Beit Shemesh from the Inside

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Ami Magazine, though just one year old, has repeatedly proven itself up to the task of presenting “the other side of the story” against an uninformed and often hostile non-Orthodox media. Among the best examples is surely this week’s essay on “Beit Shemesh in Turmoil” by Sam Sokol, an American charedi resident of the city. While I strongly recommend getting a copy, the following quotation corrects the record in a number of critical ways:

As a resident of Beit Shemesh, it is hard for me to maintain my composure and objectivity when reporting on the extremism problem in Ramat Beit Shemesh Beit. While the entire country howls against the Charedim for their complicity in the threats and violence against little girls, and the Prime Minister calls for the law to be applied in defense of these innocent schoolchildren, I seethe when I think of all the American black-hatters who have risked their personal safety and taken time out of their schedules to defend the children with their own physical presence. Indeed, this is not a Charedi issue at all, but an issue of Jewish terrorism practiced by a local fringe group. Though they do not bear arms, their strong-arm tactics have effectively terrorized a peace-loving city, and have made the entire Charedi world look bad…

I think of all the local residents, Charedi and non-Charedi, who have protested, repeatedly and vociferously, over the past year, requesting that the municipality and the police do something about this disgraceful situation. How can it be that in a Jewish state, the police are unwilling to arrest thugs and batlanim who have nothing better to do with their days than to call young girls on their way to learn Torah “shiksos” and “prutzos“?

These men are not Charedim in the true sense of the word. Indeed they represent everything that the Charedi community deplores, and even hates.

So why does the media bay for the blood of the Charedim, especially when this is a criminal matter, and many local residents fault the police for allowing these people to terrorize the community without restraint? The dispute in Beit Shemesh has undoubtedly been used by the secular media as a means to besmirch the entire Charedi world…

Part of the blame, many among the moderate Charedi element in Beit Shemesh agree, lies with the official response to such criminality, on behalf of the official communal leadership.

Some observers contend that despite the claims of the extremists that they represent the Torah and the from community, few people have been willing, heretofore, to come out publicly and condemn the group. What some in the outside community have forgotten is that the extremists operate by terror; like all terrorists, they have thoroughly cowed their host community…

The role played by searching courageous members of the Charedi community in protesting the violence and protecting the girls has been largely ignored, as is the police complicity in the violence, by virtue of their inaction. Why? Maybe because it doesn’t fit into the narrative being played out on television screens across Israel: the big, bad Charedim versus the National Religious.

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Andrea Eller
3 years 7 months ago

This is making the rounds.

THE SHORT VORT – Tuesday, 8th of Teves 5772, January 3, 2012

RABBI, DID YOU SEE THE PAPER?

I pulled into the gas station just as I was thinking about what I should write or speak about on the fast day this Thursday – Asara B’Teves. What message of hope and inspiration could I offer on this, the first of the four fasts decreed because of Sinas Chinam (Baseless Hatred), and which climax with Tisha B’av? The fast is a bit difficult to relate to. One year a man admitted to me in shul that if I had not mentioned the fast in the Short Vort in the morning he would have forgotten to fast.

The attendant had just about finished filling up my car. I squirmed to retrieve my wallet from my pocket.

“That will be $46 sir.”

“Thanks so much. Here you go, happy new year to you and your family.”

“Thanks. Wait. You’re the rabbi of that synagogue there on High Street no?”

I hesitated; he didn’t look like anyone in shul. I asked “How did you know?”

“I came by the synagogue the other day. I wanted to ask you something?”

“Really? When?”

“Yesterday afternoon. But I saw you were preaching and I didn’t want to disturb you. But now, since you’re here, I’d like to ask you something.”

I’d never had my shiur (class) between Mincha and Maariv referred to as “preaching,” but….

“Sure ask me whatever you want.”

“Do you have a minute? May Ishow you something?”

“Sure.”

The fellow went to his booth and returned with page 19 of the the New York Post, December 28th. I saw the headline, “Attacks by ultra-Orthodox Shock Israel.”

“Rabbi, did you see this? Is this true? Did this really happen?”

I had to nod in the affirmative; I didn’t know of any denials.

He looked down and then said, “This is pretty scary; no?”

Again I nodded.

He looked at me and said, “This is really scary; no?”

His fear seemed beyond the typical expectation of a non-Jew’s reading such a thing.

I said, “Hope you don’t mind my asking, but why are you so concerned about what’s going on in Israel?”

This is what he said.

“Rabbi, let me tell you something. I come from Pakistan. In my country there was no peace; there was always fighting and killing. Finally, my wife and I decided to move to America with our four kids. We settled in the Bronx; I was working 14 hours a day driving someone else’s taxi-cab. For a while things were better, but there were problems there as well. My kids were getting beat up and my wife was afraid to go shopping by herself.

“I was desperate to find a way out for my family. I felt that we had gone from the frying pan of of Pakistan to the fire of the Bronx.

“One day I had a fare from JFK to Boro Park, Brooklyn. I asked the man in the car what the meaning of his clothes was; he told me he was an Orthodox Jew.

“I ended up telling him how my children are taunted and bothered for being Pakistani. He told me how his children walk together to school in the morning — that they have friends and they feel safe and secure. He told me how compared to other neighborhoods, the crime rate in his neighborhood was very low.

“After I dropped him off, I parked my car and walked around his neighborhood. People were quiet and the children were happy. People seemed secure and at peace.

“I came home and told my wife we should move to a Jewish neighborhood. There we would finally find peace. I looked into Boro Park, but it was too expensive for us.

