Fighting Yesterday’s Battle – A View from the Beit Shemesh Front Lines

by Dov Krulwich

On September 6 I became an activist.

Parents at the Orot school in Beit Shemesh were complaining about Chareidi zealots demonstrating against the school, and commenting that their kids were afraid. My response was one of disbelief. I knew people living in the buildings near Orot, and I davened and learned often in Batei Midrash in nearby Chareidi neighborhoods. It simply couldn’t be, I said, that the situation warranted schoolkids being afraid for their well-being. We’re talking about religious girls with skirts and elbow-length sleeves! The response was simple: If you don’t believe it, come and see. I went the next day, and was shocked at the kanayus that I saw – cursing, yelling, spitting, shoving, intimidating – all with looks of sheer hatred.

In the months that followed, I spent time virtually every day trying to confront the kanayim, document the kanayus in order to have it dealt with by Rabbonim and by the police, and protect the kids from the 10-15 kanayim that waged a steady war against the school. My videos of kanayim with hatred in their eyes were viewed tens of thousands of times, I became well-known by the kanayim and their neighbors, and I personally once received blows from the fiercer of the kanayim.

I also spent time talking with everyone, including kanayim, quiet supporters of the kanayim’s agenda, and the much bigger numbers of Chassidim in the area that are against the kanayus. I spoke with Rabbonim ranging from a Dayan of the Eida Chareidis, children of well-respected Admorim, Dayanim, and Poskim, and neighborhood Rabbonim who I hoped would join in condemning the kanayus.

From all of these conversations, I’ve developed an understanding of the situation that I think is important to share. I’ve refrained from talking to the media, despite many opportunities to do so, but I think that this is a forum where the discussion might be productive. I hope that this understanding can lead to solutions, but it also points to a bigger problem than is commonly understood.

In a nutshell: The kanayim, along with a significant portion of the Eida Chareidis, has their mindset stuck firmly in the 1930’s. To them, every non-religious Jew is a mumar le’hach’is, every dati le’umi Jew is keeping Torah minimally and prioritizes Zionism over religion, and most Chareidim are selling their souls by cooperating with the State of Israel. In short, they’re stuck fighting the previous generation’s battles instead of handling this generation’s battles.

I want to first elaborate on what I mean, then discuss why I know this to be the case. After that I’ll touch on what this means for the future.

Just imagine if you looked at every non-religious women wearing jeans or short sleeves and knew without a doubt that this woman understood and appreciated hilchos tzniyus, was deciding deliberately to violate the Torah, and moreover was doing so deliberately to offend religious Jews and to try to impose secularism on religious Jews. Imagine if you were as sure of that as you are that the sky is blue. Imagine if you knew, absolutely knew, the same of every Jew driving a car on Shabbos, every man walking without a kippa, and so on. Can you possibly imagine the perpetual sense of anger and hatred that would fill you as you saw such people throughout your day? After all, so many people are deliberately insulting Hashem, and so many people are doing things in order to make you secular!

The vast majority of religious Jews nowadays, of virtually every affiliation, know that this is not true. But in the 1930’s and 1940’s, in the time of Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, it was in fact the case. The early Zionists saw the return to the Land of Israel as a Messianic fulfillment that obviated the need to keep Torah U’Mitzvos. The Shomer HaTza’ir were busy taking the Yaldei Teiman away from their parents and feeding them on Yom Kippur. Most of the chilonim in Israel then had grown up in Yeshivos and were virulently against religion.

At the risk of political incorrectness, let’s postulate that in such a climate, yelling and screaming in defense of Torah U’Mitzvos was the right thing to do. Even if so, that says absolutely nothing about today. Chilonim today know little about religion and care even less about what religious Jews do – they want only to be able to lead their secular lives without religious coercion. And a significant percentage of Dati Leumi Jews in Israel, including most parents of children in the Orot school and most families in the Sheinfeld neighborhood, are medakdek ba’mitzvos and kove’a itim le’Torah.

