Headline of the week

From the Jerusalem Post:

Haredim riot over arrest of pub-going, draft-dodging yeshiva student

The back story, as to how the yeshiva student was arrested, is even more amusing.

The violent demonstrations started on Thursday after a haredi yeshiva student from Elad was arrested in Eilat.

The student and three of his friends had been visiting the Crazy Elephant night club and then hailed a cab to take them to the main promenade where they wanted to find a pub.

According to the police, the group of four yeshiva students underpaid for their cab ride by NIS 5 and the cab driver, who was unhappy with their behavior, reported them to the police.

The police were able to identify and locate the youths, and upon detaining them discovered that one of them had not reported to the IDF for the preliminary drafting process.

According to the police report, none of the yeshiva students was wearing any religious items such as yarmulkes or tzitzit; they were dressed like secular young men on a night out.

In an interview with news website Haredim 10, the cab driver explained that it was the rude behavior of the four young men, which included them throwing an NIS 20 bill at him, which led him to make the complaint to the police.

Ha! It rather looks like Divine Justice to me. If the silly buggers hadn’t misbehaved, none of this would have happened. Perhaps the haredim might stop to ponder on that.

Working does not contradict Torah

I wasn’t online much during the Pesach week, so I am only now catching up on the Globes piece published on 27th April 2016 about ZAKA chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav.

ZAKA is a haredi organization that “rescues, identifies, and traces Jewish disaster victims in Israel and all over the world.” Zahav is a former anti-Zionist militant, which adds somewhat to the message conveyed in the interview, and to the sense of selflessness and of pure charity given by the man and his helpers.

Zahav was asked about the recent incident of an 81 year-old female passenger on a plane, asked to switch seats because a haredi man refused to sit next to her. Here’s his very quotable response:

“Things are so crazy here that everyone thinks how to be more strictly observant, how to show that he’s stricter… I don’t believe in all this nonsense. I’m rational. I don’t believe cult-like religious leaders and other foolishness. They taught us respect that the worst thing you can do is humiliate someone in public. It’s better to be thrown into the furnace than to humiliate your fellow man. There are stories about Rabbi Auerbach, one of the greatest religious authorities, when he would travel on a bus and a woman sat next to him. He didn’t get up. He said that respecting a person, respecting your fellow human being, took precedence over everything. God will forgo the respect due him if the purpose is to honor your fellow human being. To injure a woman, and for what? That’s not cleanliness, holiness, duty, or a commandment. It’s lack of respect for your fellow human being. Yes, there’s a non-ending argument among haredi Jews. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was asked once if it was permitted to extend a hand back to a woman who puts her hand out to you. He ruled that it was permissible. That’s the way of Judaism. Respect takes precedence over Torah; that’s no slogan or cliche.”

I certainly learned that respect was more important than personal pride. And his comments ring all too true with me. Unfortunately, there are too many religious extremists who seem to have learned differently. Of course they are wrong, but…

As for the whole working or studying situation, Zahav says this:

“There’s something strange here that happens only in Israel. People work in all Jewish communities. The most extreme Jews in the US, the Satmar Hasidic Jews, work. All of them. The lay leader of the community, the most highly respected man, who sits next to the Satmar rabbinical leader on Sabbath eve, wears blue overalls and works in a printing firm during the week, and then wears all the Hasidic trimmings on the Sabbath. Only here in Israel do haredim not work. Why? They say that after the Holocaust, after the world of Torah was destroyed, the rabbis were unwilling to listen to anything before the world of Torah was rebuilt. Even if that were true then, however, it looks to me like an excuse later. In any case, the state of Israel owes a great debt to my dear friend, (former Minister of Finance and MK) Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid). He broke the direct connection between the yeshiva and the labor market. Before, anyone who left the yeshiva was automatically drafted into the army, but not now. The haredim have realized this, and one day, they will praise him. The result is that more and more haredi men are going to work. I don’t understand how it can be otherwise.”

