IDF Major Rabbi Shraga Dahan this week arrived at the Chabad synagogue in Beit Shemesh dressed in his uniform, and was attacked verbally by a youth who called him “Hardak,” Haredim 10 reported.
The term Hardak is an offensive slur which represents both an acronym for Haredi Kal Da’at or Vain Haredi, but is also a combination of the words harak and haidak, which mean, respectively, insect and germ in Hebrew. The term was featured in an anonymous campaign that was begun back in 2013 by Haredim opposed to the draft, to attack their kin who decide to enlist. The purpose of what eventually became a nasty and occasionally violent campaign, was to create a public pressure that would discourage young Haredim who are contemplating service in the Army. The Hardak campaign also encompassed an attack on Haredi individuals who use smartphones, who were dubbed Modern Haredim. Beit Shemesh, a city outside Jerusalem which is split down the middle between Haredim in one section and Modern Orthodox and secular Jews in another, has been one of the most vocal hubs of the campaign.
Hardak campaign poster
According to Major Dahan, this was not the first time he had been attacked this way, but this time he decided to respond. “A year ago I was walking around [Haredi] Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet and they threw stuff at me, cups, etc, and cursed me out.” On a different occasion, Dahan was attacked when making a shiva call in Kiryat Malachi, despite the fact that he was accompanied by the neighborhood rabbi.
Dahan, a Chabad Hasid who serves as military chaplain, said he started to fear even walking through the Haredi neighborhoods of Jerusalem, such as Geula. “It’s not normal,” he said. “I’m not ashamed of what I do, should I apologize for representing Judaism in the IDF?”
Finally, being attacked inside his own synagogue was the straw that broke his camel’s back. He walked over to the catcalling youth and took away his hat. “I didn’t want to beat him up, I wanted him to understand what he had done,” Dahan explained. He then ordered the youth to sit down and recite a chapter of Tehilim for the wellbeing of IDF soldiers, if he wanted to get his hat back.
After 40 minutes of recitation, Dahan approached the youth again and offered to study together Chapter 32 in the Tanya, the foundation text of the Chabad Lubavitch movement. The chapter deals with loving one’s fellow Jew — suggesting all of Israel are called brothers because their souls are rooted in the same, singular God, only their bodies are distinct from each other. However, there can be no true love and fraternity between those who regard their bodies as primary and their souls secondary, it would only be a love based on an external factor (Source: Chabad.org).
The young man was reluctant at first, but eventually understood that if he wanted his hat back (it costs between $50 and $100 new), he’d better sit down with the rabbi in uniform and learn.
“To his credit, in the end he understood his mistake and heartfully begged my forgiveness,” Major Dahan said. “I asked him if he regretted his actions and would commit to never repeating them in the future and he answered yes.” Dahan believes this is the only way to reach Jewish extremists — learn with them about loving all of Israel.
“Let my reward be that I managed to bring some love of Israel during the period of the sefirah,” he concluded.
The period of 33 days beginning on the second day of Passover is considered a time of misfortune in Jewish history. It is part of the Sefirat Ha’Omer, the counting of the 49 days from the night after the seder leading up to the holiday of Shavuot, when the new grain will become permitted for eating.