Religious Jews today know that our mandate is to embody Ahavas Yisrael and to bring Jews closer to G-d through our own proper and inspiring behavior. Not only does nothing good come of kanayus in our generation, but it’s a clear Chillul Hashem.

The story is told that when the Chazon Ish paskened that Chinuch Atzma’i schools should teach in Hebrew, not in Yiddish, he was attacked. Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld dedicated so much to fighting against the secularization of Loshon HaKodesh, how can Chinuch Atzma’i teach in Hebrew? The Chazon Ish reportedly answered that Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld had to fight the battles of his generation, and that we have to fight the battles of our generation.

Many times in recent months I’ve asked kanayim in Beit Shemesh simple questions: How can you act in a way that drives Jews away from Torah? How can you curse at Jewish children, what happened to the halachos involved in nivul peh? Why can’t you let other Jews follow their own psak halacha, and you follow yours? The answers are always the same – there’s nothing to talk about, we’re demonstrating against people who are evil. Conversations about how to bring Jews closer to G-d were non-starters.

It’s important to understand that the kanayim in Beit Shemesh are hated as much by most Chareidim as they are by non-Chareidim. Chassidim in the area have been attacked. Park benches enjoyed by Chassidic mothers have been uprooted when the kanayim saw that a chiloni woman once sat there. Chassidim who interact peacefully with non-Chareidi neighbors have had fish oil and feces thrown at their apartment doors. But many of these same kanayus-haters still justify the kanayus in discussion. “I hate the kanayim and I hate their violence, but how would you feel if people were deliberately enticing you with immodesty.”

I spoke last week with Rav Kopshitz, the Rav of the Eida Chareidis of Beit Shemesh. I asked him what his personal opinion was of the abuse being directed by the kanayim against residents of my neighborhood. He answered “and what do you think about the abuse being directed against Chareidim?” I answered that I completely opposed it, but that I hadn’t heard of much. His reply was striking: “The police are abusing us when they take down our signs asking women not to walk on some sidewalks, because they’re trying to force us to walk immodestly in our own homes.” Now, I happen to oppose making a big deal of a sign that all women, Chareidi or not, have been peacefully ignoring for ten years. But, that said, not a single policeman is trying to make Chareidim walk mixed. Frankly, not a single policeman cares at all how Chareidim walk down the sidewalk. They took down the sign because the sign was insulting to women. But a respected and brilliant Talmid Chacham is convinced that the police were doing it as an attack against Chareidi shmiras ha’mitzvos. And this is called abuse?

In a newspaper article last week, a Chareidi minister of the government was defending the Chareidi insistence on seperate-gender buses with separate gender seats. He closed his comments by saying that “No one should dare to tell me or my friends that I should transgress Jewish law… tomorrow they will tell me to shake hands [with women].” Even a government Minister didn’t realize that opponents of separate buses don’t care whether Chareidim sit separately, as long as they don’t force this separation on others.

Pashkevilim spread through Beit Shemesh discussing the imprisonment of some kanayim, saying that “the antisemitic attack against religion and its followers is spreading and getting stronger… attacking the houses of the faithful at late hours, brutally imprisoning Jewish activists….” The people arrested were people that I saw myself engaged in violence, that were actually arrested for violence committed in Jerusalem as well. Whether they are guilty is a matter for the courts to decide, but their arrest is in no way a broad attack against religion.

In short, a significant number of Eida Chareidis affiliated Chareidim see the world as if we were still in the 1930’s. Even those that oppose the kanayim’s tactics oppose only the tactics, but not the perspective that all others have evil and anti-religious intentions.

What does this mean for the future? On the one hand, it means that the challenge is bigger than kanayus, it’s a broader attitude of viewing people for how they are, and interacting with them accordingly, instead of projecting onto them a view from 60 years ago. Changing a mindset is much harder than changing actions. On the other hand, I believe that a significant amount of the tensions in Israel in recent months will be solvable if everyone can learn to see each other how they are today, if the kanayim and the Eida Chareidis can understand what the Chazon Ish and almost all gedolim since understood.