Quite an eye opener. You will see that he, at least, recognizes the need for work, and the benefit of Lapid‘s policies which, nevertheless, were so denounced and hated by the haredi establishment.

In summary, Zahav is a real mensch, doing unbelievable work of which I suspect the Globes piece (which you can read here) only gives a tiny hint. How he went from anti-Zionist to national hero is especially poignant.

We are fortunate there are people like him in Israel.

Anger issues

I confess, I have anger issues. For example, this, from the Jerusalem Post, makes me angry:

Responding to a question at a press conference he called to announce that the Knesset would be dissolved, Netanyahu said he did not agree with the criminal sanctions clause of the law that was passed earlier this year which stipulates that a yeshiva student who refuses to perform military service be subject to imprisonment, as are all other Jewish men.

“I do not think that yeshiva students studying Torah should go to prison. This was not to my liking,” said the prime minister during the press conference.

Repeal of the criminal sanctions clause will be high on the agenda for haredi political parties Shas and United Torah Judaism when it comes to the coalition negotiations following the coming elections.

I must have missed the bit where it says in the Torah that religious Jews who break the law should suffer no penalty.

Either we live in a society with law and order, or we don’t.

Either we live in a society that believes in sharing the burden, or we don’t.

Either we are all treated the same, or we are betraying our tradition, our heritage, our history, and our obligations to one another.

I hope, with all my heart, that this approach causes such a backlash that the next government not only refuses to repeal the criminal sanctions against draft dodgers, but enforces the law without favor or affection for any group. And I hope that religious Jews are a healthy part of the electorate responsible for the backlash.

A pig of an argument

From the Times of Israel:

Members of the ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem distributed posters this week caricaturing Haredi Jews serving in the IDF as pigs and accused them of attempting to corrupt the religious community.

The flyers were part of a campaign against the participation of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the IDF whose slogan brands religious soldiers as insects and attempts to dissuade others from the community from joining them.

Here’s the poster:


“They sent me to confuse the boys in the seminaries, and dry out their souls,” the caricature pig-soldier brags in the text of the posters, which were pasted on walls in some of the capital’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods earlier this week. “I fool them with slogans from the Gemara, but in effect I’m something else entirely.”

Alongside him are three ultra-Orthodox children who scoff at the soldier, who wears a black skullcap, is carrying a Talmud and has a gun over his shoulder. “Look at what ears he has,” one says, “just like a hyena.”

“I actually think it’s a fox, look at its smile,” the second says.

“I’m telling you that it’s ‘something else [i.e. a pig]‘ entirely, look at its nose and look at what it has in its pocket,” the third says. The pig-soldier has a copy of Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth sticking out of his IDF uniform pants.

A young man in a black suit, presumably old enough to be drafted into the army, runs away.

Last year, a series of caricature posters widely distributed in ultra-Orthodox areas across Israel showed the IDF rounding up Haredi children in order to force them into the military; or tranquil Haredi streets being forcefully cleansed of IDF-serving traitors. “Keep this area clean!” one poster bellowed in red ink.

Why the new campaign?

According to government statistics published in September, ultra-Orthodox enlistment in the IDF is up 39 percent this year, but still below quotas enshrined in the 2013 “equal-burden” law, which mandated ultra-Orthodox participation in the army or national service.

The 2013-2014 conscription cycle saw 1,972 ultra-Orthodox youth enlist in the IDF, up from 1,416 in 2012-2013 and from 1,327 in 2011-2012, according to the committee tasked with monitoring the implementation of the law.

The law, which also mandates legal ramifications for individuals and yeshivas that do not comply with enlistment, has been protested heavily by the ultra-Orthodox community. Members of the ultra-Orthodox community have demonstrated against the law, and radicals have gone so far as to attack Haredi soldiers in uniform.

