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October 24, 2014 / 30 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Charedi’

Motives…

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

It always amuses me when I hear politicians saying that ISIS or any other Muslim terrorist group is not a religion. That what they do is not in any way related to the religious principles of Islam. That is the most ridiculous statement anyone can make.

Of course I understand what they really mean. They mean that mainstream Muslims do not act the way ISIS does. This is true. I will go further and say that most Muslims are as abhorred by ISIS as any normal person would be. But to say that ISIS is not motivated by religious principles is as ridiculous as saying the Crusades were not motivated by religious principles.

ISIS wants to set up a pure Islamic state. A Caliphate, where the ruler – called a Caliph – will be a cleric with the power to enforce Sharia (Islamic) law as the law of the land. With all of the attendant consequences for violations of those laws. Like cutting off the hands of a convicted thief.

When a true believer believes that its ends are the equivalent of God’s ends, then all means are valid in order to achieve them. That can then justify murder and terrorism. These people are highly motivated by their religion. They believe not only in murder and terror as a means to their end. They are Moser Nefesh for them. They are willing to give up their lives for the cause.

This is why so many of them become suicide bombers. They are doing it for Islam, the religion of peace. A peace that will endure for eternity once Islam becomes the established religion of the world. Killing even innocent Muslims in that cause is justified. They will receive their reward for their sacrifice in heaven.

These people may be condemned by mainstream Muslim clerics. But there is not a scintilla of doubt in my mind that their actions are motivated by their religious beliefs. To say they are not is to deny reality. In fact these people might be the most devout and the certainly the most zealous Muslims of them all.

So when the President says that this has nothing to do with Islam, my eyes roll.

While there is absolutely no comparison in magnitude, the same can be said about people who put up Pashkevils (posters) like the one above from Rafi’s blog. The sign says some pretty vile things.It calls for going to war with enemies that have entered our camp to rip out the holiness of our youth. No we are not talking about ISIS. We are not even talking about Hamas. Who are these enemies? Why it is the Zionist entity and its murderous military. To quote Rafi:

the pashkevil is calling on the community to come out today and battle the Zionist Amalek and chase out of the Haredi nieghborhoods all the traitors in Nahal Haredi and Shachar programs…

There are no signatures. But it claims to represent the will of great rabbinic leaders and sages. They are calling for war. Not a protest. But a war.

This ‘war’ was supposed to have taken place yesterday. I haven’t heard anything about it. It’s possible that no one actually paid any attention to it. I hope that’s the case. But the people behind posters like this are most likely the same ones who harass Charedi soldiers when they come into their communities. They are probably the same people that chase a religious solider out of their Shuls. They are probably the same ones who created those disgusting posters with caricatures of Charedi soldiers nefariously enticing their innocent youth into army service.

They are probably the same people who burn dumpsters in Jerusalem every time they want to protest something they don’t like about the government. They are probably the same ones who spit on reporters, throw rocks at cars on Shabbos, or at women whose level of modesty does not measure up to their standards – even if they are children as young as 8 years of age. Or that beat up women who sit in the unofficial men’s section of a bus

There are those who say that these people have nothing to do with Judaism. Charedi or otherwise That they are hooligans looking for mischief. That they are the outcasts of the Jewish world with lots of time on their hands. That they are people with no real Jewish values.

That is for the most part, probably true. Except for the last part. They most definitely do have Jewish values. It is those values that they are acting upon. That they may be doing so in inappropriate even condemnable ways. But does not take away the fact that they are doing it for God. They are fighting the evils of the army; he evils of Zionism; the evils of the lack of Tznius; or what have you. They are true believers, just like the Muslims of ISIS.

Just to be clear. I am in no way equating the Jewish miscreants with the terrorists of ISIS. The magnitude of difference is so huge that any comparison of one group to the other is ludicrous. As bad as these Jewish miscreants are, they do not line up people next to a ditch and mow them down with gunfire. They do not behead innocent journalists. But in terms of what motivates them, they are no different than ISIS.

Of course virtually every Jewish religious leader condemns them. Including Charedi ones. But all too often – that condemnation comes with a ‘but’. The ‘but’ being that their motives are just. That is clear from the rhetoric of many of those leaders themselves.

