Friday, July 31, 2015

Who Would Want to be Part of a Religion Like This?!

Yishai Shlissel - about to pull a knife from his jacket (CNN)
I can’t blame them. Not after reading about 2 horrible events that just happened. 2 events that involved Jews whose religious ideals caused them to commit heinous crimes. Religious Jews who could not be further apart politically and religiously… and yet are motivated by the very same thing. Serving God. In that goal a Charedi man stabbed six gay activists at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade. And Jewish settlers (Price taggers) set fire to a Palestinain house which ended up killing a baby and severely burning his brother and parents. 

So no, I can’t blame some people for abandoning Judaism after seeing such things. And in both cases this is not first time that happened. The Charedi attacker, Yishai Shlissel, was just released from prison after serving a 10 year sentence for doing exactly the same thing in 2005. And obviously, this is not the first time Jewish terrorists (price taggers in this instance) committed a heinous murder against Palestinians.

This is what happens when people take their religious ideals to extremes. It’s kind of like ISIS. They too commit heinous acts for their religious ideals. One of which is beheading infidels.  I see absolutlely no difference between them. Zero!

Burned remains of Price Tag arsonists (YWN)
There are those who will be angry at me for comparing Jews to Islamic terrorists. That’s OK. Let them be angry. But that does not change the fact that religious fervor taken to extremes causes some people to commit heinous crimes in the name of God.

That explains how Muslim religious fanatics can hijack some planes and fly them into a tall building: It explains IS beheadings;  It explains IS mass murdering infidels – shot in front of the graves they dug; It explains Islamist suicide bombings and various and sundry violence against Jews - and even Muslims of different denominations.

To a lesser extent, it explains why Charedi hooligans can cause riots in Jerusalem; burn dumpsters; set fire to clothing stores; spit on reporters; throw rocks or acid at women wearing short sleeves or running suits; harass or beat up women sitting in the wrong section of a sex segregated bus; or hound 7 year girls whose religious standards are not the same as theirs.

And to a greater extent, it explains how a religious Zionist follower of Rabbi Meir Kahane can commit mass murder at Ma’aras HaMachpela; and how a Religious Zionist extremist can assassinate a sitting Israel Prime Minister.

These are all birds of a feather.It doesn’t matter. They are all the same. It is all about religious fervor. The differences being only a matter of degree.

The religious leadership share in the responsibility for these heinous crimes. I’m not absolving anyone of personal responsibility. These people will hopefully get their just deserts. Nor do I say that the rabbinic leadership supports this violence – or violence of any kind.  I’m sure that in most cases the rabbinic leadership will unequivocally condemn every single heinous act. But often those condemnations come with a ‘but’. The ‘but’ being that they understand “why he (or they) did it. And although they did it in a very misguided way, they sympathize with his (their) goals. Sharing the same religious views as the extremist who committed the violence. In some cases people who share the views of the perpetrator will venerate him as a martyr, as many Kahanists still do with mass murderer Dr. Baruch Goldstein.  

The problem is that in every case their acts are based on religious fervor that has been preceded and exacerbated by rhetoric of the worst kind. The condemnations of the Gay Pride Parade -referred to by many in the Charedi world as the Toevah (abomination) parade - were very loud and very strong. Especially because it took place in Jerusalem. The opposition was fierce. Religious leaders and their politicians were up in arms - disgusted by the idea that the holiest city in the world could host a parade that was about pride in being a homosexual, whose sexual acts often involve what the Torah calls a Toevah.

I can understand their pain and outrage. But rhetoric such as that will motivate some people to act the way Yishai Shlissel did. And rhetoric of the type often heard from Rabbi Meir Kahane and his spiritual heirs (e.g. Arabs are dogs! ) motivates those ‘Price Tag’ settler terrorists.

There will of course be a lot of handwringing by the leadership, expressing sorrow while denying that these people acted in accordance with their religious beliefs and ideals. They may even say that the people that do these kinds of things are sick – and that the religious ideals they espouse should not be blamed for their heinous acts.

They can say that. But they have to take at least some responsibility for it. Much the same as Islamic religious leaders have to take responsibility for terrorism done in the name of Islam. Islmaic State (IS) members are religious  Muslims. Terrorists settlers are Religious Zionists. Yishai Shlissel is Charedi. They did not make up the religious values they were acting upon. They learned them. Whether it’s extremist Muslims chanting  “Death to the Jews!” … Religious Zionist Kahanists chanting “Death to the Arabs!” …or an extremist Charedi  yelling “Death to the Gays” – it is religious fervor that motivates them.

If I’m a Jew wavering in my commitment to Judaism or a sincere potential Baal Teshuva or convert… and I see this kind of stuff happening so often to one degree or another… why would I want to be a part of this religion? And if I’m a non Jew looking at it, why would I want to support the Jewish people or their country?

I can’t make the Charedi or Religious Zionist rabbinic leadership do anything. But I wish they would see that some of their angry religious based rhetoric - both verbal and written - contributes to the violence. Much the same way that Muslim clerics preaching Jew hatred contributes to Muslim violence. It makes fanatics go the extra mile.

Condemning it after the fact means absolutely nothing in the face of the constant recurrence of these kinds of things. I wish that instead of the constant angry rhetoric one hears in those circles from various of their leadership over issues that bother them - they would instead honor the words of Mishlei (3:17)  which say, ‘Derocheha Darchei Noam’ – ‘(The Torah’s) ways are ways pleasantness’. Then  maybe - just maybe - there will be at least one less extremist atrocity committed by a misguided Jew.