I venture to suggest that such a clearly defamatory (and nonsensical) campaign, as well as being about an explicit case of lashan hara as you can find, means that the Haredi hierarchy are losing the argument, know it, and are desperate.

Expect more protests. Expect more extremism. But still expect the numbers of Haredim enlisting to rise. They must not be allowed to prevent the equalization – or at least movement towards equalization – happening.

Attention, real Chareidim

This is a barnstormer of an editorial from the current issue of Torah Tidbits:

“Two years ago, in the pre-Yom HaAtzmaut issue of Torah Tidbits, I raised the issue of army service for all – including yeshiva students. I made it clear then – and I make it clear now – that what I was writing was personal and not necessarily reflective of OU policy. And I say that again now.

I’m not going to write about that issue directly – although I haven’t changed my feelings as to where I stand. There are other things on my mind. Before we start putting an issue of TT together, I mull over what will be the main idea of the Lead Tidbit. Then the issue begins to take shape and I sometimes find my idea expressed by others. I specifically call your attention to Rabbi Sprecher’s article and to Rabbi Roness’s Chizuk and Idud column. (It might not be a bad idea to read them first and then continue with this.) I felt a little panic that both had mentioned the Rav’s comment about the Israeli Flag, but decided that each article said its own thing. And so will this Lead Tidbit.

Dear TTreader: Whatever your feelings and opinions are about army (or national) service for ‘chareidim’ are, I would hope and pray that we can agree on the following points.

A chareidi young man who decides to join the IDF should not be spit upon by individuals from the chareidi community. He should not have things thrown at him. He should not be cursed. He should not be told to take off his kipa and tzitzit – and his commanders in Nachal Chareidi (or otherwise) should not have to give him permission to change into civilian garb before he goes home on leave, so that he will not be subjected to the abuse that has become common in certain neighborhoods.

I would also hope that Jews of all shades of the religious spectrum would agree that burning garbage cans is not the way to protest anything.

I would even suggest that the majority of chareidim (those whom I referred to in the title as real Chareidim, meaning those who truly are CHAREID LIDVAR HASHEM) are opposed to and maybe even embarrassed by the actions of the ‘fringe’ extremist.

So how about saying so? Where is the uproar of protest within the chareidi community against to unacceptable behaviors as above?

More: Even if one believes that Torah study should exempt a young man from military service, what about a regular pubic prayer in shuls throughout the country and the Jewish world asking G-d to protect our soldiers and security forces who risk their lives to protect ours?

We all say MI SHEBEIRACHs for a person who received an aliya to the Torah, for a woman who gave birth, for sick people, for those who toil on behalf of the tzibur… there is even a
MI SHEBEIRACH for people who do not speak during davening!

Shouldn’t all Jews say a prayer for Chayalim – regardless of their stance on who should and should not serve?

Refusal to do so goes way beyond opposing Giyus Talmidei Yeshivot.

Can you imagine the difference in perception and attitude in the general Israeli population towards chareidim (and what they represent) if instead of virulent rantings, the protest rallies would include a prayer for Chayalim and a recognition of their role in the holy work of protecting Jews who live in Israel?”

I agree with Phil Chernofsky (editor). It’s a scandal that he should have to point these simple truths out. The Hareidi (or Chareidi) leadership has failed. If they had any honor… oh never mind; we all know they have none.

Incendiary and insulting, or true?

On Sunday in Manhattan, there was a demonstration – a “mass prayer rally” – by haredim, protesting against the drafting of yeshiva students to the IDF.

The Jewish Press newspaper covered this with an article. Its headline was:

50 Thousand Haredim March So Only Other Jews Die in War.

The Times of Israel reports the outcome as follows:

Jewish Press fires columnist for blasting ultra-Orthodox

Yuri Yanover’s piece was titled ’50 Thousand Haredim March So Only Other Jews Die in War’

A Brooklyn-based Jewish newspaper apologized for a column that was sharply critical of the haredi Orthodox community and fired its author.