Mainstream rabbinic leaders have indeed said some pretty vile things about the army even while they were at war in Gaza. Much the same as these posters. That these people act on them in disgusting ways is sourced in exactly the same feelings of those rabbinic leaders. So that saying that these people have nothing to do with their religion is as ridiculous as saying that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam.

I think it is high time to recognize this very simple and sad fact and change the tone of Charedi opposition to the draft. And to certainly never say ‘but’ when condemning bad behavior no matter what the motives behind it are.

Mr. Abutbul: Tear Down that Wall!

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

I completely understand the predicament of the Charedi community in Ramat Bet Shemesh. Their student population increases exponentially every few years. Both naturally through a high birth rate and through new residents many of whom are American Charedi immigrants drawn to this over 90% observant community with huge numbers of English speakers.

Understandably their schools get filled very quickly. And the increase of students every year probably makes overcrowded classrooms the norm. They probably couldn’t build new schools fast enough… even if they were given the green light to do so.

On the other hand the secular residents of Bet Shemesh do not have this kind of population explosion. Their schools are not overcrowded. In fact there are many empty classrooms used for non academic purposes or extra-curricular activity. This is the case with the Safot Ve’tarbuyot (Languages and Culture) school in the Ramat Beit Shemesh. The school’s capacity is for 500 students. There are currently 144 enrolled.

A few years ago a Charedi girls school attempted to get permission from the Israeli Education Ministry to use those empty classrooms. They were denied. Sympathetic to the plight of children without classrooms, the Charedi led municipality of Bet Shemesh commandeered non instructional classrooms in Safot Ve’tarbuyot for use by Charedi girls and ordered municipal construction workers to build an 8 foot high wall in order to separate the two cultures.

This was done without the consent of the Education Ministry who ordered the Charedi school closed with the threat of cessation of funding for non compliance. Mayor Abutbol claimed that it didn’t need ministry permission since the school’s premises is under the direct authority of the city.

I think we can all guess what happened next. Violence broke out between teachers at the school who protested it and the security guards that accompanied the construction workers.

I do not understand why there has to be such enmity between religious Jews and secular Jews. The truth is that there is justifiable concerns on both sides of the issue. What bothers me is that no one seems to care about a compromise where both parties will fare well.

First let me say that despite the plight of Charedi students studying in crowded and substandard classrooms, I do not see a forcible takeover of empty classrooms as a solution. What’s worse in my view is building a ‘wall of separation’. Why must Charedim do that? Why can’t they use those classrooms without walls? What are they afraid of?

Is isolation for the secular world so important that it’s worth clashing with your neighbors and making enemies out of them? Isn’t it just possible that the Charedi girls might benefit from the interaction that may occur? That secular Jews might actually have something to teach them? And that the secular students may learn from the Charedi girls? Why are we building walls?!

At the same time, why can’t the secular side share space with the Charedim? There is a need. The space is there. What kind of Jew would deny a fellow Jew the opportunity to give his children decent classrooms when they are available? What is gained by denying them that?

That said, I do understand the fear that secular Jews have about the growth of the Charedi community. They fear that their community will become ‘Charedized’. And things like TVs and movie theaters will be banned. They see and hear things about extremists Charedi neighborhoods (like segregated sidewalks) and fear it will happen to them – if the Charedi population increases and overwhelms them.

I understand that fear. But it is a fear that can be dealt with if there are people of good will on both sides. The key is understanding and compromise. I firmly believe that the best possible solution to this ‘clash of cultures’ is to work together. Each side should try and put themselves in the shoes of the other. There need not be this divisiveness. Which breeds mistrust, anger, and eventually violence.

What Will the Future of Judaism Look Like?

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

I’ve discussed this topic many times. But last night it came through to me again as I heard a grandmother urge her grandchildren to seek a university education.

What makes this particular event so unique is that this grandmother is someone that I would call a Centrist or a Right Wing Modern Orthodox Jew (RWMO) – as is her husband. But her grandchildren are very Charedi.

As I have explained many times, Centrists are Jews are defined by their meticulous observance of Halacha, their belief in the supreme value of Torah study to which they dedicate much of their time… as well as supporting the elite scholars among us that do it full time. But they also place a high value on worldly knowledge as well as providing for their families.

