Monday, June 14, 2010

Is the Gain Worth the Pain?

According to an article in Rav Moshe Sternbuch who is the Av Beis Din of the Edah HaCharedis was the victim of tear gas in Jerusalem during a protest against the removal of gravesites in Yaffo.

There is an accompanying video there but it does not show that incident. What it does show is a very loud group of Chasidim screaming angrily at the top of their lungs. The screaming was in Hebrew. But there was one word in English that comes through loud and clear: Nazi.

Matzav makes a point about this protest being peaceful. And emphasizes that Rav Sternbuch opposes any violence at protests like these. He has in fact stated that “Anyone who commits acts of violence declares that he doesn’t belong to our community”.

OK. I respect him for that. But I find it a bit odd that he would attend a protest that has the potential for such violence. Perhaps he was there to try and prevent violence by his mere presence. It could be that he has enough respect from these Chasidim for them to refrain from any actual violence.

But frankly that video on Matzav did not look all that peaceful to me. There was no actual violence that I could see. But there were a lot of very loud and angry Chasidim protesting and screaming at the top of their lungs. It looked pretty intimidating.

From the video it seems that the protesters are comprised of a specific segment of the Charedi world – Meah Shearim Chasidim. It does not seem like any other Orthodox segment was there. Certainly no one was there from any of the Yeshivos. Fortunately Roshei Yeshiva like Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel have forbidden their students from participating.

This leads me to ask whether protests such as these have any merit at all – even if their cause is just. One must weigh the consequences of one’s actions even when pursuing a legitimate goal. I think this is in part why the rest of the Charedi world does not participate with them. They probably see the net image as counter-productive.

In other words I don’t think it is only about the safety of their constituents. If the video on is typical of what they consider non violent – I can only imagine what a violent one would look like. And how much does it take to turn this kind of ‘non-violent’ protest into a violent one? But Rav Sternbuch attended and reportedly got hurt. Does he really believe that this kind of protest is a Kiddush HaShem?