When groups within the Orthodox umbrella move in directions or take on philosophies that endanger Yiddishkeit, the Orthodox world responds. A large and significant group being stuck in the 1930’s, viewing and acting towards other Jews in ways that are not consistent with the current reality or with the psak of all modern-day Gedolim, and acting in ways that are a tremendous Chillul Hashem, requires a response from the entire range of the Orthodox world.

For people in Chutz La’Aretz, it’s critical to take this into account when you read and pass on the news. All the major frum news sources have reported that the Chareidi world in Israel is under attack. But is it really? Is there significant talk about cutting Yeshiva funding, or child subsidies, or even army exemptions? No, there is no more talk of these things than there is any month. What’s increased recently is only anger against kefiya datit, policies or signs or other actions that coerce non-Chareidi bus-riders, sidewalk-walkers, advertisers, store owners, or others, to adhere to religious standards against their will. What’s also increased is the police doing their job to stop violent and abusive kanayus. By any objective standard neither of these are abuse of Chareidim, they’re self-defense of Chilonim. The Chilonim are defending their right to freedom of religion, but are not attacking Chareidi religious observance at all.

Yes, there is talk in the media about the effect on the country’s economy of Chareidim not being in the work force. And there is talk about feelings of unfairness in whose children risk their lives to protect the country. These are perpetual issues that are already being quietly addressed, and need to be addressed, particularly as the economy world-wide is getting worse and the security situation is concerning. But these issues are not being raised any more now then they are perpetually.

The point of fact is that the Chareidi world has won the battle for Chareidi continuation. Nearly 80 years to the day after Rav Sonnenfeld’s petira, Torah learning and religious observance in Israel is unparalleled, more than any other place or any other time. But the whole Jewish world, particularly the Chareidi world, now needs to face today’s challenges, and not to continue fighting yesterday’s. Fighting yesterday’s battles is resulting in tremendous Chillul Hashem, along with an atmosphere of attack that doesn’t actually exist.

If, however, the Jewish world can stop fighting yesterday’s battles, can stop feeling attacked where the attacks don’t exist, can stop coercing others and realize that the others are not coercing us, and can stop the Chillul Hashem that comes from violent kanayus, then maybe we can achieve the kind of shevet achim gam yachad that Hashem wants from us.

Dov Krulwich made aliya from Chicago 15 years ago, first to Har Nof and then to Beit Shemesh. He and his family live in the Sheinfeld neighborhood of Beit Shemesh, where he works as a mobile technology analyst.

Share It:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Print

39 comments to Fighting Yesterday’s Battle – A View from the Beit Shemesh Front Lines

  • I.A.

    I have to say that this is one of the most balanced well thought out pieces on the whole situation that I have read and hold of it 100%. My only issue with the whole debacle was whether it was appropriate to to go the virulently anti-religious Yair Lapid to give him ammunition for his fire. Going to the media is one thing but I would have stayed away from the likes of Ynet and Haaretz like the plague. You can’t trust them not to use it for their own purposes rather than the one that is needed.

  • Chareidi Leumi

    >Can you possibly imagine the perpetual sense of anger and hatred that would fill you as you saw such people throughout your day? After all, so many people are deliberately insulting Hashem, and so many people are doing things in order to make you secular!

    No! People are entitled to their opinions and are entitled to disagree. attributing ignorance to secular Jews is not the only way we can see them as not evil. Maybe it was in the pre-modern world where people felt that their faith had the force of absolute knowledge of truth. But in the modern world, where faith is a choice and no one can say with absolute certainly that “I have the truth and everyone else is wrong,” it is absolutely wrong, intolerant, and destructive, to attribute evil intentions to people who reasonably disagree with you – even if its regarding things you are truly passionate about. This is in fact, the common thread that unites the mainstream chareidi world with the crazies – the inability to see non-religious Jews (or for that matter the religious Zionists) as reasonable people who simply don’t accept their religious narrative.

