Who picks up the tab for media manipulation?

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Israeli journalists are among the most mobilized in the Western world: They view their jobs as a soapbox to teach proper thoughts to the hoi polloi. The media’s desire to shape the national agenda also makes it among the most easily manipulated in the world. The EU and individual European states pour millions into left-wing Israeli NGOs annually to peddle their favorite nostrums for peace in large part because they get such a large bang for the buck from the NGOs and media working hand-in-hand.

Blackening Israel’s image abroad is one favorite technique. There is an insatiable thirst for stories on the Talibanization of Israel and front-page headlines like “Seismic rift in Israeli society over the role of women” (Sunday’s New York Times). The negative portrayals from every direction reinforce one another. If women in Israel, for instance, have no higher status than in Teheran, it is easier to believe claims that Israel is an apartheid society. Negative foreign reports about Israel are intended to convince Israelis of the country’s growing international isolation in order to make them more malleable.

One example of how this works. Tanya Rosenblitt, who works for a media mogul, boards a bus in an exclusively chareidi neighborhood of Ashdod. The bus stops only in chareidi neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Getting to Jerusalem is not Tanya’s goal; there are many faster and more direct buses to Jerusalem. Her goal is to be the star of her own reality show.

To that end, according to the other passengers on the bus (who are not interviewed by the mainstream media), she sits directly behind the driver singing, making challenging remarks, and occasionally leaning into the aisle. Seeing that her goal is to provoke a confrontation, the driver stops the bus and summons the police.

Rosenblitt is not asserting her legitimate right not to be dictated to by chareidim as to where to sit on a bus. Rather she is insisting that chareidim not be able to sit as they choose on a bus designed to serve only chareidi passengers. The distinction is crucial. (Egged deliberately creates all-haredi lines as part of a concerted effort to prevent chareidim from setting up their own bus services.)

Incidentally, Rosenblitt is also associated with the One Voice organization. The Palestinian media described the One Voice’s September 2011 Campaign as designed to build an international consensus on Israeli apartheid.

Another example of media manipulation. Yair Lapid jumpstarted his entry into national politics, where he hopes to inherit his father’s mantle as leader of the anti-chareidi camp, with the Channel Two documentary on Naama Margolese. Introducing the segment, Lapid asked rhetorically whether Beit Shemesh represents the future of the entire country unless the chareidim are brought to heel.

I wonder how many viewers realized that the ugly events at the national religious Beit Orot school described in the film took place at the beginning of the school year, and that since then the situation has improved substantially. Dr. Agmon-Snir, director of the Jerusalem Intercultural Center, who is non-observant, described in a recent Mishpacha Magazine interview efforts to broker an understanding between different communal factions. According to Dr. Agmon-Snir, the Sikrikim, or zealots, who represent a “minority within a minority” of the chareidi community, have been spit out by the Eidah Hachareidis, and have largely disappeared from the site of the Beit Orot school. For its part, the Eidah has reconciled itself to the school remaining in its current location.

Agmon-Snir lamented that the Israeli public was roused to fury by a documentary that did not reflect current realities, and expressed his fear that the delicate fabric of trust built-up over months would unravel in the wake of the anti-chareidi demonstration in Beit Shemesh, which piggy-backed on the Channel Two report. One local charidi activist told Mishpacha that when he turned to Channel Two to discuss the compromises worked out, he was told, “Don’t interfere with the chagiga.

ISRAEL HAS PAID A HEAVY PRICE in the past for media campaigns designed to dictate the national agenda. The cost of the Four Mothers campaign to withdraw from southern Lebanon, for instance, was Hizbullah control of Lebanon, and nearly a hundred thousand missiles aimed at every inch of Israel. Had the government caved to every demand of last summer’s Social Justice protestors, Israel would be well on the way to European-style bankruptcy and unemployment to match. The current frenzy over the “hadarat nashim – the so-called exclusion of women from the public sphere” threatens to take a heavy toll as well.

Last week, Kolech and other NIF-funded groups waged an intense campaign to pressure male doctors scheduled to speak at the Puah Institute’s annual medicine and halacha conference to withdraw unless some women were added to the list of speakers. The Israel Medical Association joined the call. Some protestors urged a cut-off of all government funding of Puah as well.

The national religious heads of the Puah Institute do not have a problem with women speaking, and indeed women doctors participate and speak at numerous Puah events throughout the year. But the decision was made by the organization’s then posek, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, zt”l, twelve years ago, prior to the first Medicine and Halacha Conference, to have only male speakers in order to ensure the widest possible rabbinic participation.

