Friday, December 30, 2011

"Charedi" Rioting Bums

First off, I put Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) in quotes, because the people who are rioting aren't charedi.  The term "charedi" comes from the Hebrew word for fear, because they fear God.  (Charada - fear and trembling in the face of God.)  These people clearly don't fear God, because if they did, they would never have the nerve to spit on Jewish people (or any people for that matter)!  They would never have the chutzpa to to beat women or use clearly inappropriate language, no matter who they were describing.

Getting more to the point, I want to post this important article, 

Welcoming The Charedi Spring, by Yitzchak Adlerstein.

After reading that, see this fantastic comment by David Ram:

To Yitzchok Adlerstein: Well written piece. I believe that your idea of trying to completely undermine the extremist elements as outside the purview of normative orthodox Judaism is a good idea, but extremely difficult.

I want to give you a bit more perspective – of someone that lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh and has interacted directly with some of the most influential chareidi rabbis in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh.

In halacha, the reason why halachic issues are in fact an issue, since there must be 2 competing values. For example, not doing work on Shabbat and tending to a sick person. Sometimes the law is to keep Shabbat and not provide medication or otherwise to the sick, if the sick is not in danger. And sometimes we must break the Shabbat to deal with the sick. Both values are good, but they clash, and we need to know what to do in each situation. This is in essence the reason for questions and answers in halacha. Essentially, all halachic questions, by definition, are asked since there are 2 competing values at play. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a question. The same is true with what is happening in Beit Shemesh.

One of the main differences between Galus and Israeli societies is that in the galus – all you have is the 4 cubits of the law. In Israel – hashkafic values often battle even legal issues. The divide between dati leumi (nationalist Orthodox Jews) and Chereidi (ultra-orthodox) in Israel is not halachic. It is not even a divide regarding commitment to torah and torah values. It is philosophical. Largely around the concept of Zionism. That is it. All the rest is a fa├žade. There is no modesty issue that the chareidim are battling in Beit Shemesh. It is Zionism in their midst. They have plenty of modesty challenges in their own ranks. This is about land, control, money and the eradication of Zionists from “their” communities. And in Israel, philosophy is fundamental. The rabbis in Israel place hashkafa very high on the priority list. Therefore, things like kavod habri’os, stealing, destroying property, shaming the name of G-d, etc. can often be viewed as a secondary value to undermining the power of Zionism and strengthening the power of chareidi lifestyle.

There is a common misconception among Jews in the Galus and even Anglo-Saxons living in Israel – that Israel is like chutz la’aretz. And by that I mean – there are 2 general directions (1) modern orthodox and (2) black hat. In chutz la’aretz, black hat communities are viewed as the ones that hold a strong commitment to Judaism, to Torah, to taking the obligations seriously and living Jewish in the fullest sense. And the modern orthodox are the ones that are perceived as only tolerating the religion and finding compromises that allow us to live comfortably despite it. (Sorry for the generalizations.)

In Israel, this is pointedly false. In Israel there are 2 general philosophical tracks from which to choose within Orthodox Judaism. Each track has its strong commitment camp, its more modern camp and even an extremist camp. One track is chareidi – where there are modern chareidi, committed chareidi and extremists. We have the luxury of knowing these 3 camps very well within Ramat Beit Shemesh. The second track is the dati leumi track, with the same 3 camps (modern, committed and extremists). The fundamental difference between dati leumi and charedi is ONLY leumi (nationalist) issues. NOT modesty, strictness in halacha, the shininess of an Esrog…nothing. Only Zionism. In addition, due to the natural pride of building the Jewish homeland, all 3 Zionist camps respect army service, education and work – even though many of the “committed” and “extremist” camps do not always serve the army, get an education and work. (much “frummer” than American black hats).

So this battle is real, and not at all new. And the “extremists” have the backing from serious rabbis and the agreement by many other rabbis to ignore the situation. And we all know, deep down, that the mainstream chareidi rabbis in Israel agree with the radical chareidim. Whether they agree or disagree with the tactics is one thing – but the underlying problem felt by the radical chareidim is agreed upon with virtually all mainstream chareidim. Some like the tactics and some don’t. But the tactics often get the job done…so all look the other way.

So again, this is a battle of values. And in Israel, much more than in the US, philosophy is a more important value than the Ten Commandments.

Couldn't have said it better myself

Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's not about Tzniut! (Agudat Yisrael's "condemnation")

First, read their statement on the violence in Beit Shemsh:

Agudath Israel Statement on Recent Events in Beit Shemesh

Just want to add my 2 cents on Agudat Yisrael's "condemnation":

There's no reason to throw tzniut into it. This has zero to do with tzniut. The issue isn't about people dressing immodestly, and them reacting. The issue is about them acting inappropriately, and using "modesty" as an excuse. I'm quite aware this is a minority, extremist sect, but... Now it's the modesty of an 8 year old girl. But it was girls sitting in the front of the bus. It's also Manny's selling books in English, or "Zionist" books. Or opening up a parking lot on Shabbat. Or moving the bones of pagans to build missile-proof ER (Barzila, Ashkelon).
Agudat Yisrael would have been just as good by condemning violence in the name of God, as that's clearly assur and a Chillul Hashem. Instead, they added extra, extraneous paragraphs, that serve more as a red herring. TZNIUT IS NOT THE ISSUE!!