There was a time when RWMOs sent their children to Centrist type day schools. Although many still do, there are just as many that send their children to Charedi day schools. They have moved rightward having been influenced in their own MO schools by Mechanchim that came from Charedi backgrounds.

And once they attended a Yeshiva or seminary in Israel… its all but over for many of them. Many of these Yeshivos and seminaries recruit students in Modern Orthodox schools hiding the fact that they are anti MO. They see themselves as ‘Kiruv’ type schools. What I mean by Kiruv in this instance is changing the Hashkafos of their students from those leaned in their homes to a Charedi Hashkafa. They call it growing.

I of course have no problem with growing, if it means becoming more serious about observance of Halacha and putting greater value on Torah study. But that is not all they do. They also very subtly (or even subliminally) denigrate Modern Orthodoxy without making any distinctions between the left, right, or center of that Hashkafa. They just see all of MO as light on observance. And they denigrate many of its values learned in the home. They replace it with Charedi concepts of Daas Torah and spell out who they believe is qualified to express it – to the exclusion of all others.

When these young people come back from their ‘gap year’ (so named because it is the gap between high school and college) many of them have changed course and now seek the values that have been instilled in them in their Israeli ‘Kiruv’ schools. In other words – they become Charedi.

After they get married their own children will of course never have the chance to learn about a Centrist Hashkafa. Other than to have it denigrated when it is brought up by their Mechanchim in the Charedi schools they attend. If you mention a university education to any of them, in many cases it will elicit derisive laughter.

But even without the ‘gap year’ in Israel, the very thing that is the hallmark of a RWMO Hashkafa – meticulous Mitzvah observance and the high value placed on Torah study- may in fact lead them to send their children to a Charedi day school. These parents are afraid of the secular influences brought into Centrist schools. They fear that being exposed to it will increase the chances of being enticed to go OTD.

The typical explanation I hear form RWMO’s who have university educations themselves about why they send their children to a Charedi school is: ‘Better to make my kids more frum than less frum.’ ‘I can always make them less Frum.’ ‘It’s much harder to make them more Frum.’

What happens instead is that their children are now influenced by the Charedi environment. They then continue to ‘grow’ in their Yiddishkeit and often end up spending years in a Kollel with lots of mouths to feed and little money with which to do it. And no real preparation for the workplace.

Keeping Haredim Excited About Torah

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Many of us have heard about the books and stories coming from those who grew up haredi (ultra-orthodox), but have since adopted a modern lifestyle. But while we are rightfully concerned when these tales make headlines, in order to change the situation for the better, it is in our best interest to find new ways to infuse life and vitality into observant life; a vitality that is enduring unlike the fleeting temporarily of secular experience.

A Purim Tale

Being both highly sensitive and introverted has made living in major cities challenging. But while each and every outdoor adventure is a “stethoscope to the world” experience, this challenge also carries great potential.

It is because of this sensitivity that a story from Shushan Purim a few weeks back stuck with me. It occurred not long after my family and I moved into an apartment in Jerusalem.

The Happy Collector

When I arrived to pray and hear the megillah Shushan Purim morning, there was a collector there that stood out because of his exuberance. It is a mitzvah to give charity to the poor on Purim* day, so there he was with his basket in hand ready to collect. But there were two things different about this gentleman. The first, as mentioned, was that he was in a happy, exuberant mood. The second was that he was exclaiming that giving charity to him was an ultra-fulfillment of the mitzvah.

Now you can imagine the thought that came to mind: It is a mitzvah to give to anyone who is needy. So how exactly would giving to him be any better?

Then during prayer I received my answer. There he was again, still exuberant as ever, running around with his charity basket and … his son in tow.

That morning a father had two options. Either he could go to synagogue and collect quietly, perhaps even leaving his son at home so he shouldn’t remember Purim as the time when his father asks for charity all day. Or he could inject a healthy dose of folly, a holy spirit of folly, and make sure that even though he still had to collect, Purim should still remain an enjoyable one for him and his son.

Non-Obligatory Novelties

The thought then occurred to me: While technically giving charity to this man fulfilled the obligation like any Jewish person in need, something extra special did come from his happy behavior. That even in the face of adversity and challenge, he found a way to both remain happy himself and bring enjoyment to his son on Purim.

