Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Support for Charedi Vigilantism

If there is any doubt about whether there was any support for last week’s demonstration in Kikar Shabbat by Meah Shearim residents– let it end now.

For those with short memories - the ‘good citizens’ of that neighborhood protested what they called unfair treatment by the secular government and media by wearing Holocaust garb (yellow ‘Star of David’ armbands or clothes patches; people wearing concentration camp prison uniforms sitting in mock cages…). They were trying to draw a parallel of the way the government treats them to the way Jews were treated by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

This event drew near universal condemnation, not the least of which came from actual Holocaust survivors.

Not so the Eida HaCharedis. In an unbelievable turn of events they supported it. It is not a rumor. It is not speculation. And it is not a manipulated response of Eida leaders by extremists with their own agenda.

Rabbi Yair Hoffman who had heard about it couldn’t believe it either. But after researching it, he has actually confirmed it. A document (reproduced at VIN) posted on the walls of their Jerusalem neighborhood unequivocally supported the protest. While there is some question about whether the entirety of that document was approved by all signatories, there is no doubt about its primary message of support.

The signatures included those of Eida leaders Rav Yitzchak Tuvia Weiss and Rav Moshe Shternbuch. They support the acts of the Sikkrikim – vigilantes who act like Mafia type enforcers – using violence to get their religious way. Although opposing the actual violence, they support the enterpise (see the VIN article for details).

How violent can they get? One of the reasons for the demostration was to protest the 2 year jail sentence one of those Sikrikim- Shmuel Weissfish – who caused bodily harm and monetary damages to the owner of an electronics store in their neighborhood. And let’s not forget the damage they caused to Manny’s Book Store in that same neighborhood. Or the numerous other violent crimes committed by these animals. Animals that the Eida now seems to support as has been made clear by Rabbi Hoffman’s research.

So the next time someone tells you that these Sikrikim have no support and that it is just a bunch of hooligans doing it with no support - giving Charedim in Israel a bad name... you should correct them and say that these hooligans are supported by a premiere rabbinic establishment – the Eida HaCharedis.

How big is the Eida? They are in essence the largest Kashrus agency in Israel. Kind of like the OU is here. Their tentacles reach all the way into the very heart of Israel’s food industry and spread far and wide. Their Hechsher is on so many products that it would be impossible to boycott them. They do not only give Hechsherim. They make proclamations and are a mainstream organization despite their extremist views and policies!

The behavior that the Eida supports is a cancer in our midst! It has to be treated the same way - excised and destroyed! They have to be fought. And perhaps that is finally happening. There has been a tremndous backlash by many Charedi leaders some of whom might be considered to be on the far right. They are beginning to speak up. And they are angry.

In one recent condemnation reported by VIN, ‘Rabbi Rafael Zar, a Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohr Dor – Ohr Yehuda, a noted baal mussar’ said the following:

“They are the worst kind of evildoers, far worse than the most secular individual,” said Rabbi Zar. “If I could I would break their arms and legs. This is not just my opinion, it is the opinion of Chazal. They would catch them, give them lashes and break their bones for their appalling behavior.

Spitting on women? I am appalled by this and any true Ben Torah feels the same way about this garbage. The people who do this are nothing more than garbage and they bring a foul stench to the scent of Torah in this world. It is repulsive. To spit on a Jewish Girl? Who do you think you are?

Anyone whose middos are so corrupt, is not a Jew in my eyes. He is an animal.”

“Someone who commits a Chilul Hashem like this does not deserve to have a beard. It is an embarrassment. According to the Holy Tazdik Baba Sali Zt’l there are Jews that when they will go to gehenim, the fire will start from their beard, because they don’t deserve to have a beard.”

And he’s not the only one who feels this way. There have been many similar condemnations of these people. And then you have the Eida! And to a lesser extent those who mix apologetics into their condemnations.

Not only are those animals in Bet Shemesh creating a Chilul HaShem, so too are their supporters in Meah Shearim and their mentors the Eida HaCharedis.

They blame their current situation on the government and the media as being biased against them. But they have brought this all upon themselves by flexing their communal muscle upon the rest of Israeli society. And Charedi leaders outside of their community who constantly excuse or ‘understand’ their behavior … or chalk it up to a few hooligans are guilty too by providing them with excuses for their behavior.

There ought to be zero tolerance for these people and they ought to be fought tooth and nail at every level in non violent ways.

There was recently a flashmob in the business district of Bet Shemesh. A group of women, many of whom looked religious suddenly converged and started singing and dancing to a ‘Queen’ song (Don't Stop Me Now) in the heart of that that city – a city taken over by Charedim. They sang and danced - and then just as suddenly - they quickly dispersed.

Many would say that this was an outrage. How can women have such a lack of Tznius in the middle of a town with so many Charedim in it?! It is forbidden for men to hear woman sing or to see them dance. How dare they force themselves upon religious Jews?!

Perhaps they shouldn’t have done that. Although women do have a right to do as they wish in the public square and men have the obligation to avoid gazing at them in lascivious ways, it is unfair to just show up unannounced in an area where you have a captive and unwilling audience - and start singing and dancing.

But can you blame them? This was not done because they want to enforce their laxer standards on the Charedim of Bet Shemesh. They have never done anything like this in the past. They did it to counter protest what that community has been doing to them. They wanted to give them a taste of their own medicine. They wanted to show that it is these very animals that are responsible for what they did. And in that sense – good for them! (Those who were there and did not want to see or hear them could have just not looked and covered their ears.)

There definitely is a divide even among Charedi leaders about this. It is a sad fact of reality however that extremism in the defense of religious principles tends to have the upper hand. The fact that they think they are doing it for God and get support from the likes of the Eida – does not bode well for a happy ending.