That participation of the rabbis was for the benefit of women, particularly with respect to their reproductive health. The purpose of much of the medical information made available is to provide poskim with new information of potential halachic application. The sessions with doctors and rabbis sensitize all involved to the needs of couples experiencing fertility problems, and increase the awareness among leading doctors in the fertility field of the concerns of Torah observant Jews.

Seven of the nine doctors scheduled to speak – many of them on topics of immediate practical concern to the hundreds of women in attendance – dropped out in the face of the pressure. Others doctors replaced them, and the conference was attended by about 1300 people, about the level of previous years. But we can be sure that Kolech will redouble its efforts to damage an organization that has created the protocols used in almost every Israeli hospital and clinic, and in approximately fifty clinics in North America, to ensure that the sperm and eggs used in IVF and IUI is that of the husband and mother. (Interestingly, scientific studies show that the rate of success from IVF and IUI increases when such hashgacha is in place.)

Even on feminist grounds, I wonder whether endangering the entire conference and the Puah Institute, which make major contributions to women’s health, was justified in order that one or two women doctors speak at the conference.

The current media hysteria about “the exclusion of women” began with the IDF and it is in the IDF that it has had the greatest impact. Four national religious cadets were expelled from an officers training course for refusing orders to attend a women’s singing performance.

Since then, the IDF has acted as if its top priority is making sure no woman ever feel dissed. (This at a time when five women just earned their pilots’ wings.) It is comforting to know that there are no military threats on the horizon.

The IDF has taken a hard-line position refusing to accommodate the needs of religious soldiers. Maj. Gen. Orna Barbivai, Chief of IDF Manpower Division, overruled the conclusions of a committee she herself had appointed, and insisted that officers retain the power to compel attendance even at performances that are only for entertainment. By forcing religious soldiers to bow to the diktat of the IDF and refusing to make allowances for their religious beliefs, the IDF has greatly alienated the national religious community, from which it draws an disproportionate share of its combat soldiers and junior officers. And by turning IDF chaplains into the enforcement arm for its orders, the IDF has deprived them any credibility that they might have had in the eyes of religious soldiers. The actions of the IDF top brass suggest a desire to ensure that the national religious do not come to dominate the upper echelons of the IDF.

In contrast to its refusal to show any flexibility towards national religious soldiers, the IDF has always been very accommodating concerning the religious needs of the growing cohort of chareidim in the IDF – a tenfold increase over the last six years. No more. Again, avoiding the “exclusion of women” trumps any other societal interest, including national defense and integration of chareidim into the IDF.

The Chief Rabbi of the Air Force, Moshe Raavad, asked to be relieved of his post last week in light of the IDF’s decision not to adhere to its previous commitments to maintain a single-sex environment for the nearly thousand chareidim enlisted through the air force’s Shachar Kachol program. The IDF decision will not only deal a major blow to the existing program, but also to IDF Intelligence’s plan to enlist 1,000 chareidi soldiers in the coming years. (A pre-induction program to prepare haredi young men looking for an alternative to full-time yeshiva studies for IDF Intelligence called MoFeT is already up and running.)

Coupled with the general media campaign against charedim (ably abetted by elements of the chareidi community), which has resulted in numerous physical attacks on chareidim, the IDF decisions have reinforced the most conservative elements in the chareidi community, and given credence to those within the community who argue that “these sorrows have come upon us because we sought to integrate more into the general population by joining the army, acquiring vocational and academic training, and entering the workforce.” Those elements in the chareidi community and Yair Lapid need each other and feed off of each other.

Meanwhile, Israel is once again paying a heavy price for media generated hysteria.

Since this article went up on the Jerusalem Post website, I have received a barrage of comments from members of the national religious community in Beit Shemesh, who felt that I was trying to minimize the seriousness of the harassment of students at the Beit Orot school. In the original article. I quoted Dr. Agmon-Snir, who has been involved in mediation efforts and is non-observant, to the effect that to the best of his knowledge there have been only two incidents at the school since Tishrei. And I had heard from a member of the national religious community that the situation had improved considerably, which he attributed to more active police protection. If I presented the situation concerning the Beit Orot school inaccurately, I am sorry.

