Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why Do They Hate Us?

In an absolutely unconscionable tirade against Charedim - an Israeli radio talk show host by the name of Gabi Gazit said some pretty nasty things about them. He basically said that if it were up to him he would expel them all from the country – to Brooklyn.

Obviously this is not a Frum Jew talking. It is a secular Jew - a Chiloni who is practically advocating Nazi-like mass population transfer – as a solution to the “Jewish (Charedi) Problem”.

As reprehensible as that tirade is against us – and I include myself among Charedim on this issue even though I am not Charedi – most of his criticisms are legitimate. They are not made up. They have been made not only by me but even by Charedi writers too. More about that later.

The problem with his attitude is that he has absolutely no clue as to the value of Torah. He does not understand that learning Torah is essential to our very existence. And that living a life of Torah and Mitzvos is a requirement by God Himself for His people.

The fact happens to be that most Charedim are who they are for the most idealistic of reasons. They firmly believe that their lifestyle of commitment and sacrifice in service to God is exactly what God wants of them. And for the most part they do so joyously – difficult though it may be.

Yes there are plenty of abuses of the system but that to whatever extent it exists it does not define them. Their devout beliefs and meticulous observance of the Mitzvos combined with a life dedicated to learning Torah is what defines them. And that is something we should all appreciate and even envy.

Mr. Gazit is probably prototypical of the fed up Chiloni Jew. That they do not understand any of this is probably not their fault. They are raised in irreligious homes that do not place a high value - if any value at all - on observance or on learning Torah. Their entire contact with religious people may have been only negative. They view Charedim through the lens of the media’s focus on bad behavior. They do not see the Gemilas Chesed. They do not see the Hachnosas Orchim. They do not see the modest and refined character of the vast majority of Charedi Jews. They see only the Chilulei HaShem that some are guilty of which is constantly in the media.

It is no surprise that he is so upset. If one reads his list of problems one can see that they are very much the same things I and others have criticized. Let us take a look at them as reported on YWN – leaving out the some of the disgusting hyperbolic adjectives and distortions:

(Charedim) do not serve in the army but their very existence in the beis medrash, yeshivas and kollels is based on the IDF protecting the nation. The chareidim hate the state. They have Heavenly fear for their Creator, and they haven’t a clue regarding His position vis-à-vis the State of Israel… they belittle the state at every given opportunity.

These chareidim however benefit from the advancements resulting from the state, the roads that were built, electricity, water, sewage and sanitation services. Their education is financed by the state. They are represented in Knesset by their partners. They… spread their hate for our country around the world. Their very essence and existence is due to the state which keeps them alive.

“In return, they do not stand at attention on Memorial Day because ‘that is a goyish custom’ they say. They do not respect the fallen ‘because that is a goyish custom’ …they sizzle up the hate against everything that is Israeli and this hate is exhibited by burning the flag on Independence Day.

How can anyone blame him for making these kinds of statements? They are all true! Every time a religious looking Jew makes a public Chilul HaShem in any of the ways he described it fuels his rage. It doesn’t matter that most Charedim don’t behave that way. That is never reported in the media because it’s a ‘dog bites man’ story. Only the aberrant ‘man bites dog’ story is going to be reported. ‘If it bleeds it leads’ is a guiding principle of most television news programming. That principle is just as important to the print and electronic media.

And what does the Frum world generally do about people like him? They retaliate in kind condemning them as Charedi bashers who hate God, His Torah, and religious Jews! They then will repeat this tirade at every opportunity - to show exactly how anti Torah the secular establishment is. What is the result of that? More hatred in return.

I would suggest that an opposite tactic be taken. It may be too late for this particular fellow. Although I am inclined to believe it is never too late for any Jew to do Teshuva. But it is not too late for us to change our own attitude about Chilonim in general.

Haters are bred – not born. They learn to hate. Some of it is learned from parents. Some of it is from their teachers. Some of it from their peers. Some of it is from what they observe in media reports that generated this fellow’s tirade. And some of it is from us! …our very public attitudes about – them!

It may be an uphill battle but it is one worthy fighting. We need to clobber them with kindness instead of animosity. We need to return expressions of understanding and love – for their expressions of hate. We need to show them another side to ourselves. A kind and gentle side that appreciates rather than vilifies what the State of Israel has done for its citizens – both secular and religious.

We need to show Hakaras HaTov for all that they do, including the protection provided by the IDF, the financial benefits given to the Charedi educational system, as well as to their poor. And to show a sense of appreciation for the general level of civilized society that has provided a very comfortable western style standard of living for anyone choosing to live there. Instead of burning a flag or trying to defend it - we should be agreeing with their criticisms of it. They are legitimate!

If we continue to hate and bash these people, a lot more Gabi Gazits are going to be created. Wouldn’t it be better if we tried to be Mekarev them instead? Shouldn’t we be killing them with kindness instead? What benefit is there to vilainizing them – furthering them away from Torah?

Can anyone imagine if we had done this with Mr. Gazit - how different his broadcast might have been? He may have had some of the same criticisms, but he would have given them lovingly instead of hatefully. And legitimate criticism given lovingly is something we should all be open too.