According to the Avnei Nezer, a child who does not know how to perform the hidur (beautification) of a mitzvah is not required to do so. For instance, whereas a child is not obligated to perform the hidur of shaking the lulav (the mitzvah is to hold it); nevertheless it is praiseworthy to teach the child to shake in order to appreciate the inner (non-obligated) life and soul of the mitzvah (see the full explanation here).

While giving charity to this father was legally the same as giving to any other person in need, through his decision to make the day happy for himself and his son, we learn a great lesson in education. Thinking back to that Purim day, his son will remember the fact that he and his father managed to enjoy a Purim during those difficult times, not whether the reasons his father gave were rational.

Teaching Novelty in Education

We started this article on how to market Torah to haredim with this story because it captures the life and exuberance that every educator should have when instructing a classroom of students.

We brought an extreme case to show that even marketing tactics can be praiseworthy under certain pressing circumstances. How much more so then in the case of an established hidur, whereby we teach it (e.g., to shake the lulav) to the child even though he is not yet obligated.

But the life of the mitzvot change from generation to generation. Therefore, a true educator has to be attuned to the new hidurim that give life and exuberance to the act of learning and performing these mitzvot.

For instance, in our generation we have been given the opportunity to learn Torah with its mathematics, the triangles and squares in the Torah. This imparts a tremendous sense of fun and enjoyment to learning Torah. Like a hidur (e.g., shaking the lulav) not knowing the Torah’s math doesn’t detract from the mitzvah of learning Torah. The child could make do with just learning the Mishnah and Talmud.

If the Torah’s math is not learnt in a particular cheder or yeshivah, they don’t have to do strange things in order to introduce it, but it’s certainly too bad, because the hidur, this way of learning, is what gives a lot of life and novelty to the learning, (for example, see our mathematical analysis of the Haggadah song, Who Knows One?).

Difference between Haredi and other Jewish Schools

Presumably both haredi and modern Jewish schools would be interested in learning the mathematics behind the Torah. What then is the difference between the two?

As explained in “When Torah Goes Viral” the marketing for modern environments is to explain the unification that is taking place between the Torah and the wisdom of the world (in our case, mathematics). So whereas the way to market Torah mathematics to haredi schools is to explain this concept of a non-obligatory hidur mitzvah, for more modern environments, the selling point is the unification taking place between these two seemingly disparate worlds.

For example, so far there are over 9,000 views of this class given at a modern orthodox high school on Torah and mathematics. Notice that during the class, Rabbi Ginsburgh assumes that the students already know what algebraic expressions are. The novelty that we present to these children then is that the Torah relates to the algebra, geometry, etc… that they have already been learning. So too, when marketing to modern audiences outside the classroom, we continue along this path by asking whether they would like to know the Torah behind E=MC2, Pythagorean Triples, Pi, Euler’s Theorem, Golden Ratio, and so on …

But haredi audiences don’t know what any of these things are. For example, instead of the Fibonacci sequence, we can begin by calling it by its more accurate name (the “love series of numbers”). While the content is the same, what changes is the approach.

A Call to These “Wayward” Youth

For instance, now that these formerly haredi youths have entered the modern world it may be more appropriate to reach out to them with unifications instead of hidurim. As mentioned, teaching hidurim should begin from a young age, even before they are obligated. But now that this child has presumably entered or passed adolescence, and has studied something in university or from popular books, we should now reach out to them with the second approach.

*For simplicity, I will continue to refer to the day of the story as Purim, even though this was Shushan Purim, the day when the megillah is read in Jerusalem.

Images of ‘the Other’