    The “other” may or may not be ignorant, and may or may not think that your form of religiosity is wrong – but that does not make them evil people, especially if they are willing to live and let live. True respect for the other is a pre-requisite to fixing this problem, and the language of chareidi Jewry regarding the other spans from violence and vitriol on the right to patronizing disrespect in much of the mainstream (I know enough individual chareidi Jews who truly do have respect for all decent people – but I still think that the “communal attitude” is one of derision more than respect.

  • Adina Goldman

    Thank you for this explanation. It helps to try to understand the other side. I do believe there are other factors that contribute to the terrible behavior, but perhaps this is part of it. I’m curious to know what you think can be done to change this old-time mindset. When you talked to Rav Kopshitz, did you try to explain to him that the little Orot Banot girls are covering their elbows and knees and going to learn Torah, and ask him if he thinks spitting at them is justified?

  • Tom

    excellent, informative article with the exception of the line, “At the risk of political incorrectness, let’s postulate that in such a climate, yelling and screaming in defense of Torah U’Mitzvos was the right thing to do.”

  • Etana Hecht

    Fascinating! Thank you for the insight into the reasons behind the aggression, as well as taking the time and energy to talk with those on the other side.

  • Yitz Waxman

    bravo!

  • dr. bill

    i will not bore you the details of many stories about RYCS ztl. his psak about a man who died on shabbat is recorded and how he and r. blau reacted (differently) to young zionist girls marching/celebrating (a tad less dressed and singing) on the streets near meah shearim may be legend (i do not believe so) but indicate RYCS’s POV. to mention him and these misfits and their leaders in the same article is a disservice to his memory. the radicalization is much worse than what occurred then and the blame is much wider than just the philosophy of the eidah of those days. besides, there are many rabbis outside the eidah, who have not said a word in protest despite their propensity to ban books and people and behavior.

    the radicalization of chareidi population of Israel, of which this a consequence, has broader and more troubling roots than RYCS. halevi he was at the helm.

  • ex-lion tamer

    As a chiloni, I have to wonder – where were you when the same haredim used violence against female employees at Misrad Hachinuch who were not dressed modestly enough in their eyes? And where were you when they used violence against the gay pride parade in Jerusalem?
    And in countless other occasions?
    If your response is that those were not your battles,then Martin Neimoller said it better than I ever could: “First they came…”

  • Eric Leibman

    For the life of me, I do not understand why none of you are writing about the “suspension” of Rabbi Ralbag from his position on Amsterdam because he signed the Torah Declaration on homosexuality. And it was the alleged “Orthodox” community which suspended him! Why are you going on and on and on and on about Beit Shemesh when a horrible precedent like this is being allowed to go on unchallenged in Amsterdam? Do you think that if you just ignore this dreadful phenomenon it won’t end up being exported to American shores? Do you think you are safe? Do you really think you should be doing anything else right now except forcefully coming to Rabbi Ralbag’s defense? Will you stop obsessing about Beit Shemesh for five minutes and devote some time to this far more serious issue?

    [YA – Eric has a point, but we are NOT going to open a thread on this until someone does write. (IOW, don’t submit comments on it, b/c they will not be published.) Most readers know that CC doesn’t comment on many issues. Our authors write when they have someting to say, not just because they have a bully pulpit. I think Eric is correct that his suspension is worse than scandalous, but I am personally confounded by not understanding the document. There are a few lines in it that I find very unappealing. I don’t think I can write until I hear more from Rav Shmuel, who did sign it. In any event, whatever you believe about the document, Rabbi Ralbag has become another korban on the altar of PC punctiliousness.]

  • Menachem Lipkin

    “My only issue with the whole debacle was whether it was appropriate to to go the virulently anti-religious Yair Lapid to give him ammunition for his fire.”

