When Jews are attacked in broad daylight in the world’s holiest city, something is horrifically wrong in Israel. Rashi, for example, comments on Yechezkel 39:7 that “Israel’s degradation is a profanation of His Name.” Such a Chilul HaShem recently occurred in Yerushalayim when Arab youths hurled snowballs at two Haredi Jews’ faces and mocked them.
Police who excel at arresting young Jewish women and elderly rabbis were nowhere to be found in this case. If the dereliction of the police is sickening—and that dereliction is ongoing in Yerushalayim and Lod and elsewhere—then sickening too was the defenseless reaction of the victims. The video of the snowball attack brought to mind these verses from Chaim Nachman Bialik’s poem “In the City of Slaughter,” about the 1903 Kishinev pogrom:
…the heirs Of Hasmoneans lay, with trembling knees, Concealed and cowering—the sons of the Maccabees! The seed of saints, the scions of the lions! In December, another group of Arabs in Yerushalayim attacked a Haredi yeshiva student. Before that, thugs in Ashdod beat a Haredi man on Shabbat. This aggression dovetails with a vicious media and political culture which has demonized Haredim in ways that look modeled on the Nazis. Likewise, inciting murder against other religious Jews results in no prosecution, whereas condemning an IDF officer for supporting the destruction of Gush Katif in 2005 results in conviction for “insulting a public servant.”
Haredim need to wake up to these realities and toughen up. As Rav Kook zt”l wrote in Orot:
Israel’s physical restoration is of cardinal importance. Our spiritual emphasis ignored the sanctity of the body, physical health and vigor. Let us remember that the Jew possesses a Divine body no less than a Divine spirit…Our regeneration entails a synthesis of the spiritual and physical, vibrant flesh and blood, sturdy organs and a glowing spirit sustained by firm muscles. The problem is that Haredim remain in Galut when it comes to this restoration. Rabbi David Bar-Hayim notes in this vein, “It’s possible to physically be in Eretz Yisrael but spiritually, psychologically, to be elsewhere. You don’t have to look very hard to understand what I’m referring to.” (See 57:15 here.) It’s urgent that Haredim begin to develop physical strength and preparedness in the tradition of Chushim ben Dan, Yehoshua, Shimshon, David HaMelech, and the Hashmonaim. There is nothing noble and everything disgraceful about being victimized in the same land where these great Jews of action lived.
In terms of specific forms of preparedness, self-protection through firearms is a very remote option for Haredim due to Israel’s highly restrictive gun ownership policies, which extends to the life-endangering disarmament of Jews. (Meanwhile, there are enormous amounts of illegal weapons among the Arab population.) Nevertheless, available means of self-protection and training should be utilized immediately. What Rabbi Meir Kahane Hy”d wrote in 1971 to an American audience in Never Again! has all too much relevance to Israel today:
The Jew, with his persistent image of weakness, unwillingness and inability to fight back is open to constant physical attacks on the part of non-Jews. A youngster wearing a skull cap and returning from a yeshiva is fair game. Jews walking in a park or playing ball in a playground are open to attacks. Such things must be met in the one way that is most effective—a feeling on the part of the attacker that he stands an excellent chance of being severely beaten himself. Jews must be taught to defend themselves physically. This is the surest deterrent to attacks upon them.Menachem Ben-Mordechai