Monday, January 24, 2022

Hooligans? Or the Mainstream of Meah Shearim?

A Meah Shearim mob of violent protestors (VIN)
The cat is out of the bag. It appears that violent protests that take place on a more or less regular basis in the Meah Shearim and neighboring Geula sections of Jerusalem are not just a bunch of extremist hooligans at all. They are among the mainstream Chasidim of those neighborhoods The latest one was attended and addressed by some  of the community's biggest rabbinic leaders. 

Apologists for these protests had always insisted that these protestors are just a bunch of street kids - delinquents with lots of time on their hands. Saying that they are comparable to any other community in the world that has its share of delinquents and hooligans.  Adding that just because they look like the rest of their community does not make them representative of it. 

But, it appears that the apologists are quite literally wrong about all of that. That is not the case at all. They are the mainstream

Hundreds of Chasidim of the Toldos Avraham Yitzchak sect demonstrated outside a cellular phone store in central Geula Sunday evening…

Initially police attempted to protect the store from the angry protesters, who included the Admor of Toldos Avraham Yitzchak as well as other senior members of the sect including Rabbi Shimon Dov Bransdorfer and Rabbi Shmuel Bransdorfer (emphasis mine) who spoke to the gathering.

After the rabbis spoke the crowd sparred with police. Some of the assembled protesters succeeded in bypassing police and breaking open the door of the store. Six protesters were arrested and traffic was backed up on Malchei Israel street as police dispersed the demonstration.

Police released a statement saying that ” a short time after the beginning of protests at the site, tens of rioters began creating a public disturbance and blocking the street. Later they caused damage to a store, attacked police and damaged a police van. After police told them to disperse and they continued to demonstrate, police arrested three suspects for allegedly causing damage and public disturbance. Two policemen were lightly injured and received treatment at the scene.” 

This is not OK. It is a major Chilul HaShem disguised as a Kiddush HaShem.  And it ought to be condemned accordingly - by all other responsible rabbinic leaders. Of all stripes.

The frequent argument I always hear against  them doing that is that it would not do any good and a waste of time - since those Chasidim don’t give a flying fig what rabbinic leaders on the outside say. That is probably true. But beside the point. The world must be made to understand that these people do not in any way represent Judaism. No matter what they look like; or why they claim to be justified in doing it. No matter how ‘Frum’ they otherwise are.  And when I say, ’world’ I don’t mean only the non Jewish world. I mean the Jewish world. And when I say Jewish world, I include Orthodox Jews that might be tempted to defend them. 

That has to stop! 

But it won’t. The fact is that extremist factions like Toldos Avraham Yitchak are idealized by much of the mainstream Charedi  media. I recall a piece published in one of the periodicals a few years ago that extoled the piety of one of those Meah Shearim Rebbes. If I recall correctly they unabashedly added that the rest of the  Frum world can only hope to someday aspire to such lofty heights of Frumkeit.

I am thoroughly convinced that this kind of praise will continue. That a protest like this will be praised rather than condemned as an expression of the piety by which this community aspires to live. And the lengths they are willing to go to protect that holiness by not allowing the outside world to filter in. 

Normally I might say that even though I strongly disagree with them, they are entitled to their views. Maybe. But they are not entitled to use violence against people they don’t agree with; not entitled to create a pubic disturbance; destroy private property; and block main thoroughfares  - even in their own neighborhoods. They do not own the streets. The streets belongs to the public. A public that has nothing to do with what they are protesting.. 

These protesters are criminals who have been incited to violence by their own rabbinic leaders. There is no two ways about that. They should all pay a price - rabbinic leaders included. 

I am beyond disgusted by this kind of thing. Disgusted as much by the near certain refusal by any other rabbinic leader to condemn it – as I am by the violent protestors and their rabbinic leaders themselves. A  refusal that - by virtue of their silence - will give the impression that  all of Orthodoxy supports these miscreants. 

I hope I’m wrong. But I doubt it.