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Ending Zealotry in the Name of God

There is a new group of zealots who have taken a cue from the price taggers. They refer to themselves as Torah taggers.
Zealotry

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Sometimes I just want to explode! I keep reading stuff about how some people believe they are foreordained by God to be His messengers. As such they feel they have a right to do whatever it takes to see that His will is done. His will… according the best of their understanding. Whatever it takes usually ends up hurting innocent people. In some cases it includes even murder and suicide for that cause. That’s what Islamists do.

Although there have been exceptions (Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir come to mind) Jews do not tend toward murder or suicide. But we do have our zealots. Many of them. And they can be found among the extreme fringes of observant Jewry. These people will have the same sense of doing “what’s necessary” in service to God.

There are religious Zionist zealots called “price taggers.” They have attacked innocent Arabs or government installations in retaliation for injustices they believe were done to them. But they are not the only price taggers. In the most ironic of ironies, there is a new group of zealots who have taken a cue from the price taggers. They refer to themselves as Torah taggers. And they are Haredi.

These Haredi zealots are the polar opposites of the Religious Zionist price taggers. They actually support the goals of the Arabs. Instead of insisting on colonizing all parts of Eretz Yisroel at all costs – as do many on the extreme right of religious Zionism – they would cede all of Eretz Yisroel to the Arabs. But that is not what animated them recently.

This time it was the Women of the Wall (WoW). They have decided to act in the name of God. And have vandalized the home of Peggy Cidor, one of their leaders. This is being reported inmany media outlets. The graffiti uses some pretty disgusting language about these women. From the Jewish Press:

Some of the graffiti sprayed on the door and stairwell of Peggy Cidor’s apartment read in Hebrew: “Women of the Wall are wicked,” “Peggy, your time is up,” “Peggy, we know where you live,” and “Jerusalem is holy,” according to the Women of the Wall.

Now I know that graffiti is not the same as physical violence. But these are the same people who throw rocks at cars, spit on reporters, yell at little girls calling them whores, burn dumpsters, throw acid on women who do not dress according to their modesty standards, beat up vendors who dare to sell MP4 players, burn down stores that sell clothing that do not measure up to their modesty standards, beat up women who dare to sit in the front (men’s) section of a Mehadrin bus, intimidate victims of abuse and their families, torch restaurants that allow mixed seating… and use all manner of violent behavior in the name of God. Graffiti is just their latest tactic.

Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich has condemned their actions.. saying that these people do not represent Judaism. But these people argue that they are the epitome of Judaism claiming justification for their actions because of WoW’s breach of tradition.

The apologetic response I often hear from the right is that these are just vandals and not mainstream anything! Not even mainstream Meah Shearim. In fact the Women of the Wall actually conceded this point in their own statement saying that it was likely the actions of bored youth.

You know what? I don’t buy that. At least not completely. There is just too much of that going on all over Israel in places where individuals like these are found. And they all react in similar ways – with violence of one sort or another. The thugs who beat up a defenseless woman on a bus in Jerusalem are not the same people who called a little girl a whore in Ramat Bet Shemesh. But they are of the same mindset. The actual vandals may be few in numbers relative to the whole. And they may take ‘the law into their own hands’ – whereas most of their community does not go that far. But make no mistake about it. These aren’t just kids out on a lark with a can of spray paint out to do indiscriminate damage. These are people with a plan and a goal. They are zealots for God!

Thus far all the condemnation in the world hasn’t helped. These zealots keep doing things like this with apparent impunity. That’s because all those verbal condemnations did not stop them. And that’s about as far as the rabbinic leadership will go with these people. Especially the Meah Shearim/Eida HaHaredis types. They will not turn these vandals in to the police – no doubt because they believe it would violates the laws of mesira (informing). Not to mention the fact that they consider the authorities to be reshaim – evil people. So this kind of thing will not only continue, but may very well escalate.

The irony of all this is that this latest act was probably generated by the rabbinic call for prayer at the Kotel to masses of Haredi young women. That event brought media attention to it and an increased fervor by the zealots to resist the Women of the Wall with all their might. The rabbis had hoped that a show of strength in numbers through a massive act of prayer would once and for all discourage these women. They somehow believed that this show of strength would tell the world that the majority of women really want only traditional modes of prayer at the Kotel. Not the radical modalities brought to the Kotel by WoW.

But predictably that has only strengthened WoW’s resolve… and the media attention brought their issue to the wider attention of other liberal groups who support them in greater numbers than ever.

As I have said repeatedly, I am not a fan of WoW. I think that their activities at the wall are as much about women’s rights as they are about devotion to God. At least as far as their leader Anat Hoffman is concerned.

This latest event has angered me. Every fiber in my body wants to retaliate. Mida K’Neged Mida, measure for measure. That is the Godly way. It is how God punished the Egyptians in biblical times and we are created in the image of God. But as an opponent of violence, I do not advocate doing this. It would be just as wrong for example to spray graffiti on the walls of a home belonging to a leader of the Eida HaHaredis in retaliation. Two wrongs do not make a right.

Arresting these vandals won’t stop them either. There are just too many of them. Besides Israeli jail cells seem to have revolving doors for these people.

Perhaps it’s time to take a different approach. I know this is nothing short of a fantasy, but wouldn’t it be nice if for example next Rosh Chodesh (first of the Hebrew month) rabbinic leaders themselves – people like like Rav Moshe Sternbuch, Rav Aharon Leib Steinman, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Rav Nissin Karelitz, and Rav Shmuel Auerbach among others – joined Rav Shmuel Rabinovich at the Kotel and stood with the Women of the Wall? Not in support of what they are doing. But in opposition to the almost certain violence it will now generate? Let the zealots try and throw rocks and garbage at them!

Even though I am opposed to the Women of the Wall, I am more opposed to the violent opposition to them. It’s time to stand up for what’s right… and against what’s wrong. There needs to be a way to end what these zealots constantly do – creating one desecration of God’s name after another. I can think of no better way to do that, than by a show of unity among rabbinic leaders in clear opposition to them right there at the Kotel.

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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


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Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
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