Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Terrorist Charedim - Hooligans or Mainstream?

I know I should be used to it by now. But the idea of young Charedi Jews acting like gangs of juvenile delinquents still gets to me. In yet another article - this time in the Jerusalem Post -we find a young Chiloni couple who were terrorized by these young punks screaming ‘Shabbes’ as they tried to drive through Neveim - a Jerusalem street located near Meah Shearim.

I understand their sensibilities about Chilul Shabbos. I even understand why they would be upset by the desecration of Shabbos in their neighborhood. When one lives in the holy city of Jerusalem in a neighborhood that is as Charedi as Meah Shearim and its environs, it is disconcerting to have one’ s Sabbath peace so flagrantly and carelessly violated. So I actually sympathize with their anguish at seeing this. I might even excuse a shout or two of ‘Shabbes’.

But what I cannot excuse is the lawlessness that follows. From a victim of an encounter with them as reported in Jeruslam Post:

These people attempt to persuade the ‘heathen’ by putting dumpsters in the road, by throwing trash around and burning it, by throwing rocks at passing cars, and by shouting, “Shaaaaaabbbbbaaaaaasssss!” like a horde of zombies. And the most disgusting thing about it is that the majority of the rioters are young boys; even children hurl trash and insults at passing cars…

A few weeks ago, I was driving back to Jerusalem from the Galilee with my boyfriend Anis. We were both commenting on how nice it was to be out of the city for a while to breathe lighter air. But we both felt the familiar Jerusalem tension return and build within us as we arrived and drove deeper into the Holy City. As we were driving up Hanevi’im Street, a couple of punk kids were still standing at the street corner trying to provoke people. We gently swerved around trash and a big dumpster when a 12-year-old boy looked us in the eye before kicking a large plastic box directly in our way.

Of course we all know the response of the some in the Charedi world to these so called juvenile delinquents. They deplore what these kids do. However this is always followed with a ‘but’! Here is the typical argument:

The Chilonim driving down Nevi’im on Shabbos should have known better, they were only there to stir up trouble. And these kids are indeed punks – hooligans with lots of time on their hands. Nobody gives them permission to do this. Don’t judge the entire community of Meah Shearim by these JDs. Their leaders have exhorted them to stop but to no avail. What are they supposed to do? The exhortations of the rabbinic leaders fall on deaf ears. Every community in the world has their share of gangs and hooligans - criminals and Juvenile delinquents.

Here is my response. These kids are not juvenile delinquents. They have distinctive Peyos and the black ‘uniform’ found amongst only the most Charedi of Charedi people. And they are the only ones involved in this. These are not people who have left the fold to become drug dealers and pimps. These are not gun toting gang members who participate in drive by shootings. No one is trying to feed a drug habit by mugging passers-by. These are all kids who believe they are the guardians of the faith. They truly believe that their actions are protecting the sancity of Shabbos.

They are mainstream in their thinking if not their actions. They are L’Shma in their motives - motives shared by the entire community. They have parents who love them and feel a sense of outrage when Shabbos is violated by a Chiloni driving through their streets. The contemptuous attitude against these Chiloni Shabbos desecraters are angrily communicated to their kids. The kids see it; they live it;. they eat; it they breathe it! These are ‘religious’ kids would sooner cut off their right arm that cut off their peyos. They dress the part; look the part; …and are the part!

That ‘look’ is one of the primary focuses of their education. A real juvenile delinquent from their circles wouldn’t bother with that look. They maintain that look and do what they do in the name of God! They see themselves as the vanguard in the fight against Chilul Shabbos - soldiers for God. Their methods may not be approved of by their parents, rabbinic leaders, or the rest of their community. But their motives are applauded!

These young punks know that and this fuels their terrorist tactics. All the protestations in the world from their own religious leaders are seen merely as their public face – not actual disapproval. They believe that in their hearts those rabbis actually sympathize and praise these young Kaanaim for their Milchemta Shel Mitzvah. Their holy war.

I have said this in the past. Many times. I blame their parents, their rabbinic leadership, and the entire community for creating this ‘monster’ and maintaining it. If they really wanted this to stop – it would. There people know how to discipline their kids. The reason this continues is because they want it too. They could care less what the rest of even the religious world thinks.

I realize that I am spitting in the wind. But I needed to vent!