Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities

Question: What do Meah Shearim thugs have in common with the extremist religious Zionists of Beit El?

Answer: They both think the Israeli police are Nazis.

Such Achdus!

Once again violence has reared its ugly head in Israel. This time it was not in Meah Shearim. It was in the West Bank settlement of Beit El. Here is a description of events in which 38 settlers and 8 police were injured. From the Jeruslam Post:

“We haven’t seen an incident like this, which had so much hatred and violence directed toward us, in the Binyamin region,” said Ch.- Supt. Moti Shoshan, deputy commander of the Binyamin Police station, who led the police forces during the clashes, in which nine settlers were arrested.

“One youth called me a ‘Nazi,’” Shoshan told The Jerusalem Post after the incident.

His forces had gone into Beit El along with members of the civil administration to destroy two shacks that had been been built in violation of the 10-month moratorium on new construction. Students in the nearby high school raced out of class to prevent the demolition. Four settlers were arrested for assaulting and disrupting the officers.

Scores of teens tried to stop the security vehicles from leaving the settlements with the four who had been arrested.They placed a utility pole in front of a security vehicle, and dozens sat in the road in front of one of the vehicles.

To clear the road, Border Police used pepper spray and clubs.

A spokesman for the Judea and Samaria Police said that some of the 150 teens had tried to block their path and hurled bricks, rocks and paint. A number of the youths threw a smoke grenade at officers, attempted to steal police equipment and punctured tires with spikes.

Seven spikes were seized after the youths were arrested, Shoshan said.

“When they started to throw blocks at us, I ordered my officers to move in,” he added.

“I’m not talking about paint and eggs, but about the big rocks and blocks that were hurled at us from two directions,” he went on. “Some officers were wounded in the back and other areas in the body. Luckily, none were struck on the head. These were big rocks. If an officer had been hit on the head, he would have been seriously injured.”

I don’t know much about Beit El. What I do know is that it is a settlement in West Bank. From a description of the events – I assume the settlers there are religious Zionist extremists of the type that fervently believe we are currently in the era of the first flowering of Messianic redemption.

They probably see every clash with Palestinians as a Milchemes Mitzvah – a holy war. A war in which the holy land is reclaimed and must be held! These religious fanatics put into violent practice the Halacha that once the Jewish people has recaptured any parts of Eretz Yisroel – we are forbidden to give it up. A Halacha that my Rebbe Rav Ahron Soloveichik constantly brought up and insisted upon.

I did not agree with him on this issue. I agreed with Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and various Charedi rabbinic leaders instead - that Pikuach Nefesh must be factored in. And that land may be given up for peace.

This is not to say that any land should now be given up. That would be suicidal in my view and probably in the view of the aforementioned leaders as well. Everyone is on the same page with these settlers in opposition to giving up land now.

But settlers like these continuously cross the line and advocate even violent resistance for their cause. This attitude is not much different than that of the violent Meah Shearim Chasidic thugs. They both proclaim their religious views as their motivation. In my view they are birds of a feather. Even though they are ideological enemies, their violent acts make them same in my eyes.

Once you start down a path of lawlessness that leads to violence you lose credibility with me. Violence turns ideologues into barbarians who care little about the consequences of their actions. All they are concerned with is their ends. The means be damned!

The truth is that I have sympathy or at least an understanding of the actual views of both ideologies. The Meah Shearim types believe that the entire enterprise of Israel is the devil’s work and against Halacha. Their sources for this are valid. Although I do not agree them - they definitely have a right this view.

I do not agree with the messianic perspectives of religious Zionists either – even thought their sources are valid too. I certainly respect their right to believe in it.

Belief is one thing. Declaring that belief is fine. Protesting acts by the government that undermine those beliefs is fine too. But when it turns violent and Jews and the ‘N’ word is used in describing the police, they completely lose me. Especially when people get hurt.

Just as I blame the rabbinic leaders in Meah Shearim – so too do I blame the rabbinic leaders in Beit El. From the Jeruslam Post:

Shoshan said the rioters had been encouraged to confront police by Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed, the settlement’s rabbi. He accused Melamed of having created a violent atmosphere...

I have little doubt that this is true despite the fact that it was a police official asserting it. I have heard the kind of comments made by various settler rabbis and they all amount to the same thing – rhetoric that incites young people towards violence in pursuit of their goals.

Israel has enough enemies on the outside. It is serious time we started looking at the ‘enemies within’ and do something about them! The more responsible religious Zionist rabbis ought to be condemning these acts in no uncertain terms. Loudly and clearly! No apologetics!

These extremists ought to be expelled from any legitimate religious Zionist enterprise - if they aren't already. Let them be recognized for what they areally are - violent fringe groups! They should be treated like their Meah Shearim counterparts. Let them all serve time in the same prisons to the extent that the law mandates for assaulting police. Especially the rabbinic leaders of both who incite them to violence. That would be poetic justice.