While the campaign against the “New Haredim” in the ultra Orthodox neighborhoods is becoming an all out war, according to the website Kikar hashabbat, the reality on the ground is a great deal calmer and saner, says Haredi journalist Rabbi Israel Gelis.
The “New Haredim” are People inside the Haredi world who opt to serve in the IDF and go to work or attend university, rather than stay and learn in yeshivas and kolelim.
The more extreme in the Haredi camp are conducting an ever heating war against the government’s plan to enlist Haredim in the military, as well as alter yeshiva curricula to include Math and English and to encourage Haredim to enter the job market—and those Haredim who appear to comply with the “decrees’ are being marked as public enemies.
Last Thursday, the tires of a car belonging to Jacob Wieder, head of the Haredi Dept. in the Likud party, were cut, and the car was covered with posters vilifying the Haredim who go to work for “the damage you’re causing Haredi society.”
Wieder, who filed a complaint with the police, told Kikar Hashabbat: “I call on public functionaries to take care of this nasty phenomenon.”
Wieder added: “The violence of individuals will not in the least detract from our activities, I have no doubt that these are the fruits of the wild incitement that’s currently overwhelming the Haredi streets.”
Weider said he was horrified by the language of the attacks, which likens the gainfully employed Haredim to “bacteria and viruses and air pollutants,” and said they just had to be stopped.
Wieder warned that the phenomenon would worsen and result in physical injury to people. “Today it’s me, tomorrow it will be someone else—we have to end this violence.”
Two weeks ago, according to Kikar Hashabbat, a Haredi soldier, resident of Bnei Brak, received a threatening letter regarding his military service. The letter threatened a campaign against the soldier if he did not leave the military and remove the uniform which the letter called “impure.”
The letter concluded with a threat against the soldier’s life, and was signed, bizarrely enough, “The Association of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in B’nei B’rak, Officer of the Rebellion.”
The soldier responded to the threatening letter with his own published letter, in which he declared: “I am proud to have been serving in the IDF for two weeks now, while remaining no less Haredi, Jewish and observant than any of my Haredi friends.”
Veteran Haredi journalist and radio host Rabbi Israel Gelis told The Jewish Press that these extremist actions in the Haredi community are committed by “less than a minyan” of young men with too much time on their hands.
Gelis blames the media for accentuating the negative and violent acts of a very small minority, over the mature and calm behavior of the vast majority of Haredim. “It’s like the Women of the Wall incident,” on the first of the month of Sivan, he says, “when thousands of women stood in quiet prayer and all they showed on TV were the few guys throwing water bottles, cursing, and clashing with police.”
As to the cut tires and the letter to the soldier, Gelis says it’s the same, very few crazies. “There’s no such thing as a hostile atmosphere in the Haredi street against those who serve in the Army,” he says.
According to Gelis, the integration of Haredim in the Israeli society is far more advanced than the public at large understands. More than 20 thousand Haredim are currently attending universities and colleges in Israel, he says.
“The Belzer Rebbe has started an employment agency for Belzer chassidim,” Gelis revealed. “The Rebbe sends there any young man he knows is not up for learning. Let him find a job.” According to Gelis, these men receive core curriculum education that matches the needs of their employers. The classes are funded by the Joint.
Last Thursday, thousands of Haredim protested in Jerusalem against plans to enlist Haredi men into the military. Between 25 and 35 thousand protesters gathered outside the military draft bureau to hear rabbis warn that army service would irreparably harm their way of life.
“The government wants to uproot and secularize us,” Rabbi David Zycherman said, according to Reuters, “They call it a melting pot, but people cannot be melted.”
So who were the 30 thousand plus at the rally in front of the recruiting office Thursday?
“They can be divided into three groups,” Gelis explains. “One group are the faithful of the Edah Haharedit—the rabbis say they should go protest a government decree—bang, they’re out there.” Another group are not necessarily identified with the protest, but they’re curious to hear what the speakers have to say—”That’s the Jerusalemite group,” he says. “And finally, another third are folks who would show up at any rally—tomorrow you’ll protest the price of tomatoes, or unheated water in the mikvah—they’ll be there.”
About a dozen were arrested after protesters hurled bottles and stones at police, who used stun grenades. A water cannon was also deployed when protesters set a garbage bin on fire. At least six officers required medical treatment.
But the discourse inside the Haredi community is almost entirely free from the kind of violent language that’s being emphasized by the media, says Israel Gelis, who has completed his IDF service, works for various secular media outlets and occasionally attends morning prayers with a Satmar minyan in Jerusalem.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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