Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fighting Fire with Fire

Tomorrow - May, 12, 2010 is Yom Yerushalyim. When it comes to recapturing Eretz Yisroel for the first time since the destruction of the second Temple - this day is second only to Yom Ha’Atzmmaut in significance to the Jewish people. It is the day the Jewish people recaptured the old city and re-unified Jerusalem. ‘Har HaBayis in in our hands’ was the cry of General Mota Gur upon seizing the city - wresting control from the Jordanians. Har HaBayis has been in our possession ever since. This day is cause for celebration in some way.

Unless you live in Meah Shearim. Or are a member of Neturei Karta, or Toldos Aharon or the Edah HaCharedis. Or are Charedi or Chasidic. If you are any one of these the reactions to this day might range from indifference to speaking out against it to outright violent protest. I have no problem with those who deny the significance of recapturing Har HaBayis. My problem is and always has been the violent way it is dealt with by some of these factions.

For example if they see an Israeli flag on a car they will remove it. Or they will throw rocks at it and shout anti Zionist slogans as it passes. They will do all kinds of mischief and mayhem in furtherance of their protest. Most of those who do these kinds of things live in Meah Shearim and are members of the Toldos Aharon Chasidic sect or Neturei Karta. Of course as a percentage -those who are actually violent is relatively small.

What has been almost more troubling to me than the behavior itself is that it is tolerated by the rest of Meah Shearim citizenry and their leadership – despite much protestation to the contrary. And to a certain extent it is often rationalized by the many in the general Charedi world by supporting the reasons for protest - even as they condemn the way it is protested.

Nothing stimulates this rabble to action more that celebrating Israel in any way. Yom Yerushalyim is such a day. Of course that is not all that ticks them off. It doesn’t take much. It happened again last night as reported by Ynet.

This time it was a protest against the arrest of one of their own: Fischel Greenfeld. He is suspected of organizing violent protests about two years ago over stores that were selling banned MP4 players.

I have repeatedly called for more action on the part of the larger Charedi leadership to try speak out more forcefully and more often against it without any attempts - and this is key - to justify it even slightly.

I have also called for leaders within Meah Shearim like the Edah HaCharedis to speak out forcefully without any equivocation and perhaps come out with sanctions. I have called upon The Chasidic Rebbes of Toldos Aharon do wake up and see what they have wrought by their constant haranguing against The State of Israel casting its leaders in the most evil of images.

I have called upon the Meah Shearim residents who have stood by and watched this happen to do something about it – like testifying against their neighbors in court when they witness violence instead of trying to get them released from custody.

I have called upon the State through their police force and justice system to be more proactive in seeking, arresting and convicting these thugs and their instigators and give them maximum sentences. There ought to be cooperation between all religious factions and the police to end this constantly increasing Chilul HaShem.

None of this has happened in any major way. A drip here - a drop there… but that’s about it. In total, these people continue to destroy the image of religious Jewry in the eyes of the world – and do so with impunity. So the aforementioned Fishel Greenfeld will probably go free.

It seems like a lost cause. But it isn’t. Which is why I bring this incident up together with Yom Yerushalyim. It may be a bit late to do this properly now since Yom Yerushalyim is only hours away. Perhaps next year.

You have to fight fire with fire. Here’s is a suggestion along those lines.

Let there be a religious Zionist rally on Yom Yerushalayim at Kikkar Shabbos which is the border area between Geula and Meah Shaearim in Jerusalem. Let there be cheering crowds of Religious Zionists there. Dispersed among the crowds there should be tons of police disguised as religious Zionists. Let the crowds march down Meah Shearim street with Israeli flags singing Hatikvah. Once the rock throwing starts there will be instant witnesses in the form of police who will be able to arrest and testify against them.

This is war! These people have declared war upon God with their continuous Chilul Hashem! …and have the Chutzpah to invoke His name in the process to justify it.

Let these people be convicted of a violent public behavior and sentenced appropriately. Let the jails fill up. Let them be separated from their families for extended periods.

If their Rebbes call for protests that result in further violence - they too should be arrested for incitement to violence. No one should come to their defense! Let them spend time in prison too. They are as responsible for the violence as are the thugs who actually do the dirty work.

I’m sure there are those who will say - How can I say that about Chasidic Rebbes? These are holy people - role models of Torah and Chesed who are constantly sacrificing for their people! They are simply fighting for a principle. How dare I call for their incarceration? Why punish the rabbis who have themselves spoken out against such acts?!

The answer is quite simple. Their insistence on protests again and again – even if they do not directly call for violence is tantamount to giving them license to be violent. It cannot be that they think that a call for a protest will not result in violence. Not if every time they have ever done so it has resulted in violence. They know it will happen again each and every time!

So it doesn’t matter that they are otherwise fine people with great Midos. It is all negated by the constant and escalating Chilul HaShem that they are responsible for.

Those who know this community know that gentle persuasion won’t work. Nor will rebuke by outside authorities no matter how Frum or right wing those authorities are. They are idealists. The only thing that will work is force.