    On what basis do you make this claim about Yair Lapid? I read his columns all the time and have yet to see anything that would qualify as anti-religious. Check out his speech last October to a room full of Chareidi college students. (To find it, search YouTube for יאיר לפיד בקמפוס החרדי.) It’s actually quite inspiring. His positions on religious issues are very similar to MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem. I don’t imagine anyone would call him “virulently anti-religious”.

  • Dovid Kornreich

    To Dati Leumi:
    But in the modern world, where faith is a choice and no one can say with absolute certainly that “I have the truth and everyone else is wrong,” it is absolutely wrong, intolerant, and destructive, to attribute evil intentions to people who reasonably disagree with you – even if its regarding things you are truly passionate about.

    I agree with you that believing “I have the truth and everyone else is wrong” is intolerant and, if not handled right, destructive. But saying it is “absolutely wrong” creates a delicious irony…

    This is in fact, the common thread that unites the mainstream chareidi world with the crazies – the inability to see non-religious Jews (or for that matter the religious Zionists) as reasonable people who simply don’t accept their religious narrative.

    Another equally relevant common thread that unites them is that they don’t shave, they speak yiddish, and they prefer felt headwear. Makes you wonder, no?

    My point is that just because you can imagine a convincing theoretical line linking the two types, doesn’t make it real.
    I’m more convinced by the author’s trenchant historical, sociologically relevant distinctions (which I’ve mentioned previously myself) than your imaginary links.

  • Baruch Gitlin

    I think this is a very good, and well-balanced article. I thank Cross-Currents for publishing it. I also think “ex-lion tamer” has an excellent point. This is, I think, similar to the point Rabbi Slifkin has made on his blog several times, and the main point on which I objected to Rabbi Rosenblum’s most recent Cross-Currents article, “Who picks up the tab for media manipulation?” We can go on and on about this situation in Beit Shemeh – reasonable people will be almost unanimous in condemning the actions of the extremists (although it’s a shame that few, if any, of the haredi rabbis of Beit Shemesh can be counted among that group of reasonable people), and reasonable people can also make a case that elements of the media are unfairly using this situation as a sledgehammer against the haredi community in general. But there are some much more serious problems in the background that should be addressed. One of these problems is the use of violence and harassment to enforce standards of tzniut. If Tanya Rosenblitt, who was at the center of the incident on the segregated bus from Ashdod to Jerusalem, was trying to be provoke an incident, and if the media jumped all over this incident, that does not erase the fact that many women, including haredi, dati, and secular women, have been harassed and sometimes physically assaulted by haredim on buses in the name of tzniut. That does not erase the violent incidents against the female employees at Misrad Hachinuch that “ex-lion tamer” mentions. That does not erase the incident in Ramat Beit Shemesh several years ago in which a rabbi that is considered by some to be the “mara d’atra” brought a group of followers to disrupt a performance of a boys’ choir because families were viewing the performance without a mechitza. These types of incidents present a much more serious challenge to the social order, to the commonly accepted ideas of what types of behavior should be allowed in a civil society, than the actions of this group of fanatics in Ramat Beit Shemesh B that has grabbed the media’s attention.

  • dr. bill

    RYCS ztl died in 1932; correct what was written. and btw there are pictures of RYCS with Rav Kook ztl. The eventual rav of yerushalayim (accepted as the family posek in various areas by RYZS ztl when he arrived) opposed (even) RYCS’s extremism. Pretty remarkable that today’s leaders can not bring themselves to oppose individuals/activity that by comparison make RYCS look like an ardent zionist.

