Last week there were riots in Beit Shemesh about proposed construction over possible gravesites. Although I had not posted about this particular development, it did strike me as another failure of rabbinic leadership. What were these people doing?
In the interests of fairness – and with considerable joy at this positive development – we have the first signs of rabbinic leadership stepping up to the plate, and looking to show real leadership, as reported in Arutz Sheva:
Hareidi Rabbi will Fine Beit Shemesh Rioters
Eida Hareidit rabbis have had enough of violence over construction at Beit Shemesh site.
Rabbis from the Eida Hareidit stream have come out strongly against the violent demonstrations at the Golobentzich construction site in Ramat Beit Shemesh, and one of them has announced that the monthly stipend of “kollel” students who leave their studies in order to demonstrate in Ramat Beit Shemesh will be cut.
The demonstrators contend that there are ancient graves at the site, and that the construction work is disturbing these graves.
The announcement was made after extremists harassed Rabbi Sternbuch, Head of the Beit Din of the Eida Hareidit, and following a sharply worded letter issued by Rabbi Amram Ofman following this harassment. Rabbi Ofman and other rabbis within the Eida came out strongly against the rioting after Rabbi Sternbuch came under attack over his opinion that construction at the site could continue unimpeded.
A leader of the Eida Hareidit, Rabbi Avraham Simha Hanun, told students at his Beit Midrash in Beit Shemesh that whoever absents himself from studies in order to demonstrate at the Golobentzich site will pay for it from his stipend.
Rabbi Ofman wrote a special letter of protest in which he accused the extremists of “taking the law into their hands and making a mockery of the Torah.”
“There is a disagreement between the wise men of the generation, and kings are holding discussions with each other,” he wrote. “What do we care? This matter is up for them, and only them, to decide. It is, therefore, my duty to write a protest over the fact that our rabbi, the Minister of Torah, the Head of the Bit Din shlita is being defamed. This is an unforgivable crime, and he who defames a great scholar will rot in hell.”
The Eida Chareidit is an organization representing the more hard-line streams of hareidi Judaism in Israel. It is avowedly “anti-Zionist,” and – as opposed to the United Torah Judaism factions of Degel HaTorah and Aggudat Yisrael, and the Sephardic Shas party – rejects any form of political participation in the Israeli state, believing that its very founding prior to the messianic era is sacrilegious.
The fact that even the Eida Chareidit – which has often attacked the more moderate hareidi factions for not towing their ultra-conservative line – is now being forced to contend with extremists of its own, may indicate that the group is losing control of its more radical elements.
It’s a start.