The Jewish Press dismissed Yori Yanover, its Israel-based online editor, after he published an article Monday with the headline “50 Thousand Haredim March So Only Other Jews Die in War.”

Yanover was writing about a mass prayer rally of Haredi Jews in Manhattan on Sunday against a proposed Israeli law to draft yeshiva students.

“They flooded downtown Manhattan with the anti-draft for Haredim message: everybody else is welcome to get themselves killed,” Yanover wrote. “What was even more astonishing was their honesty regarding the bankruptcy of their entire school of faith and study.”

The Jewish Press removed the article from its website (a cached version can be found here for now). The paper’s publishers, Jerry Greenwald and Naomi Mauer, issued a statement saying the paper “apologizes to its readers for the unfortunate Op-Ed article, along with its incendiary and insulting headline.”

According to the statement, the article “was posted without authorization and approval of The Jewish Press newspaper” and “the sentiments expressed in the article and headline do not represent these of The Jewish Press, its officers, editors, and staff.”

In a letter to The Jewish Press posted Tuesday on his Facebook page, Yanover said he had authorization to publish the article.

“I wrote the article after discussion with my supervisor and then submitted the article for review, as per the protocol you established,” he wrote.

In an interview with the online news site Vos Iz Neias?, Greenwald described Yanover’s views as “reprehensible and insolent.”

”Since its founding, The Jewish Press has striven to be a Torah newspaper, one that recognized the centrality of the Torah and Torah study to the Jewish people,” Greenwald said.

Yanover’s column criticized opponents of the draft law for arguing that army service would erode the religious identify of Haredi Jews.

“[T]he post-Holocaust haredi world is all about fear. Fear of new things. Fear of books. Fear of voices. And above all, fear that the education a young man receives during his 20 years in a haredi yeshiva is worthless, because as soon as he encounters the outside world, those 20 years would vanish, melt away like Cholov Yisroel butter on a skillet,” he wrote. “What an astonishing degree of honesty regarding the bankruptcy of an entire school of faith and study.”

I’m unsure how long the cache version will be available, so I have copied the text and posted it here.  If you read the whole thing, you will see Yanover is against the new law, as well as being against the haredi protest!

The article is worth reading. It perhaps is incendiary. It perhaps is insulting. It perhaps is true.

[You may want to head over to Facebook and take a look at Yori Yanover’s page. Could be fun to follow.]

Yanover’s piece

This is the article by Yori Yanover, first published in the Jewish Press, then removed as they sacked him. I think it’s worth preserving:

For the record, I believe the new Shaked-Lapid-Bennett draft law is by far worse than the one it came to replace, the Tal Law. Most importantly, because the Tal Law was getting results, without the idiotic, needless, divisive rancor generated by the new legislation. Killing the Tal Law, or, rather, issuing an edict that it had to be replaced by something that worked faster, was the parting poisonous gift of Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, protégé of that beacon of light unto the nations, Chief Justice Aharon (evil genius) Barak.

Since then we’ve seen one demonstration of a few hundred thousand Haredim against the new law in Jerusalem (but not a single day’s work was lost!), and yesterday, in downtown Manhattan, another 50 thousand Haredim marched to condemn the evil decree.

I went on the vosizneias.com website to check out the rally, because I expected them to bring the authentic stuff. I wasn’t disappointed, even though they just lifted the AP story without attribution:

“We’re all united against military service for religious men in Israel because it doesn’t allow for religious learning,” said Peggy Blier, an interior designer from Brooklyn. “The Israeli government is looking to destroy religious society and make the country into a secular melting pot.”

Every single point made by Peggy Blier is a blatant lie. Of course the law allows for religious learning, it merely suggests that at some point—way past the age non-Haredim serve, and for half the time that normal Israelis give freely of their lives—”religious Jews in Israel” should participate in caring for the security of their country, or, if that’s too much, serve the equivalent time in vital organizations inside their own communities for their own neighbors.

