Friday, April 14, 2017

Why Do They Keep Doing it?

Peleg's hated Charedi soldier
I don’t get it. I really don’t. The harassment of Charedi Jews continues. Harassment that is apparently sanctioned by Peleg, the Jerusalem faction of Charedi Jews led by Rav Shmuel Auerbach. Who is himself Charedi. It is Rav Auerbach’s ‘Jews’ that are doing the harassing. 

Peleg which essentially means divide or division (an apt name for a group if there ever was one) is the movement that has set itself up as the most zealous ‘keepers of the faith’. They are the guardians of the pure. Those that will not sit idly by when they see another Charedi Jew has ‘joined the enemy’. Which in this case is the Israeli army.

Their ire is not being raised by National Religious or even just plain religious Jews. It is being raised by people that are  Charedim that have crossed the line into the hated IDF. Which they see not as a defense force without which they would all be living in Palestine under Sharia law controlled by Hamas – but instead as a house of Shmad and a national brothel. 

So when one of their ‘own’ joins the enemy, they are treated worse than secular soldiers. Worse than national religious soldiers.  And even worse than Islamist terrorists! How dare they put on that uniform?! It doesn’t matter that they have joined new units specifically geared to Charedi needs. No… that’s just a ploy by the IDF to eventually assimilate them! And it must be fought tooth and nail.

That is at least what it seems like from the increasing numbers of attacks against Charedi soldiers that cross a Peleg’s path.

It happened again just a few days ago – on Chol HaMoed Pesach - in a public and well traveled area of Jerusalem.

Fortunately no one was hurt this time. But that does not excuse the harassment of this poor fellow who did nothing wrong at all other than looking like a Charedi while wearing an IDF uniform.

Unfortunately this is happening so frequently now that it is no longer news.  So why do I bring it up? Because it sticks in my craw that seemingly normal young Charedim that do not look extreme are acting like extremists. These young people are not the Charedim of Meah Shearim. They do not look to the Eida HaCharedis for hashkafic guidance. They look like they could be students of any mainstream Charedi Yeshiva. Like Mir or Chevron. 

How mainstream? If you look closely at the mob chasing down that Charedi soldier, (video below - more at YWN) you’ll notice many of them have smartphones and are trying to take videos while they chase down that poor soldier.

Their behavior is not all that different from the Meah Shearim extremist types that spit on reporters; throw rocks at passing cars screaming ‘Shabbos’; or yell ‘whore’ at little girls not dressed in accordance with their modesty standards. In other words they look mainstream but behave like extremists.

The fact is that most Charedi youth are not like this. Most of them actually register for the draft. And certainly do not harass a Charedi soldier. Most Roshei Yeshiva forbid their students from participating in these kinds of activities. Even the Satmar Rebbe of Kiryas Joel has in so many words condemned it. And if anyone is extreme, it is Satmar. They are as opposed to the army as Rav Auerbach is. More… even! But even so, Satmar’s leader still condemns this behavior.

Why do the Peleg youth continue do this, oblivious to any criticism? There is only one answer. Their leader encourages it. He must be swelling with pride every time he hears that his young people have harassed a Charedi soldier.

While I can’t say this for an absolute fact, there is no other explanation for the increased behavior by seemingly mainstream young Charedim. If Rav Auerbach hasn’t told them directly to attack Charedi soldiers, he has certainly inspired them to do it by his rhetoric. And done nothing to discourage further attacks like this.

What I don’t fully understand is how mainstream yeshiva students from normal Charedi backgrounds – some of whom carry smartphones - can end up like this. How can they fall so far from the mainstream values of the rest of the Yeshiva world? How can they diverge from the teachings of most mainstream Roshei Yeshiva? Why do they ignore the Chilul HaShem this makes? Why do they choose to listen to a radical like Rav Shmuel? Is it his last name? Well it shouldn’t be. Because no apple has fallen so far away from the tree as Rav Shmuel has from his father.

What is the draw of this man on so many young minds? Is there anyone that can explain it? Until we can answer that question the rational behavior by so large a swath of young Yeshiva students that used to be the norm - seems like a dream about a past that will never return. And I have no idea how to begin to understand it, let alone prevent it from ever happening again.