  • dovid landesman

    I think, despite your great intentions and desire to hear the other side of the story, that you don’t understand that there are no partners to your dialogue. The Eidah mindset as represented by Rav Kopshitz and other rabbanim is not about to change nor can it if it is to fulfill its mission which is the protection of authentic Judaism [as they define it] without compromise. In their eyes, the real enemy out there is not the secular majority in EY; it is the growing number of chareidim and charedi lights who have chosen to make their peace with the Zionist entity and become a contributing part of the nation – joining the army’s special units, doing national service in MDA or Hatzalah and attending the various michlalot so as to mainstreaming in the economy. This trend, should it continue to grow, will spell the end of the museum espoused by RYCZ and others [including RYSE if we are to believe that he actually authored the recent letter in Yated forbidding all of the above programs].
    While the Gavad and the formal leadership of the Eidah do not directly support the violent actions of the Sikrikim and their cohorts, it would be naive to believe that any large demonstration can take place in Kikar Shabbat against the wishes of the Eidah. The Eidah has never, and will never, see its role as serving the citizens of Israel in their entirety; rather, it prefers to be a small minority, supported externally, preferably persecuted as that creates a rallying point as well as an effective means of keeping the cash flow from Williamsburg and Monroe. This was true back in the days of the Maharil Diskin and later the Brisker Rav and remains true today.
    Kana’ut in EY is not limited to the Eidah. The olam hayeshivot has also, for the most part, never come to grips with the problem of dealing with statehood as a reality. It too has withdrawn into itself, and while less violent perhaps than Meah Shearim [although the battles in Ponovezh would seem to demonstrate that they are not completely immune]. I have often wondered what would happen if the United Torah Judaism [Agudah and Degel] won a majority of seats in the Knesset. I hate to admit that it would be a nightmare because we are completely incapable of dealing with the inevitable questions that being responsible for the entire population – rather than unzere – would create.

  • Michael Feigin

    While I absolutely agree with this article, I’ve sought out and not found either side to have moral leaders standing up to it l’shaim shemayim. Because the kinyoyim hate, isn’t cause to hate every charedi Jew. Because the kinoyim don’t want you there, isn’t a cause to try and put quotas on housing for Jews of a different stripe or complain in public every time someone does something with their own elevator. When there is a clear moral voice leading the way, reasonable people on either side of the charedi/dati fence can join together without fear that they are supporting a group who is, in other ways, trying to harm their ability to live in accordance with their hashkafah.

  • I.A.

    “On what basis do you make this claim about Yair Lapid? I read his columns all the time and have yet to see anything that would qualify as anti-religious. Check out his speech last October to a room full of Chareidi college students. (To find it, search YouTube for יאיר לפיד בקמפוס החרדי.) It’s actually quite inspiring. His positions on religious issues are very similar to MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem. I don’t imagine anyone would call him “virulently anti-religious”.”

    I read his articles all the time as well and they are most definetely virulently anti religious.. especially anti-chareidi.. That video was made three months ago.Guaranteed he was making it to reel in the votes.. Maybe you don’t know that his father was Tommy Lapid who for sure what anti-religious..

  • Menachem Lipkin

    I.A., please provide some examples to show that Yair Lapid is “virulently anti religious”. Normally we do not visit the sins of the father on the son. (Though a careful reading of even Tommy shows that he was more about freedom from what he considered religious coercion, and less “anti-religious”.)

  • Tzvi

    Michael Feigin,

    The story with the elevators, as reported in the press, was not a case of a community wanting to do something with their own elevators. It was a case of a small group of extremists trying to force separation on the majority of the community of more moderate charedim. If that is who you want to support than that is your business, but when decent people stand up for others’ rights, it is unwise to pull the sinas chinam card.

  • Shimon

    Contrary to what you say, Tommy Lapid was NOT anti-religious. He was anti-charedi. There is a difference. And he was anti-Charedi based on what he saw were flaws in charedi society, namely their not going to the army or working for a living as well as other thigs. He had no problems with the religious Zionists as long as they didn’t try to legislate religion. I am not defending Tommy Lapid, but we need to be honest in describing him.

  • DF

    Chareidi Leumi, above, hits it on the head, but misses one detail. He observes that the religious view, as articualated in this article, is that the secular are out to “deliberately insult” God. Another assumption commonly made, particularly among kiruv organizations, is that the non-religious are all ignorant, and if they would only be but exposed to the Torah as we see it, they would perforce become religious. This view is a fantasy. A great many of the non-religious – in fact, almost certainly the overwhelming majority – are NOT out to “deliberately insult” God. And less so but still many are not ignorant of Torah at all. They simply do not agree with our way of life and our understanding of the Torah. This was true already in the time of Bayis Sheni. Is it so hard to accept this, rather than forever ascribing non-existent motives and reasons to explain our differences?