The Sikrikim have decided to wage war on the rest of the Jewish people, not unlike the original Sicarii (for whom they take their name).  Remember that the original zealots helped bring the downfall of the second Temple, and were heavily condemned for their behavior long before the destruction by Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, one of the foremost Jewish leader, and a Tanna of major importance.  So it's not without precedence to be utterly repulsed by the actions of the current Sikrikim, even if you are a member of the Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) world.

The most important thing to remember is that the Sikrikim in no way represent what true ultra-Orthodoxy is about, and CERTAINLY do not represent religious Jewry or the State of Israel.

They take whatever issue they can in order to terrorize the population.  We must not get sucked into the idea that this is about tzniut or women.  Many times in the past this has been about hundreds of other issues.  And if we don't act soon, there will also be many times in the future.

Here's a small sampling of other issues that have been battle-cries for the Sikrikim:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Extreme Right May Be Extremists, But They Aint Terrorists

PM: Anyone harming security forces will 'pay a high price'

First read these two articles. Now I have a question: are they a terrorist group? Again, look at the facts and answer that question honestly: we have a group - no, group isn't the right word. There are certain people living in Israel who have an extreme ideology, and on their own accord, commit hooligan acts of violence. There is no central structure. There is no consensus. The people they claim to support condemn them, whether the Council for Communities of Judea and Samaria (the Yesha Council,) or MKs and Ministers of the Likud, Israel Beiteinu (Israel our Home), National Union, Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home), Shas, UTJ... All these people condemn the acts. They have no leader. They aren't even a group. When a mosque in Jerusalem is set alight, or the windows of a mosque in Jenin is broken, there is no connection between these groups.

What makes Hamas a terrorist group? There is a group with a centralized base of authority, leaders, a charter, etc. None of this exists among these "Right Wing Terrorists."

Now it should be clear: I condemn this behavior as well in the harshest of terms. It does the Right an injustice and by no means is this in the spirit of any of the Zionist leaders to whom we look, be it Ze'ev Jabotinsky as a political leader or HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook zatzal as a religious one. While the government is misguided in its own actions, that is by no means an excuse for acts of violence, AND CERTAINLY NOT AGAINST THE IDF! (Although the government has done a disservice by politicizing the IDF, this is by no means a reason to attack the soldiers who protect us, and further the ill-will and discord between the left and right.)

That being said, by deciding to label them as terrorists, Bibi is heading down a slippery slope. Who isn't a terrorist? Can we decide that the Mafia gangs in Rishon Letzion and Netanya are also "terrorists" whom the IDF can detain without cause, bypassing the courts AND the police? What about people who simply protest via civil disobedience, but not by "violent" means? Considering the IDF has failed to stop attacks in the past, what new criteria will be used to establish who is and who isn't a "terrorist?" If I wear a big knitted kippa, long peyot, and live in a more "radical settlement," am I now someone who can be detained with no probable cause until determined otherwise? Is it now guilty until proven innocent if you live over the Green Line or express right-wing views?

The government needs to step up and call a spade a spade. Israelis living over the Green Line need to be afforded the same rights as all other citizens. In Jerusalem, as in Tel Aviv, and Sderot, and Eilat, and Givaat Shmuel, and Beit Shemesh, and Modiin, and all the other communities that are not under "military rule," housing demolitions are carried out by the police under the complaints of the municipality and the Ministry of Housing. Only in Jewish communities over the Green Line (except East Jerusalem) do we have this phenomenon that houses, with full approval of the government, within the community's recognized borders, are housing demolitions carried out by the army and not by the police, with the authorization of the Defense Ministry and not the Housing Ministry, and that happen in the middle of the night with little to no warning. If rule of law was established, akin to within the Green Line, perhaps we'd see a reduction in these acts of vandalism. And no, this should not be misconstrued as giving in to terrorism. This should be construed as upholding the rule of law and the democratic nature of the country. And what to do about these hooligans? Treat them as such. If an "arse" vandalizes a building in town in Jerusalem because he's a bum, he's arrested and treated to due process. DO THE SAME!

ETA: Additional related articles

War-Hungry Youth (Israel Hayom)
Creating Tension to Expel Jews (Jerusalem Post Op-Ed)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Has Obama Treated Israel Fairly?

While this isn't a post of substance, and rather a clipping ground of links - please feel free to peruse, add more links, and explain why I'm an idiot ;-)

You be the judge - Has Obama treated Israel as fairly as George Bush treated Israel?



The Truth About the Refugees: Israel Palestinian Conflict

Once again, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon (Israel Beitunu - Israel Our Home), does it again, with a clear and concise video explanation of the issue.
The issue of Palestinian refugees is not so much Israel being the occupier, as one might believe. Palestinian refugees are actually a group of people cynically used by Arab leaders for their own benefit. They are not granted citizenship by the PA or any of the Arab countries within which thy reside, such as Lebanon and Syria. (The notable exception to this, to their credit, is Jordan.) They are not allowed to work, marry, leave the refugee camp... Compare this to the Jewish refugees from Arab countries (and from Europe after the Holocaust) who were unceremoniously thrown out of their own countries, (in contrast to the Palestinian refugees who mostly left,) and were immediately granted full Israeli citizenship.