Monday, December 18, 2017

Whose Values will Win?

List of people to harass (Life in Israel)
I love Ramat Bet Shemesh. I really do. If I were to make Aliyah to Israel, that would be the city in which I would choose to live. This would be an obvious choice for me even if my son and his family weren’t living there. 

As an American, I would have a relatively great comfort level there… since there are so many other American Olim (émigrés) living there. For me that would help mitigate the cultural differences between Israel and the US.  The vast majority of residents there are observant… probably over 90%. They are divided between Dati (about 40%) and Charedi (about 60%).

While there has been some conflict between these two communities, they tend to live in peaceful coexistence – often interacting with each other in positive ways. This describes Ramat Bet Shemesh - Aleph

On the other hand, there is another section called Ramat Bet Shemesh –Bet. Leaving aside the fact that both they and I are observant of the Torah, there is little else we have in common. The vast majority of those residents stand for almost everything I am against.  Our world views could not be more different. Nor could the way we view our communal roles be any different.

It seems that the ‘Bet’ mentality has seeped somewhat into Aleph. The obsession they have with female modesty has caused them to put up signs similar to the ones that are up in their spiritual home, Meah Shearim - from which many of Bet’s residents hale. Signs asking them to dress modestly. 

That was both upsetting and inconvenient to many of the residents of Aleph - even some of the Charedi residents.  

Which brings me to a recent court ruling that most American Jews living in Aleph. They ruled that those signs must come down as they are discriminatory. 

If I remember correctly the Charedi mayor of Bet Shemseh had at first ignored the court ruling and looked the other leaving those signs up. Why? It may be simply because he didn't want to start up with the extremists from Bet that put up those signs. But the matter was taken to court again and they ordered the city to do so. This time with a fine for every day those signs remained up.

The city has now complied and has gone to the expense of tearing down those signs.

That did not sit well with the modesty police of Bet.  Rafi’s blog, Life in Israel reports what followed: 
Despite them being quickly replaced, the city quickly sent in another, quieter, mission to remove them…
The extremists behind the signs are very upset and are looking for ways to fight back. Initially they responded by spraying "tzniyus" graffiti all over their own buildings and neighborhood.
Now they have taken an additional step. They have published a flyer with the names and contact information of the women behind the lawsuit, along with the details of their family members as well (husbands and children) and have called o the public to harass them by telephone… 
In addition, they have put up a a pashkevil (poster) on the walls around Bet Shemesh decrying the "secular coercion" in forcing them to remove the signs. There is nothing overly exciting in the signs, beyond calling them secular women, and calling them "misyavnim", despite their being religious, and comparing their neighborhoods to graves of holy men where certain dress modes are understood and enforced without complaint... 
They do rely on bullying tactics and usually get their way when people are too intimidated to fight back or not organized enough to fight back over an extended period of time. When the bully is stood up to, the bully often backs down, and that has happened with these extremists as well. I would not be surprised if after a few more attempts, they just quietly back down and move on to other things... 
I wish I could be as optimistic as Rafi. But I don’t think those people will ever give up.  It has been years since people from the very same group of extremists called a 7 year old religious Zionist girl a whore - ostensibly for not dressing according to their modesty standards. Nothinghas changed and they would probably do it again given the chance.

Rafi is right. They are bullies. Their tactics are uncivilized. And probably criminal. The extremists responsible for this are from a community that see only themselves. They could not care less what other - even religious Jews think. They view themselves as the ultimate Jews. As such they see their attitudes about modesty to be the only correct ones. Anything less is considered by them as immodest by observant standards. To the extent that they believe that their extremists will do whatever it takes to see that those standard are upheld anywhere near their own environs! As they see it, they are fighting the good fight for God. 

This fight is not really about modesty standards anymore. It’s about who is going to be in control of public policy.

As I have said many times, I have no problem with their choosing any standards they wish for themselves. But when they start telling me what my standards should be and forcing me to live that way, I not only part company with them, I think they should be fought until they are defeated...and not allowed to force change upon others that live near them.

If the people of Ramat Bet Shemseh want to continue to live the way they choose, and not be intimidated, they cannot be complacent. They have to do what’s necessary to stop the Bet mentality from continuing to influence their values. Values like those the American Olim – both Charedi and Dati - brought with them when they made Aliyah and settled there.