Thursday, July 14, 2011

Just Another Day in Meah Shearim

Once again the holy city of Jerusalem erupts in violence. And it is by the usual suspects, the Chasidim of Meah Shearim. From Ha’aretz:

Residents of the neighborhood set fire to trash cans and hurled rocks at police officers, wounding six policemen, one of which was transferred to a nearby hospital after he had sustained injuries to his head.

It is time for all people of good will to acknowledge the truth. The violence that occurs in these situations is sanctioned by their rabbinic leaders. I am so tired of hearing their ‘condemnations of the violence’ after the fact. I haven’t heard it this time, but I’m sure it’s happened or will very shortly. There is no real condemnation. There is only admiring approval. The condemnation is for public consumption.

I often hear people defending this community saying that these rock throwers are the ‘city hooligans’ – young juvenile delinquents with too much time on their hands; that most people there would never do anything like that and disapprove of that tactic. Perhaps most of them wouldn’t. And they may even disapprove of the tactic. But they do not disapprove of the sentiment. Not the residents of Meah Shearim and certainly not their leaders.

This sentiment animates them. It is important to ‘fight the enemy’. That they might disapprove of the tactic is a minor point. The mindset is, ‘This is our turf – get out of our way or we’ll hurt you’! And these rock throwers do hurt people. Throwing rocks at someone’s head will hurt them. Sometimes seriously. Sometimes fatally!

Are these just juvenile delinquents causing havoc as some have suggested or are they ‘Zealots for God’? I’m sure that being zealots is how they think of themselves.

They are in fact zealots. But not for God. They are zealots for their turf and way of life and they are going to do whatever it takes to preserve it – no matter who it inconveniences or hurts or which laws they break.

This is the mentality of virtually the entirety of Meah Shearim - the Eida HaCharedis, and the Toldos Aharon Chasidm. It is not an anomally. The 'stone throwers' are merely the 'gutsy' members of an entire community that harbors the same feelings. They are not ‘juvenile’ anything. At least not all of them. The picture above demonstrates that.

These stone throwers never pay a price for what they do. I believe that all past condemnations by their rabbis were nothing more than spin control. It seems plain to me that they turn a blind eye to the violence. That it continues unabated gives lie to those phony condemnations.

Making matters worse is that if the police come in - screams of ‘Israeli police brutality’ can be heard all the way to Iran.

That these people have no respect for the law of the land; that they have reckless disregard for human life; and that they care not a whit about human dignity is not news. There are just too many incidents where these things are evident. What upsets me even more are those among us who are the civilized defending them or ‘understand where they are coming from’.

Every time an event like this occurs and I write about it, I will hear comments like ‘The rock throwers are exception,’ ‘Have you ever experienced their hospitality and graciousness? They lives are dedicated to Chessed.’ Or ‘How can you say that their leaders condone it.’ ‘They condemn it loudly and clearly every time it happens!’ And then there are those who say, ‘OK they’re wrong about what they did but right in what they are protesting’ - sympathizing with their religious sensitivities. Or, they will jump on the police and blame them for everything. Or they will blame an anti religious newspaper with comments like, ‘Don’t believe everything you read in an anti Frum rag like Ha’aretz!’

Get a clue – you people! These rock throwers do not reflect our values. They reflect the values of the street thug! They are a group of people that are completely cut off from civilization - they and their rabbis. Their rabbis could not care less about civilization outside their own walls of isolation. The only things that matters to them are those parts of the Torah that they emphasize and the Chumros they build around them.

They do not have a clue about the Chilul HaShem that happens every time their community makes news. They are blind to what the world thinks. And they could not care less even about what the rest of the Orthodox world thinks. To them being ‘zealots for God’ is a Kiddush HaShem.

Let us not kid ourselves. That this kind of behavior has never been stopped by a Chasidic leadership that is so venerated that it is seen as near God-like shows that they are very far from truly condemning it.

Isolation, ignorance, and indoctrination are the cause of this behavior. And I do not see this paradigm changing. They are a stiff necked people.

These people want nothing to do with a Jewish government in Israel. Their position is the same as Satmar and Neturei Karta. If it were up to them the entire State of Israel would be given to the Palestinians. They would rather be ruled by them than by their own people.

If there is ever a ‘two state’ solution, I think we ought to accommodate these people and make Meah Shearim part of Palestine. That should make both them and the Palestinians happy.