Monday, September 30th, 2013
Once again I find myself on a plane flying back from yet another wonderful Yom Tov experience in Israel. As I have said in the past, the community in Ramat Bet Shemesh where I spend time with my family is physically and spiritually beautiful… and so are all the people I encountered there.
But I was disappointed at the way the Charedim there see Chilonim (secular Israelis).  And by the same token I am aware of the fact that many Chilonim have an entirely negative attitude about Charedim. A young Charedi teenager I spoke to told me that whenever he passes though a secuar neighborhood, he gets stares and whispers. This young man would not hurt a fly. All he is interested in is studying Torah in his Yeshiva.
Why is this the case?
Images of ‘the other’ are heavily biased by what the media report about them. When the secular media report on the vile actions of extremist Charedim – that is how all Charedim are perceived.  They don’t know about the relatively peaceful nature of the vast majority of Charedim. They only see what the media reports. They see screaming, rabbinic leaders and politicians. They see rock throwers spitters.  The media does not report  about the peaceful lives and good deeds of this community because that isn’t news. Rock throwing and spitting is. Even if it is only done by the few, that is how the Charedim are seen as a whole.
I am reminded of a story I read in one of the Charedi magazines. I do not recall the details but a Charedi woman saw a void in how patients are treated and filled it with tons of Chesed. She does so without discrimination – giving of herself to anyone in need regardless of how religious or secular they are
One time when she was serving a Chiloni woman , she was thanked and then was asked a ‘favor’: “Would she mind telling her people to stop throwing rocks at her?”
The Charedi woman took umbrage at that since she had never thrown so much as a pebble at anyone in her life.  I can understand why she felt that way. But she should have asked herself, why do they hate us so much? And what can be done to change attitudes?
In my view, the problem is that the two communities do not interact with each other. They therefore have no clue what the other side is really like. Their perceptions are driven by a secular media whose job it is to present hard news and not fluff pieces…. And by the rhetoric of by which the Cheredi media characterizes the Chiloni world. Each side rejects thee other and will have nothing to do with each other.
Jonathan Rosenblum had an article in the Sukkos edition of Mishpacha Magazine wherein he tried to make this point. He quoted a Drasha that explains each of the Daled Minim (Lulav and Esrog etc.) as the four segments of Jewry, The Esrog represents those Jews who have both Torah and Mitzvos; The Lulav –those with Torah alone, The Hadassim – Mitzvos alone; and the Aravos – those with neither Torah nor Mitzvos. While this is certainly an oversimplification of reality – one might say that the Aravos apply to the Chiloni world. But God tells us to combine all four Minim for the Mitzvah to be properly fulfilled.
The point is that all segments of the Klal are needed to fulfill the Mitzvah of The Daled Minim.  And this should be the attitude of us all. We all need each other. We ought to interact with each other and get to what we all are really like. We can discuss the issue that divide us and hopefully come to a resolution that will be acceptable to all. But even if we don’t we will have accomplished a very big step toward Achdus.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Whose Values Do They Represent?

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

I don’t see how anyone can claim that they are extremists who are an exception to the rule – amounting to only a small handful of Haredim. I am talking about people who are constantly degrading the values of those they disagree with by acting in truly disgusting ways.

It has happened again. From Israel Hayom:

Shear Yashuv residents inflamed to find haredi tourists bathing in a memorial fountain near the town, which was dedicated to 73 IDF soldiers who lost their lives in a terrible 1997 helicopter accident • Haredi tourists: “Memorials constitute idolatry.”

This kind of thing happens so frequently and in so many different places, it cannot possibly be attributed to a bunch of extremists that are not representative of Haredi values. And yet every time something like this gets reported in the media, there is always a Haredi apologist out there somewhere telling us we shouldn’t judge all Haredim by the actions of a few.

I of course agree with that in principle. And as I have said many times, most Haredim don’t do these kinds of things. Certainly not moderate Haredim but even right wing Haredim. They realize it is a Chilul HaShem. However – as I’ve said many times – the behavior though not approved of actually occurs precisely because of the Haredi values exemplified by the above response of those Chareid tourists.

Is there anyone who thinks that the sentiment expressed by them isn’t believed by them? It expresses a value of the majority of Haredi community.

I don’t know that the majority of the Haredi world actually considers such memorials to be idolatry. But I think it’s safe to say that they do completely characterize such memorials at the very least as un-Jewish. And something we ought not recognize in any way. The only difference between those Haredi bathers and the media apologists is that the apologists realize that disrespecting the memorial will be seen by the entire rest of the world as disrespecting the dead being memorialized.

So Rebbeim in Yeshivos advise their students never do anything that will be seen to dishonor lost loved ones in public. That would be considered a Chilul HaShem.

But those tourists probably think it is a Chilul HaShem – NOT to stand up for the truth. They therefore acted the way they did  with pride – having no problem desecrating that memorial by bathing in it.

