Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Fruits of Hatred

Hate. That seems to be what’s driving things in Israel these days. I am not talking about hating our enemies – those who would destroy us like Ahmadinejad. Or hating evil. Evil should be hated. I am talking about Jew hatred. Not from outsiders but amongst ourselves.

Nowhere was this more evident that in the recent events in Bet Shemesh. No one could ever spit non an 8 year old girl, call her a whore, and do all manner similar things those Charedi extremists did without sufficient hatred in their hearts. Nor could their compatriots who demonstrated in Meah Shearim last weekend wearing Holocaust paraphenalia.

While they say they are protesting matters of Tznius… or the way the government and media treats them, it is quite clear to me that their true motives are hatred of fellow Jews. Which is kind of ironic since many of them are known for their Gemilas Chasodim, their acts of kindness. More than once have I been told that about their generous spirit and hospitality when it comes to welcoming Jews of all stripes into their homes. But that spirit seems to be gone these days.

And what has all this wrought? A backlash in kind from Chilonim some of whom who have been found to be spitting on innocent Charedi children… as has been reported in Ha’aretz:

On Sunday, an 11-year-old Haredi girl told police she was attacked on a Jerusalem bus by a secular man who spit at her, pushed her and shouted: "We'll destroy the Haredim."

In another instance a young Charedi boy was badly beaten by some (apparently) Chiloni bullies:

The boy, David Lustig, told police that he was waiting for the bus to school "when someone approached me and said 'come here,' but I refused. They approached me, slapped me and started shouting at me." Lustig said two teens beat him with sticks and cursed at him. They were not wearing the scullcaps of religious Jews, and based on their curses, he believes they attacked him because he is ultra-Orthodox, he said…

At school, Lustig told one his teachers, Rabbi Moshe Neuber, who immediately took him to the local police station. "He's a charming, gentle soul," Neuber said of Lustig. "He was in shock. I never saw him so confused and shaken."

The police launched an investigation, but Lustig is now afraid to go to school alone.

This young boy’s fear matches 8 year old Na’ama’s fear. They are now both afraid to go to school.

What is becoming of us? Are we so hateful towards each other that we resort to beating up children? That a young Dati girl was traumatized by some Charedi bullies does not make it OK for Chiloni bullies to do the same. This is not Judaism. This is hooliganism of the worst kind. Adults taking out their hate on young and innocent children?! Jews are not barbarians.

It does no good for one side to blame the other. Nor to say ‘the other guy started it’. It should not happen at all. And if one side can’t be reasoned with - that does not mean that they should be paid back in kind. Two wrongs do not make a right. The young Charedi boy is completely innocent here and ought not pay for the sins of his uncles… or cousins… or co-religionists in Bet Shemesh.

It would be extremely naïve, however, to say that one event did not cause another. But that is no justification for retaliation in kind on innocent young children.

The hatred is real. It’s out there. On both sides. And there are reasons on both sides for it. Each side could probably come up with a list of legitimate compalints about the other. Does this mean there will be some kind of civil war, God forbid? I’m am beginning to wonder about that. And it isn’t just Charedim against Chilonim. The ‘price tag’ segments of religious Zionists seem to be at war already.

And it doesn’t stop there. Avirama Golan pointed out the following in another Ha’aretz article:

No less serious is the impact of the nationalist ultra-Orthodox community. The rabbis on the nationalist right are becoming more extreme to prove that they are not "religious lite," and their Haredi colleagues are afraid to appear lenient.

Chasing Chumros seems to be the order of the day. One Orthodox segment is not willing to concede Frumkeit to another. So if one segment adopts a Chumra, another will adopt even more just so it will not be outdone.

The result can only be that Chilonim will become completely marginalized and alienated from any form of observance. And the more extreme one Orthodox segment gets, the more one will find the kind of extreme behavior that results in what happened in Bet Shemesh... and the kind of retaliatory reactions that happened to 11 year old David Lustig in Jerusalem.

We are now witness to a vicious circle of hatred. I agree with Ms. Golan’s concluding paragraph. She was speaking to Chilonim. But I think it applies to Charedim as well (with Charedi substitutions for the Chiloni protest groups she speaks of):

In light of this vicious circle, the secular-liberal community proposes a mixture of fear and hatred, instead of defining the face of Israeli society, its values and future. With all due respect, protest groups like Women Up Front or We Are All Na'ama are not an alternative. This isn't a culture war, it's just a war.