It was not my intention to minimize the harassment to which the national religious community in Beit Shemesh has been subjected and continues to be subject, or to defend that harassment in any way. That should be clear to anyone who has read my many pieces on Beit Shemesh from last September. The rioting this past week after the arrest on charges of money laundering of six men connected to the Eidah Hachareidis’s major tzedakah organization,which included the stoning of buses and vandalism of police vehicles, which adversely affected the entire community — chareidi and national religious alike — provides yet new evidence of how serious the problem is.

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28 Responses

  1. Dovid Kornreich says:

    I think there is a clear difference.
    The fringe elements of Liberal Orthodoxy are clamoring for legitimacy and are presenting their attitude to halacha as a seamless continuation of classic rabbinic literature.
    I DO NOT see these extremists making any attempts for their extremism to be accepted by Chareidi society at large.
    I DO NOT see any teshuvos and pamphlets by extremists explaining how their violent approach to assert their higher standards in the public sphere is halachicly sanctioned.

  2. Eliezer says:

    Baruch Gitlin’s reference to the article on “Modern Orthodoxy at a Crossroads” reminded me that there’s a crucial distiction that I think needs to be made here. We’re not talking about throwing the extremists out of the chareidi community, (at least I’m not). We’re talking about simply issuing a clear and respectful statement that we believe this behavior is not consistent with Torah. I don’t see how that’s a violation of shalom. I’ve read that the Chazon Ish did just that when kanoim were torching cars that were driven on shabbos. Do we not have an obligation to clarify to the members of our community what Torah behavior is and is not?

  3. Baruch Gitlin says:

    Why would it be a valid goal to avoid creating or widening schism within the charedi world, whereas there does not seem to be a similar goal of avoiding creating or widening schism within the greater Orthodox world that includes the dati leumi world? I guess this brings us back to the same arguments that many of the commentors on this blog and elsewhere raised with respect to Rabbi Adlerstein’s article a few months ago, “Modern Orthodoxy at a Crossroads” – why are the Modern Orthodox/Lati Leumi communities expected to disown their fringe elements, but the Charedi community can avoid it by pleading “shalom”? Why does this concept of shalom only seem to apply within the haredi world?

  4. Dovid Kornreich says:

    With all due respect, silence cannot be misconstrued as “covering up”. It is way of avoiding confrontation, passively maintaining internal peace, and not creating (or widening) schism. I think the term Sholom is a wholly appropriate term to characterize those objectives.

    I’d like to be clear that I don’t like the status quo of extremists being tolerated (publicly that is–who knows what’s going on behind the scenes?) and I don’t believe anybody here likes it. But perhaps the consequences of disrupting the status quo will be far worse on many levels.

  5. Baruch Gitlin says:

    Yiddishkeit is also about maintaining Sholom and not speaking out when it will do more harm than good. You may not see the harm in speaking out publicly against other Chareidim (even if they occupy a separate sub-society) and making a schism, but others apparently do.

    I realize this post was already a few days ago, and nobody is paying attention anymore, but there’s something here that bothers me (a lot). Let’s say there’s a good reason not to speak out, for the sake of Shalom. OK, why doesn’t that same reason apply to all the nasty things that have been said over the years, particularly in Yeted Ne’eman, about the data leumi rabbis and community? Let’s say the answer is that the rabbis and editorial writers feel they must warn their flocks and readers away from what they consider a dangerous ideology. And the ideology producing those people who have been perpetrating violence in Ramat Beit Shemesh B and Meah Sheraim is not a dangerous ideology? I really don’t see why the one is dangerous and not the other. Historical reasons, because in past generations, many young people left the haredi world because they were attracted to the excitement and idealism of founding a state? Maybe. But that was then, this is now. I just don’t see how that shalom argument can be used in this case, and not the other case. If there’s a good distinction, I’d like to hear it. Personally, this is one of the perceived hypocracies that made it impossible for me to remain within the haredi world, and I don’t think I’m the only one.

  6. Eliezer says:

    Rabbi Kornreich:

    With all due respect, I believe that your invoking the midda of Sholom is confusing the issue.

    What you wrote in your earlier post was that “to hang dirty laundry in public is something that might be perceived as a victory for the anti-Chareidi world”. That has nothing to do with Sholom, but rather with maintaining the image of the chareidi community. Rashi says in Parshas Kedoshim that the reason the family of a Molech worshipper is punished is because they cover up for him. What I see in this Rashi is that the tendency to cover up for evil within “the family” (in this case the chareidi community) is not viewed positively by the Torah.

  7. Dovid Kornreich says:

    Yiddishkeit is also about maintaining Sholom and not speaking out when it will do more harm than good. You may not see the harm in speaking out publicly against other Chareidim (even if they occupy a separate sub-society) and making a schism, but others apparently do.

