Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Sick Charedim of Ramat Bet Shemesh

I am at my wits end and am shaking as I write this. A short while ago, les than a couple of hours as of this writing, an innocent man was severely beaten in Ramat Bet Shemesh. I just received a phone call from a source informing me of this. Why was he beaten? What was his crime? It was organizing a peaceful protest against exactly this kind of violence a couple of months ago. His car was vandalized. The windows were smashed. And he was beaten to a pulp!

An observant and Ehrliche Jew who cares about his community, who dared to sugest that his community be a peaceful one... one of tolerance and acceptance… has just paid a very heavy price for expressing that desire.

This incident follows a letter I received less than 24 hours ago. It is from another resident of a Ramat Bet Shemesh neighborhood called Sheinfeld. He informed me of new threat violence from a Charedi neighbor… one who had just moved into a new development adjacent to his. The threat is described in a communication by a community leader to the residents of that neighborhood. Here it is:

One of the families that already moved in received their second letter this week from the Recido buildings (…Buildings which are the beginning of Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet and are filled with only Chareidim) across the street regarding a television they had that faced the street. The first letter simply asked them to remove it, but the second letter included a threat- basically that if any harm falls on them or their belongings, they (the Recido residents) cannot be held responsible, since they (the new family) had ignored the first warning.

I don’t know what is happening to the beautiful community I see when I go there. But things are getting so out of control that it frightens me.

That there are plenty of complaints by both segments against each other is clear. But I never in my wildest dreams ever thought I would see this kind of activity by one religious Jew against another. This is sick! And I blame Charedim on both sides of Ramat Bet Shemesh, not just Bet.

They express an attitude of intolerance in the name of living a life ‘Al Tharas HaKodesh’. That is... living a life that is as holy and spiritual as possible. And that entails going to the most extreme lengths possible to achieve those ends. That in turn generates a tremendous animosity to those who are not interested in going to such extreme lengths.

That type of intolerance is facilitated by a sense rightous indignation on the part of people like the above letter writer. And that generated a severe beating of a fellow Jew. There is no benefit to Charedim now decrying it. It is spilled milk. Ingrained attitudes or rightous indignation caused one man to take matters into his own hands. Charedim condmening the violence is of little benefit when their veiws on Tznius are sympathetic to those who pepetrate the violence.

It is clear to me from the many Charedi commeters on this blog where their true sympathies lie. They are squarely on the side of Charedi interests. And while they pay lip service to opposing the violence, clearly they are far more concerned with the level of Kedusha they feel the Charedim are entitled to. That’s the constant message I get from them! They rarely express outrage and instead chalk it up to ‘the extremist criminal element’ among Charedim. Well, I think the above letter at the very minimum shows that it is more than a just a few extremists that are involved.

As for the severe beating a fellow observant Jew received... the time has come for the religious Jews of that community to stop the harmful obsession with their extreme ‘standards’ of Bein Adam L’Makom and start caring more about their standards of Bein Adam L’Chaveiro. Because right now their only Bein Adam L’Chavero seems to be for like minded Charedim. The hatred between them is palpable. And it is Charedim that seem to be the ones who resort to violence to get their way.

It is sickening! It is ugly! It is shameful! If this is how Charedim are going to lead their lives… if extreme standards are valued at so great a level that beating like this are generated… if this is what they teach their children either directly or through example, then they are worthless!

And frankly I can now understand very easily why the police treat Charedim so poorly. It has nothing to do with the police being anti religious. A growing number of Charedim are proving to be a very violent group of people.

I know not all Charedim think this way. Plenty do, but I realize that there are some (hopefully many) who sympathize with this post. And they are the key to a resolution of this crisis. The community of Ramat Bet Shemesh has to unite. Charedim who are disgusted by such letters and beatings ought to unite with their fellow Ramat Bet Shemesh Datim.

The goal ought to be the eradicating of this mentality that justifies violence and all practitioners of it. To that end, every perpetrator ought to be handed over to the police. Local rabbis who defend these people or hide their identities should be put on notice. They will be protested and picketed by both Datim and Charedim until they are removed from the community.

Charedim and Datim alike ought to stand side by side demanding all violent Charedim spend a long time in jail. It will take some courage. But only a grass roots action like this will save this community from a civil war that will destroy it.