The idea of showing one face to the public and another one internally was illustrated recently when a  Rosh Yeshiva or Rebbe described what he tells his students about how to act when sirens sound on Yom HaZikaron. He said when the sirens sound while they are in the confines of the Yeshiva, they are to be ignored. When they are out in public, they should stand silently along with the rest of the country. Why? Because it is not a Jewish way to memorialize the dead. Doing so in private therefore has no meaning to them. In public, however, they are to ‘play along’.

One may ask, what’s so terrible about that? What’s wrong with teaching students about the proper Jewish way to mourn the dead? There is of course nothing wrong and everything right about that.

What is wrong here is that it is more than about teaching proper Jewish thought.They aren’t just teaching their students how to properly mourn the dead. They are teaching them that Israel is run by a bunch of Apikurism (heretics) who ‘ape the Goyim’. Students are taught to disrespect everything about the government of Israel and Israeli society. Israel is constantly being vilified to Haredi students by their Haredi teachers.

The smarter ones also realize that there should be no public displays of disrespect to the Israeli populace. For example in how they mourn their dead. That would be a Chilul HaShem. Nonetheless the lesson constantly taught and heard over and over again by students is that Israel is evil and if not for the Chilul HaShem it is indeed correct to dishonor the ‘Goyishe way’ in which Israel does everything. Including the way in which the dead are memorialized.

There are of course some Mechanchim who do not make those caveats to their students. Especially in places like Meah Shearim. Is it any wonder then that there are Haredim who feel free to desecrate a memorial in the way these Haredim did? They are merely expressing their true Hashkafos – oblivious to the Chilul HaShem – thinking that it is a Kiddush HaShem!

That is why when these bathing tourists were asked about it, they responded the way they did. It is the same kind of thinking had by Haredim who held a barbecue in a public park this past Yom HaZikaron while the rest of Israel was somberly mourning soldiers killed in action. ‘It’s not the Jewish way to mourn this way – and by golly we’re going to teach these ‘evil’- or at best ignorant Jews by example what we really think of it!’

It’s the same kind of thinking that goes on when a woman get’s spat upon because the spitter does not approve of the way she dresses. This too happened recently in the city of Ashdod recently. From Ynet:

A, a 15-year-old girl and her mother complained that a haredi man asked the girl not to walk by a yeshiva located in the city center, and even spat on her because of the way she was dressed.

The girl was walking along the street Monday, as she does everyday, to pick up her 6-year-old little sister from kindergarten. At a distance of a kilometer and a half away from her home, the girl – who wore a tank top and a skirt – was approached by a haredi man who yelled at her: “Walk behind the parking lot’s wall”

At first, A., did not understand what he was talking about, and asked the man “Why?” to which he replied “Because you’re immodest, there are people studying Torah here.”

A., who did not want to confront the man picked up her pace and defiantly told him “I’m not going to,” to which he answered “Why are you so stubborn?” and then spat on her.

This is becoming so common it almost as though it were the norm in Haredi circles. I can understand why a Haredi man concerned with the Kedusha of his Yeshiva would be upset at a woman wearing a tank top passing by. And even though I would disagree with him doing it since she has the right to dress as any she chooses in public – I would understand if he politely asked if she would in the future dress more modestly around the Yeshiva.

But when he demands it and then spits on her when she doesn’t comply, that is a Chilul HaShem even though in his own mind he thinks it is a Kiddush HaShem . As would all the spitters, screamers, and haters all over the world who would act the same way under similar circumstances.

As if that weren’t enough let us not forget about the bus ‘bombers’. No… not the Islamist  suicide bombers. The Haredi ones in Bet Shemesh who yesterday smashed the windsheild of a bus and broke other windows with a hammer after after a woman refused to sit apart from men. They later attacked two other buses by ‘bombing’ them with stones and breaking their windows.

So the next time you hear a Haredi spokesman say that these people do not represent them, I would take that with a huge grain of salt.

Update
The woman who was asked to move to the back of the bus was interviewed by a religious radio station in Israel. She described the situation as follows. As a new immigrant unfamiliar with sex segregated buses in her new community she sat down at the front of the bus with her young children and all the packages she was carrying.

She was then immediately but politely asked to move to the back by one of the Haredi women who came up to her. At first she refused because of all the packages and her children. She was offered help with all that and she then agreed to move. The bus driver became irate when he saw this and decided to call the police. That is apparently when all hell broke loose.