That, according to Peggy Blier, is a conspiracy on the part of the Israeli government to destroy religious society.

Shmuel Gruis, 18, a rabbinical student from Phoenix studying at a Long Island yeshiva, said, “These kids, a lot of them don’t know how to hold a gun. They don’t know what physical warfare is.”

Are you kidding me? Have you ever been to a Shabbes demonstration? Those kids can throw a rock at police like born Palestinians.

“Their whole world and their whole lifestyle is peace and love and in doing mitzvahs,” he said.

OK, who can argue with that description of Haredi behavior? I’m sure non-Haredi women walking the streets of Beit Shemesh or boarding the bus in B’nei B’rak would attest to that pure goodness.

Some of the Hebrew prayers were led by Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, a spiritual head of the Satmars living in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. If the IDF only enlisted the Satmar folks who ever participated in the clashes with the Satmar followers of the other spiritual head of Satmar, they could forge a most brutal and violent commando unit that would put to shame even the late Lee Marvin’s Dirty Dozen (and those included Telly Savalas and Trini Lopez).

Next Verena Dobnik, the AP reporter giving news content for free to Vosizneias, interviewed Yitz Farkas, a member of the Brooklyn-based True Torah Jews organization (step aside, all you False Torah Jews), who informed her that “The problem is, anyone who goes into the Israeli military becomes secular, and that would erase our whole tradition.”

I always enjoy that one. See, you and I are pretty sure the Haredi costume is just that – a costume, underneath which hides a regular Joe, with desires, even lusts, like you and me. The only thing that keeps Joe Haredi from going apecrackers is not the Torah he has learned and integrated into his personality as a shield against evil—it’s the long bekkesh, the velvet yarmulke and the shterimel. Take those away, and Joe Haredi will become a beast overnight.

That, essentially, is the main argument being advanced by the deans of Haredi yeshivas: We have no trust in the Torah we’ve taught our students. we know better. This is why the only means we have of keeping them in line are extreme social pressure and intimidation. You take those away and Joe will spring the trap and become a normal man, availing himself freely of the gifts of a modern society. We can’t afford that. If we do, as Yitz Farkas put it so eloquently, “that would erase our whole tradition.”

The word Haredim is based on Isaiah 66:5: “Hear the word of God, you that tremble at His word.” The “you that tremble” part in Hebrew is “Haharedim el dvaro.” Meaning that there’s urgency on your part to fulfill His word impeccably. It’s not about fear but about devotion.

But the post-Holocaust Haredi world is all about fear. Fear of new things. Fear of books. Fear of voices. And above all, fear that the education a young man receives during his 20 years in a Haredi yeshiva is worthless, because as soon as he encounters the outside world, those 20 years would vanish, melt away like Cholov Yisroel butter on a skillet.

What an astonishing degree of honesty regarding the bankruptcy of an entire school of faith and study.

You know, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was once asked how come he’s not afraid that his Shluchim, the emissaries he was sending out into the farthest and darkest corners of the Earth wouldn’t be tainted by the unholy stuff that surely awaits them there. He responded by citing the laws of kashering-cleansing a vessel in preparation for Passover: k’bol’o ken polto—the way the vessel absorbed the substance so it would let go of it. Meaning that, had the emissary remained clean in body and spirit during his training years, he has nothing to fear “out there.”

I miss him very much. This year marks the 20th anniversary of his passing, and his absence today is felt more than ever before. He would have devoted a segment of a Shabbat farbrengen to the draft bill, and it would have set the whole thing straight: these guys are right on this and wrong on that and vice versa. now go and behave like dignified yidden and stop attacking one another.

What a strange, low-key ending to a piece that began as an exhilarated attack on Haredi IDF bashing. I guess I got tired of it. We’re not going to change the Haredi leadership’s position, we just have to rejoice in a merciful God who made them, like the rest of us, biodegradable.