Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Terror from Within

Charedim protest in  Mea She'arim ( 201o - Ha'aretz)
Once again we have a group of extremists asserting their authority over everyone with threats of serious repercussion if there is no compliance. These are the same people that always resort to violence and intimidation to get their way. Whether it is beating up women who sit in the wrong section of a Charedi bus in Jerusalem; or torching a clothing store in its Geula section; or throwing acid at a young woman in Beitar because she dared to wear slacks while jogging.  These are just 3 incidents that pop into my mind. The list of such tactics used by these vile creatures is so long, just listing them would take up an entire blog post, if not more. We have all read the stories.

The reason they do it is because they were indoctrinated to believe that their way of life is the only Torah true way of life. That any decent Charedi worthy of the name would at least support what they do – if not outright join them. And the good and decent moderate Charedim suffer because of them. Not only by their intimidation tactics, but by being painted by the brush they have created.

I know the moderate Charedi world. I live among them in Chicago. And in Israel I live among them for about 3 weeks every year. They are fine and decent people who would never do what these zealots do nor condone it. They are as upset by these zealots as any normal person. More, even!

What a committee called ‘The Committee for the Purity of the Camp’ has done this time is come out with a list of advertising rules for the entire Charedi community in Ramat Bet Shemesh.  The list is one that very few moderate Charedim would agree with.  From Ynet
A Radical haredi group in Beit Shemesh is now attempting to take the censorship one step further, demanding that editors of local newspapers and advertising pamphlets follow a particularly strict set of rules, which bans ads for women's driving courses, ads mentioning shopping malls, restaurants and even men's perfume. 
The Committee for the Purity of the Camp issued a document titled "Specific instructions for advertisers," which seeks to impose strict restrictions on Beit Shemesh's haredi newspapers and states that the editors' discretion must be subject to the decisions of an "inspector" on behalf of the "chastity squad." 
The document clarifies that all ads must be submitted to the inspector and must not be published without his specific approval… 
The set of rules states that newspapers must not feature pictures or silhouettes of young girls, men demonstrating different products, women's wigs and treatment beds. Pictures of small children, makeup and cosmetics, as well as women's clothes and shoes, will only be published "in a gentle, clearly haredi manner." 
In addition, a leaflet must not feature a double bed, unless it is separated in two by a piece of furniture, and "personal clothing" and cosmetics must not take up more than one-quarter of the page… 
Beit Shemesh's newspapers must not publish ads for martial arts courses, driving courses for women and yeshiva students, acting and singings schools, etc. Couples counseling will only be included in the leaflet "with the approval of the city's rabbis." 
Sing-along events, cantillation and Hasidic singing are also off limits, especially when they include women. Singers and lecturers performing in "mixed events" and "entertainers and other non-educational things" must not be advertised at all, and that also includes performances by female singers and dancers of course. Lecturers must be approved by the city's rabbis. 
There is a lot more to this list. Suffice it to say that none of it is Halacha; universal Mesorah; or customs found in most moderate Charedi communities. But to the extremists of Bet Shemesh, that does not make any difference. For them, their ways are the correct ways. They believe that Charedim that don’t have such strictures will learn to love them if they are seekers of holiness. Those that don’t aren’t really Charedim anyway.

Israeli Charedim have been terrorized enough by these people. It would be a mistake to call them hooligans. They are ‘true believers’ that represent the values of their entire community.  And they have to be fought. The time has come (long overdue in fact) for moderate Charedi m to say, ‘Enough’. They need to put an end to the tyranny of the extremists that terrorize them. 

I understand the reluctance. Unfortunately attempts to defy them have not always worked out well.  Those in the past who have tried to stand up to them, have paid a price - and in the end capitulated. recall that Manny’s,  a Hebrew Bookstore in Meah Shearim was terrorized into putting up modesty signs in its window a few years ago. It was that or increased terror that would ruin his business. He had no choice.

This no longer ought to stand. The Charedi world needs to stand up to these bullies. That said, I’m not sure how that would b e done. But there ought to be a concerted effort made to figure out effective methods to counter them and stop them from doing this once and for all. If there ever a time for Datim and Charedim to unite in common cause this is it. And they ought to get the municipality and police involved.

Unfortunately not all (if any) Charedi rabbis in Ramat Bet Shemesh probably will be in favor of it. They might even approve of some of these rules, if not all of them. Recall that one Ramat Bet Shemsh Rabbi of stature broke up a Lag B’Omer concert in Ayalon Park a few years ago because families came to it together rather than separating the men and the women. That rabbi got on the stage grabbed the microphone away from the mayor (at the time) and told the crowd to go home. Mixed events were not the way of the Charedi world.  That rabbi is still there. And still respected!

Nonetheless, if the rabbis in Bet Shemesh are disinclined to do this, then there ought to be a grass roots effort to do it. This should be a cause that unites all decent people across all Hashkafic lines. There is strength in numbers. United you will stand. Divided you will fall.