In my view, this changes little except the precipitating event caused by the bus driver. The bus driver may have been foolish and impetuous in making that call when the situations seemed to be taking care of itself.

But the rioting Haredim that responded by damaging that bus and other buses nearby is what ought to be focused on here. This is not a civilized response to a grievance against what a bus driver did. And although the bus driver should have perhaps not exacerbated the situation, clearly he too acted out of his indignation at what he thought was wrong.

If one will say that I too am being apologetic, I would only ask that you compare how the bus driver reacted to what he saw as an injustice – to how these Haredim reacted to what they saw as an injustice. Had those Haredim reacted in a similarly civilized manner, there would be no story. And no Chilul HaShem.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

God’s Army

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

You might think the army is the single most effective tool for bringing everyone together in Israel. It is a brilliantly successful citizen’s army designed to protect the nation, an army of the people, by the people, for the people. After all, the struggle to survive is the most primordial of human motivations. Surely we can all agree that we need to ensure survival? But no, sadly, we cannot.

Many religious Israelis strongly believe that sitting and studying Torah all the time is the best possible defense against our enemies and that there is no need for an army because God will protect us.

Others believe there might be a need for an army, but let other people endure the hardships, risks and time, while they pursue a scholar’s life, regardless.

Some agree to a compromise; genuine scholars ought to be granted the privilege of devoting their lives to study but less motivated young men might do well to have some army training and enhanced prospects of getting a job.

And there are, of course, other completely committed religious Jews willingly serve, and they do remarkably well, too. Increasingly, the elite soldiers are coming from the religious nationalist sector of the community, committed ideologically to defending the land, the religion, and the ancient borders promised by the Bible.

Don’t think that secular Israelis are not just as divided.

Some are eager to join the army for its camaraderie and training that in some areas equips them to be captains of industry and internet entrepreneurs.

Many argue that the army is an important tool of education and socialization and the reason that Israel has done better than any other state in integrating such a huge proportion of new immigrants from such diverse languages, backgrounds, and cultures.

Others think it imposes a simplistic, false ideological sense of militarism that conflicts with their sense of morality.

Some refuse to serve because they prefer to spend their time on sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Some are cowards.

And some oppose occupation and object to settlements. They do not wish to serve in what they see as the armed wing of corrupt politicians or of governments whose political position they find offensive.

Some Israelis think it intolerable that all Charedi men do not serve in the army and play their part in defending their land.

Others think it’s a jolly good thing they don’t because we all know what happens when fanatics get hold of guns. And no army can allow its officers to be dictated to by rabbis. And it would affect the current role of women in the army. Besides, many of them are simply not army material.

Some argue that an elite voluntary force would be better than forcing people into conscription. Modern warfare needs fewer bodies in boots on the ground and more technical brain power. Others say that brain power is the key nowadays and Talmudic academies are well known for increasing brain power.

And we should not forget that there is a middle option of community service. After all, a similar divide over women serving in the first place was resolved by allowing Orthodox girls to serve in more protected and homogeneous groups.

In addition to the variety of opinions, misinformation and mistrust abounds. Many secular Israelis believe that no religious Jews serve in the army altogether. 30% currently do. Most religious Jews think all secular Jews are Godless atheists. Each side tells lies about the other, and each side’s press churns out half-truths and false rumors about the other. The more one side pushes back, the more aggressive the other gets.

This past week we have read about Charedi soldiers being attacked when they returned to their communities wearing army uniform instead of black hats. There was a story about Charedi protesting against other Charedi young men attending a military passing out parade. On the other hand, there are stories about secular commanders making life difficult for religious conscripts: refusing to address their religious concerns and victimizing them. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. This inter-community tension has always been a significant feature of Israeli life.

Whether one agrees with one side or the other, there is a genuine cultural conflict of values and attitudes. Secular Israelis have a value system closer to Hollywood than Jerusalem. Charedi youngsters are brought up segregated and protected enclaves. Their leadership fears that if they are suddenly throw then into a mixed secular environment only the strongest would be able to resist the seduction of a liberal society. But of course one could ask why are there so many brought up within the walls of the Charedi ghettos who still succumb to temptation even without going into the army.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/gods-army/2013/06/05/

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