  8. Eliezer says:

    To dovid2:

    Bravo!

    Woe to a community whose leaders are capable of playing politics while innocent Jewish children are being victimized.

    Rabbi Kornreich thinks that he’s defending the leaders of the Chareidi community. What he doesn’t realize is that he’s just delivered the greatest possible indictment.

  9. dovid2 says:

    Dovid Kornreich: “The only value I can see in having Chareidi rabbonim speak out against extremists is to make everyone else feel better about mainstream chareidim. That’s it. It’s about feeling good. It won’t change anyone’s attitudes or behavior.”

    That’s not true. Yiddhishkeit is about emmes. When you see evil, call it so. Evil must be rejected vehemently. Don’t play politics. Silence in the circumstances is accepting and encouraging evil.

  10. L.Oberstein says:

    “to hang dirty laundry in public is something that might be perceived as a victory for the anti-Chareidi world.”
    This comment reminds me of something my late father, whose Yahrtzeit was yesterday told me about many Southern non Jews. He said that they don’t pesonally belong to the Ku Klux Klan, but maybe their father or their uncle did and they don’t want a politician explictly condeming the KKK.Soutern politicians used the same logic as above to keep silent about many horrible thigns, like lynching.
    Thank G-d, we frum Jews don’t carry the violence to that extreme, but words and bans do hurt.
    The idea that the most fundamentalist Moslems are winning Elections scares the West and the idea that Jews who reject science no matter what the evidence and reject secular education are growing and multiplying and may indeed some day be very significant, does scare a lot of people.Are they unjustified?

  11. Dovid Kornreich says:

    I have tried to explain in previous posts that Mainstream Chareidi rabbonim primarily (but not exclusively) protest trends and products which they feel threaten the religious standards/beliefs of their community. I seriously have not heard any extremist publicize any religious justifications for vandalism, violence and harassment towards other groups of Jews. There simply is no religious justification and everybody knows it.
    So there is no realistic danger of such attitudes encroaching into the mainstream Chareidi community.

    I would think it’s obvious that books perceived to be denigrating the honor of Chazal and rejecting the entire mesorah about Creation– purporting to present a valid Torah view and marketed to a frum readership– would seem to not occupy the same category of vandalism and violence.
    But maybe that distinction is just a product of my distorted, apologist agenda.

    The only value I can see in having Chareidi rabbonim speak out against extremists is to make everyone else feel better about mainstream chareidim. That’s it. It’s about feeling good. It won’t change anyone’s attitudes or behavior.
    But as Rabbi Adlerstein said, Israeli Chareidi rabbonim simply don’t care about making people feel good. Unlike their American counterparts, they just aren’t into doing P.R. (And unlike Rabbi Adlerstein, I don’t think this difference in approach to P.R. represents some massive divide between the two communities. People who are professionally involved in P.R. efforts would understandibly tend to think it means everything in the world.)

    I’ll hazard to speculate that the mainstream would prefer to present an un-fractured front to non-chareidim even if it means tolerating (but not accepting or condoning) occasional acts which it abhors. Perhaps they see it more as a Chillul Hashem to generate signs of some kind of serious internal schism within the Ultra-Orthodox world. Thiis schism may truly exist on some important levels (as the next post cogently argues, as I have), but to hang dirty laundry in public is something that might be perceived as a victory for the anti-Chareidi world. And Chareidi rabbonim do not want to deliver that victory. I’m not defending this perception, just noting that it may be what’s motivating the deafening silence.

  12. Baruch Gitlin says:

    “”If the rest of the Haredi world who do not take part or agree with these behaviours would have voiced their opinions loud and clear, we would not be in this situation today.'”

    “Please explain how mainstream Chareidim voicing their opinions about a community who thinks mainstream Chareidim have sold out and made treif compromises with the Zionist establishment, would have avoided anything. I simply don’t see the logic.”