“Then my brother – he had come over with us from Pakistan — told me about an ad he’d seen in the local Pakistani paper about a gas station for sale in Passaic, New Jersey.

“We went to see it and I saw that there was a synagogue near the station, and that there many Jews lived there. We decided to pool our resources and we bought the station. So we moved to Passaic to get away from the fights and the violence — from the constant confrontations which were so much a part of Pakistan and the Bronx. We settled in about three years ago and thank G-d, life has been good and peaceful.

“Then last week I bought the newspaper… and I read this article…

“Rabbi, I know from my days of driving Jewish people to Boro Park that you people look to Zion for direction. I know that you here want to live the way your people live in Israel. So please tell me, is what is going in Israel going to start here? Will little girls soon be afraid to walk to school here in Passaic as well?

“Rabbi, I don’t want to move again. Will things be good for your people? If you guys are fighting among yourselves, then what hope is there for me and my family? That is why I am so scared.”

I sighed, nodded again, and put the car in ‘drive.’ There were no more questions about what I should give over in shul about the importance of Asara B’Teves.

NOTE: I believe this was written by Rabbi Eisenmann, Rov of “Ahavas Yisroel,” a shul in Passaic, NJ. My sincere apologies if he did not write this; I received this as an email, minus the writer’s name. I’m pretty sure Rabbi Eisenmann is the author of the weekly “The Short Vort,” which appears weekly in a Jewish circular. (I took the liberty of editing it, but for technical issues only.)

Moshe Hillson
3 years 7 months ago

And to add to YM’s words, I remember the glee (or at least the “that shows them” attitude) of some (not all) of my Dati Leumi colleagues at work when Shinui ascended to power.
I cannot help but tie this with the volcanic reaction of some commenters to R’ Doron Beckerman’s article “The G-d Haters Within Us”. Why did so many take that article as a personal accusation? It reminded me of the saying “The hat burns on the head of the thief”.
Another saying is: If you are to the Left of me religiosly, you are a heretic.
If you are to the Left of me religiosly, you are a fanatic.
Intolerance runs in both directions.

YM
3 years 7 months ago

Dovid, the NRP made it POSSIBLE for Shinui to be included in the first Sharon government. If they had said no, they could have insisted that all the religious parties be included.

Eli
3 years 7 months ago

Don’t worry Sam, the Haters will come after you soon as well. You and all the “American” black hatters. They only start with the Dati, then move on to Chardal, and the Americans last (if they don’t agree to live like Israeli Charadim).

Give it a few years, after the will the battle & the National Religous are forced to move out.

We are (some of) the Israeli Charadim. Resistance is Futile. You will be assimilated.

Yisrael Asper
3 years 8 months ago

Rabbi Natan Slifkin said:

“As a resident of Ramat Bet Shemesh for ten years, who has been monitoring this situation closely, it seems to me that this article is misleading.

At the rallies to express solidarity to Orot, attended by hundreds if not thousands of national-religious people, I did not see a single Charedi person present.

Not one Charedi rav in Bet Shemesh or Ramat Bet Shemesh was willing to co-sign a letter of protest against the zealots that was signed by all the national-religious rabbis – nor to write their own letter.

The only “courageous members of the Charedi community” to have “protested the violence and protected the girls” are a tiny handful of Anglos and Israelis who are so much on the fringe of charedi society that most charedim wouldn’t even consider them to be part of their community.

Much more representative is the local mainstream charedi newspaper Chadash, owned by one of the mayor’s colleagues, which has never reported any of the scores of incidents of charedi extremist violence over the years, and only screams about the “persecution” of charedim.

I disagree. Much more representative is the majority of Chareidim just like the majority of other Jews. They also are not signing petitions or protesting but still strongly condemn the violence. You may point out some dynamics that cause a more reserved reaction when it comes to signing and protesting. I will concede that. Think of the varied reactions when the National Religious were all called Rabin killers, or think if Israel would really be guilty of something major against the Arabs. We would be thinking, to what extent and in what manner should we protest or sign against it? But if it is known that in any event we do object, and will let it be known in less media friendly ways what we think should be done about the situation, it is hardly an ignoring of the situation.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein pointed out about the extremists that they were driven out by the Chareidim and that the Chareidim have been vocal for police action. The basic reaction from all quarters amongst the Jews has been outrage. You want to argue nuance in how much? Fine. Point fingers about how better a reaction could be, but to say that the Chareidim are basically not outraged or trying to have something be done is false. Rabbi Adlerstein wrote: “As the numbers of Meah Shearim-grown extremists increased, they sought space in other communities. (It was not only a matter of space. They were repudiated by many in their own neighborhood, including the Edah Charedis, which was still unable to rein them in.) Large numbers settled upon the Beit Shemesh area. Their growing enclave in RBS-Bet gradually spread out, to the point that they found themselves in close proximity to existing neighborhoods of dati Leumi and conventional charedim. Ongoing clashes came to a head with the opening of a frum girls’ school on land the extremists coveted… Thousands came to Beit Shemesh to help stand up against the extremists. Groups of Knesset members are scheduling visits. Most remarkably, Haaretz reported that journalists were getting plenty of lip from charedim – but not to complain as usual about unbalanced treatment of their community. Rather, charedim were turning to them in person and by phone to implore them to keep the heat on through their coverage, so that the government will have no choice but to take firm action against the zealots who make life miserable for them as well. Haaretz even had to concede a difference between a minority population of out of control extremists and a “mainstream charedi” population.”

You are reporting one angle, fine. Rabbi Menken and Rabbi Adlerstein were reporting another angle.