are coddled by their community. No one is going to report any of them to the police. The police for their part tend to avoid tangling with them. And so these ‘righteous’ savages go around unpunished which emboldens them to do even more the next time.
There is something wrong with a society that cannot protect its citizens. Who is to blame? I’ve already said who the obvious ones are - their leaders and their Hashkafos.
But some of the responsibility has to fall on those of us who are otherwise quite normal. Who would never do anything like these thugs do - condemning them as strongly as I do. I am talking about those who express similar anger at the government and see Zionism in the same evil way these people do.
I can’t help but believe that there is at least some sympathy for their views if not for their methods by otherwise good and decent people. While there is outrage - I nevertheless often hear statements like ‘Well, who can blame them for hating the Zionsists? Or the police? Or the government?’ (…all birds of a feather to them!)They may be hoodlums but their hearts (about Zionism et al) is in the right place.
Just to be clear I use the term Zionism the way these people do - as a euphemism for anything to do with the State of Israel. This is not a socio-political discussion about whether Zionism is dead or not.
Sadly I don’t think anything is going to change. These people have the upper hand now. They go around doing whatever they want with impunity.
I agree with the Rabbi Slifkin’s post. If things don’t change there will be a murder in Ramat Bet Shemesh by these savages. It is only a matter of time. The only question for Dati residents of Ramat Bet Shemesh who celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut is, “Who from among them will – God forbid - be the first murder victim?”