    I agree with Ben Waxman’s response to this comment. I will agree with Dovid Kornreich to the extent that the original comment is overstated. I don’t think condemnation by the haredi establishment would have prevented this situation. But I do think that loud, consistent, and undiluted condemnation by the haredi establishment over time would have a positive effect by making the people committing violence and harassment in the name of religion to feel isolated. There’s no way to prove that it would, but there’s no way to prove that it wouldn’t. And what exactly would be lost by proclaiming that it is wrong to harass women, it is wrong to vandalize the property of people flying a flag you don’t like, or living in your neighborhood when you don’t want there, it is wrong to berate women for exercising their right to sit where they choose on public transportation, etc.? When books are put into herem, the effect is usually to increase sales. Yet, rabbis continue to use this tool of herem. I can only assume they do so because they feel they must speak out for what they perceive to be truth. Why there, and not here? Of course, I must add that many haredi rabbis and representatives, such as Rabbis Adlerstein and Rosenblum on this blog, have condemned the violence in Beit Shemesh. This is to be commended, but I think the impact would be far larger if the condemnations came from rabbis other than those who have a foot in both worlds, and who are aware of the need to counter the negative perception of haredim in the outside world.

  13. I.A. says:

    Dovid is right. Mainstream Chareidim won’t get anywhere. The neturei karta and the like have been condemned ages ago by the mainstream chareidim. These people won’t listen since they feel that mainstream chareidi has sold out to those “evil zionists”.

    Mainstream Chareidim will not go and protest for two reasons 1. they are sitting and learning, busy with their lives.. 2. they don’t want to be protesting with the likes of Yisrael Chafshit.

  14. Ben Waxman says:

    Please explain how mainstream Chareidim voicing their opinions about a community who thinks mainstream Chareidim have sold out and made treif compromises with the Zionist establishment, would have avoided anything. I simply don’t see the logic.

    Speaking up and saying “No” has some value in of itself, just so that everyone knows where he stands, what is the issue here ( for example is it “the media is out to get us” or there is a real problem), thinking about how you want your community to develop, etc.

    More importantly are actions that mainstream chareidim can take. For example, why don’t the rabbanim make it 1000% clear that it is the duty of everyone to report any crime that he sees and that there is absolutely no issur of mesirah involved? If it is true that the Eida is aiding and abetting them, then maybe the time has indeed come to use other heksherim?

    Finally, I wonder if the reluctance to voice an opinion or take actions (other than saying “nu b’emet they’re crazy, what do you want from me”) stems from the fear that by doing so the chareidi community will have to examine itself in regards to the question of using violence as a tool to achieve goals. As it has been made clear in other forums, Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet isn’t the first and only example of community violence. Things which have happen and are going on now in Ponevich, Beitar, Mea Sharim, Ramat Eshkol, New Square, are extremely problematic and require some hard thinking (IMO).

  15. Abe71 says:

    Dovid Kornreich why is it you feel that mainstream chariedim should spend boundless energy and significant time voicing their opinions about the hashkafos of people who think mainstream chareidim are unnecessarily narrow in their views on science as it relates to Torah insofar as such mainstream charedim are unwilling or unable to recognize as legitimate the study of viewpoints existing in the corpus of Torah which do not correspond to their own viewpoints, and yet suddenly when faced with the twisted hashkafos of people who think mainstream charedim have made treif compromises with the medina and who are committing violent illegal despicable acts in the name of Torah then suddenly you feel it is appropriate for mainstream charedim to be silent. If only to avoid maris ayin you should be speaking up as you do in other cases. What is it that makes you feel that it is important for mainstream charedim to speak up in one case but not the other?

  16. Dovid Kornreich says:

    There is certainly a problem in our society at the moment. It is quite admirable that you were inclusive about that.
    But I do not see the logic of this sentence.

    If the rest of the Haredi world who do not take part or agree with these behaviours would have voiced their opinions loud and clear, we would not be in this situation today.

    Please explain how mainstream Chareidim voicing their opinions about a community who thinks mainstream Chareidim have sold out and made treif compromises with the Zionist establishment, would have avoided anything. I simply don’t see the logic.

  17. Adina Goldman says:

    Juat wanted to add another typical un-reported incident. My nine year old daughter came home from school today and reported that a boy ordered her to the back of the bus she was riding home, and told her she wasn’t tzanua. My child was wearing: blue loafers, thick knitted blue tights, a full, blue A-line Bais Yaakov uniform skirt that comes to two inches above her ankles, and a high-collared, buttoned up uniform shirt under a bulky dark jacket. She was intimidated and moved to the back, which I guess is a good thing, because I wouldn’t want my daughter standing on a bus within spitting distance (pun intended) of a guy who finds her appearance attractive and distracting….

  18. Alisa Coleman says:

    It is very easy to blame the media for “blackening Israel’s image abroad”. Maybe it would have been better to come out against those behaving in the way to promote this image i.e the extremist Haredi thugs. This is a theme that you take throughout the article.

    You blame Tanya Rosenblit for davka choosing to sit at front of a ‘Haredi” bus as a media ploy, so lets just ignore Tanya for a moment and talk about the many women and girls ,without a media goal who are told to go to the back of the bus.
    Living in Bet Shemesh this is a daily occurrence, and no there is no such thing as a Haredi bus line, as people take buses to places near their home and work for various reasons.

    You have missed the point. Whether Tanya Rosenblit sang or annoyed the people on the bus is irrelevant. No one can be told where to sit or cursed just because someone else thinks they are behaving or dressing inappropriately.

    I do not think you can judge Yair Lapid as anti-Haredi without hearing his opinions
    If you had heard him speak at Michlelet Uno, you would have heard how he respects Haredim- and yes when Lapid asked whether Bet Shemesh represents the future of the entire country unless the Haredim are bought to heel,the answer is absolutely ,Yes.

    What is happening here in Bet Shemesh is a microcosm to what is happening in the whole country .If we let extremists dictate our lives here , they will do the same elsewhere too!

    Did you ever come to Orot Banot at dismissal time at the beginning of the school year? No I didn’t think so. Well I did, every day for 6 weeks .On those days Haredi extremist thugs came out and shouted, cursed and threw things at me the other volunteers and at the girls we escorted to their bus stop at the end of their school day .I am happy to say that because of our efforts and pressure on these men and the police ,they stopped coming for a while. They did return and in those few times, a woman was spat in the face, and a man was hit.
    I was lucky enough to be spat at in the face, in front of the TV cameras, so at least the thug was arrested .It is degrading and disgusting and the person who can do that should be put away.
    This took place across the street from my home. I hope if that ever happens to your wife, you don’t belittle these incidents, and if your daughter would be called a “shiksa” or “pritsa” for 6 weeks,I hope you would agree it was significantly shocking.
    Woman and children are still traumatized from these events, and as I write this piece, there have been fires lit all week in Ramat Bet Shemesh on the main road we all use.

    We have not seen the Eida “spit” these people out, in fact the pashkevillim are quite in favour. The silent Haredi street are condoning these events.

    When you mentioned the pressure put on Puah to include women professionals to speak at a medicine and Halacha conference.This has nothing to do with the New Israel Fund and their campaign. Personally for me, and other women, to hear that women Doctors and professionals were banned from speaking at a conference where their expertise is vital, especially as they are women , was shocking.
    If Rabbis who really care about helping people cannot listen to woman speaking I think they have to check themselves, not blame the media. Halachic decisions made 12 years ago can be re-examined.

    You refer to the media “hysteria” on the “exclusion of women”. There is a problem in our society at the moment. When women who have earned a prize cannot receive it in a ceremony themselves just because they are women-this is a problem. When women are forced to sit at the back of buses, this is a problem. The fact that for years Rabbis and men have sat in various ceremonies where women have sung and decided to spare embarrassing them, it was better to stay then get up, walk out and cause a fuss .Our society has become more extreme.

    Your cynicism towards the IDF and their decision not to disrespect woman as a journalist is not appropriate. These women who earned their pilots wings should be congratulated, not ridiculed and we should bless them for watching over us.

    You can only blame one group of people for the anti-Haredi media. The Haredi extremist thugs who want to force their way of life on others in a violent and aggressive way,not Yair Lapid or the media.

    If the rest of the Haredi world who do not take part or agree with these behaviours would have voiced their opinions loud and clear, we would not be in this situation today.
    Here in Bet Shemesh people are working very hard to bridge gaps with those people who disagree with the violence and who want to live together in harmony, so together we can rid ourselves of these extremist thugs who are doing the damage to our society and name.

    It is a shame that you missed a great opportunity to look for answers and help build these bridges, instead of burning them.

  19. cohen y says:

    L. Oberstein
    January 21, 2012 at 10:57 pm
    “I am confused. Is the walkout of the national religious soldiers from the grduation ceremony the straw that broke the camel’s back or is it an excuse to stop national religious participation in officer courses? The philosophy of Bnai David Pre Army Mechina and others like it is that it is vital for religious soldiers to rise in the ranks of the Army. First the expulsion from Gaza was a blow and now this. The whole “Medininiut” Philsophy seems under attack.
    It is hard to think that a few instances of women sitting in the front of the bus and the actions of the sikrikim are enough to turn back the clock so substantially. Un.ess… they really are afraid of having too many national religious officers and they are having second thoughts about accomadating the very orthodox and this is just the excuse. Doesn’t the Israeli Army desperately need these motivated soldiers and isn’t it good for all that the chareidim serve in the army in some way and enter the work force. Are the secular cutting off their noses to spite their faces?”

    A year or two ago two were expelled from the pilots training course,because they had beards and yarmulkes.

  20. shloi says:

    “the IDF decisions have reinforced the most conservative elements in the chareidi community, and given credence to those within the community who argue that “these sorrows have come upon us because we sought to integrate more into the general population by joining the army, acquiring vocational and academic training, and entering the workforce.” Those elements in the chareidi community and Yair Lapid need each other and feed off of each other.”

    This is the most important part of the article. Because “the most conservative elements in the Charedi community” that JR alludes to are not the Eida but the mainstream RW charedi rabbis. It is the first time that JR is so specific.

  21. Baruch Gitlin says:

    I agree very strongly with Adina Goldman. It’s easy to pick out a few incidents that were provocations, and it’s easy to find incidents of media overkill. But that simply serves as a way to cover up the very real incidents that have happened over the years that were not the result of provocations. It’s also easy to forget that many, probably most incidents of religiously motivated violence, harassment, and exclusion by haredim against non-haredim, and also against other haredim, are never even picked up by the media. It’s also quite hypocritical to make such a fuss about bias in the secular media without even a passing knowledge of the much greater degree of bias that exists in much of the haredi media, such as Yaded Neeman.

  22. Adina Goldman says:

    Yes, the media hyped up a spitting incident, and made some woman into a hero for being obnoxious on a bus. As an aside, I always sit on the front of the mehadrin bus, because I don’t like to sit in the back and there’s no reason (from the Torah or Israeli law) why I shouldn’t. I sit quietly and don’t bother anyone and ignore those who bother me. (Usually, a simple “It’s against the law!” response is all that’s needed when a man tries to order me to the back of the bus). Obviously, the police have never needed to be called.
    But – the problem the media highlighted is real. They may have over-reported some problems, but they under-reported others, which kind of makes it even. Here are things residents of Bet Shemesh have to deal with (and you can tell me which are the work of the general Charedi community and which are the work of Sikrikim, it is sometimes obvious, but not always):
    1. signs all over the stores telling women to dress modestly (which annoy those of us who do dress modestly as well as those who don’t)
    2. protests outside schools shouting at Orthodox children trying to go to school
    3. A horrible, unfinished, empty mall that is an eyesore, sitting at the border between the Dati and Charedi communities, which the city needs for stores and medical offices and businesses – one camp said it will attract immodest women to the neighborhood to shop and it should be a yeshiva and if it won’t be a yeshiva, it will be burned down. Now the government isn’t finishing it, businesses are terrified to commit to renting and opening there – and this has been going on for years!
    4. Harassment on the “separate” bus lines – since most of us do not run to call Channel 2 news, you don’t know about it, but I have friends who report it to me.
    5. Shutting down a concert in a park with an all-boys’ choir because families were sitting together, which was deemed immodest, even though all the people attending were happy with the arrangements
    6. Flooding the neighborhood with pashkevilim with fake gedolim signatures, saying fathers are not allowed to sign up boys to high schools that offer secular subjects, in an obvious attempt to shut down a new boys’ high school
    7. Burning garbage and tires in the streets in protest against I’m-not-sure-what, which is a health hazard, causes traffic, and ruins our quality of life
    8. On Yom HaAtzmaut, cars have had Israeli flags ripped off them as they drive on certain streets (the street needed to drive from Rama Alef to Bet Shemesh) and the town was painted (literally, building after building, block after block, with graffiti showing blue stars of David, equal sign, swastikas. Yes, you got that. That’s what our kids had to see the morning after Yom HaAtzmaut when I drove them to school.
    I could go on and on. Almost all these examples show that one side is not exactly tolerant of the other, and it is not usaully a two way street, but rather, one community harassing the other (and itself). I don’t think the secular media is perfect, but you sure aren’t going to get the right picture from the charedi media either. I live here, and almost everyone is wonderful. But there are problems, and if we don’t face them, they won’t go away.

  23. L. Oberstein says:

    I am confused. Is the walkout of the national religious soldiers from the grduation ceremony the straw that broke the camel’s back or is it an excuse to stop national religious participation in officer courses? The philosophy of Bnai David Pre Army Mechina and others like it is that it is vital for religious soldiers to rise in the ranks of the Army. First the expulsion from Gaza was a blow and now this. The whole “Medininiut” Philsophy seems under attack.
    It is hard to think that a few instances of women sitting in the front of the bus and the actions of the sikrikim are enough to turn back the clock so substantially. Un.ess… they really are afraid of having too many national religious officers and they are having second thoughts about accomadating the very orthodox and this is just the excuse. Doesn’t the Israeli Army desperately need these motivated soldiers and isn’t it good for all that the chareidim serve in the army in some way and enter the work force. Are the secular cutting off their noses to spite their faces?

  24. Mr. Cohen says:

    Jonathan Rosenblum said:

    “The EU and individual European states pour millions into left-wing
    Israeli NGOs annually to peddle their favorite nostrums for peace
    in large part because they get such a large bang for the buck
    from the NGOs and media working hand-in-hand.”

    QUESTION:

    What can be done to stop this?

  25. Jewish Observer says:

    there is a talmudic principle called “t’chilato b’pshia v’sofo b’ones”. sure, the secular press goes too far, fuled by an agenda. to deny would be foolish and dishonest. but it is surely disingenuous for haredim to be morally outrgared about this as though there were no context. is RJR truly not aware of what would motivate this? does he really think they are that evil or that crazy? there can be no improvement without honesty on both sides.

  26. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Lawrence,

    That statement of Jonathan’s was very misleading. The frequency of incidents involving the school did drop after the Chagim, but the extremists hardly “disappeared”. (The assertion in Jonathan’s addendum that “there have been only two incidents at the school since Tishrei” is false, there were 5.)

    The day after Succot vacation they returned and, using a new tactic, gathered right in front of the school while classes were in session. Thus, you had 20 thugs standing approximately 10 feet from a classroom window yelling that the girls should “leave this place” while these young girls were learning Torah!

    We noticed a lot of new faces this time and wondered what the source was. The next day one of them sheepishly approached me and apologized. He said he saw that the women that were out with us that day were dressed modestly and felt he had been misled. He told me that he, and many of the new guys, were “encouraged” to come out by a prominent “Rav” in his nearby neighborhood. Another day as the group was parading around both the girls AND boys school two of them assaulted my friend who takes the videos. They blind-sided him and through him to ground!

    After Chanukah vacation they continued to show up. This time even more new faces were dropped off in front of the school in two vans! At this point we learned from people inside their community that things were going to “heat up” even more. This is when we decided to go to the media. So contrary to Jonathan’s implication, ONLY since that original piece aired on Israel’s Channel 2 have things “improved substantially”. It took the media frenzy that followed the airing of that show to truly get the politicians to pressure the police to take decisive action. Within a week two of the leading extremists were sitting in jail from where they were released to house arrest after a couple of weeks.

    There is a new police chief in town who seems highly motivated to maintain some sense of order. We operate under no illusion that we’ve seen the last of this. Also, keep in mind that this is not just about the school. During the past week groups of extremists and others were rioting almost nightly because of the money-laundering related arrests in Jerusalem. Think of the perversity. These people were rioting in defense of people who were arrested for stealing from them!

    While I understand that Jonathan means well, this type of article really only serves to feed the problem. It emboldens those who would misdirect the issue to one of persecution from the outside. Were there some examples of media excess? Probably. But for every example that Jonathan or others will bring of media excess there exist dozens of not-so-glamorous examples of day-to-day harassment, assault and vandalism by extremists all in the name of “religion”. If anything, the media grossly understates the problem. Jonathan should stick to encouraging change from the inside rather provide yet another voice to so many in the Chareidi media who would rather circle the wagons than face the issues.

  27. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Rabbi Rosenblum writes that, “ugly events at the national religious Beit Orot school described in the film took place at the beginning of the school year, and that since then the situation has improved substantially. … the Sikrikim… have largely disappeared from the site of the Beit Orot school.” Is this really the case? Would someone from Beth Shemesh please weigh in on this?

  28. L. Oberstein says:

    Israeli media is amazingly partisan, but this is across the board. When Matzav reports that it won’t write anything about the arrest of Badatz officials for misappropriation of funds , isn’t that saying that any charge against frum Jews is a plot of the non believers. Then ,when a magazine is put in cherem and the posek hador signs a letter forbidding bringing Mishpacha into your home , isn ‘t that saying something about freedom of the press. As much as you are criticize justifiably (I agree with you) the chilonim, I believe the chareidim are much worse. If they were in charge, we would have no news unless it was pre-screened by self appointed censors and anyone who attempted to print something contray would be shunned. Is that really who we are? Is that the Judaism you joined when you found Torah?