    The above is more or less Charedie Leumi’s point. But it must be added, our secular brothers are equally guilty of this. The smug assmption of many, mainly in the media but in their readership also, is that religious Jews are a bunch of benighted fools, stubbornly refusing to accept the obvious truth. A common theme is that our young people and our women are all subjugated, and it is their duty to force them to see the light, from which they’ve been hidden all their life. Once again, no! Why can’t such people accept that people CHOOSE to live their lives this way? That it’s not that they’ve not been exposed to other ways of thinking, it’s that they’ve seen the other side and find it wanting. I dont know what it is among the human condition, that causes us always to seek complicated explanations to explain differences, rather than accepting that we dont all think the same. The fact is, as our faces are different, our ways of thinking are diferent, too. Not everythng has to be an argument.

  • Yisrael Asper

    Israel is Israel. The Jews there are surrounded by Jews. The result is more intense Jewish behavior and Anti Jewish behavior that in the Diaspora looks too extreme. You got the Bet Shemesh radicals, more intense religiosity in the general Jewish community and Tommy Lapid and New Israel Fund and Peace Now and a supreme court that thinks democracy means a body of judges ruling according to their enlightened views. No side has required provocation as the sole source to strike against another side. More than anything else Israelis have to think how it would look if Antisemites were to do what they do. It’s easier to remember in the Diaspora.

  • lacosta

    see Mishpacha magazine english last week– 3 PR people– one each hiloni/DL/haredi on how they would handle certain scenarios … it really gives an idea of the prevalent mindsets…

  • Bob Miller

    When Mashiach completes the ingathering and reorganization of our exiles, some of us may be shocked at how we had written off so many of these Jews as essentially and permanently outside our Jewish world. It may take that shock for the attitudes described in this article to crumble.

  • Yoel B

    Most of the chilonim in Israel then had grown up in Yeshivos and were virulently against religion.

    Another way to phrase this is that the Yeshivot had failed these chilonim, failed to satisfactorily address their concerns and questions, failed to provide a way in which those young men who wanted to do things to help humanity and the Jewish people in the world could do so and stay in the camp of Torah. Can you imagine the pain this caused? Someone who responded to such disappointment not just by shrugging his shoulders and making a living but by becoming virulently anti-religious was someone who had a tremendous religious drive and expected more from his rabbanim (possibly unrealistically) than he received.

    Those Hashomer Hatzair activists who fed the Yaldei Teiman on Yom Kippur, etc. acted from a perverted religious impulse strangely akin to that which can lead men to spit at little girls.

  • Daniel M

    My painful suggestion: let it go, for now. Even if you have to move, move.
    Not because it’s not an injustice– it is. Rather, the issue has it’s roots in much deeper fundamental mechanisms of dialectics – thesis and anti-thesis – and a local “victory” in Beit Shemesh is going to do very little in solving the greater struggle, if not only make it worse.

    The solution: Time. Time to allow for a paradigm shift of an entire demographic. Time for the simple constraints of the evolving world to FORCE the extreme groups to come to terms with the realities within themselves and within their own families. A child coming from one of these families can do more to change the position of this community than you can do with a thousand arguments or demonstrations. Change is taking place, just slowly. But if you think in a more broader time-frame you can be comforted to know that you may lose the battle but win the war.

    In 40 years from now the internet will be so pervasive that it will encompass a person entirely. Paying an electricity bill. Making a “phone call” via videochat. Driving automated cars that drive themselves. Having an IPAD storing an entire beis medrash library at your fingertips. The list goes on and on… just give it time and wait.

    You can already see it happening. I know pure-bred israeli charedis that have alias Facebook accounts. I see here and there the occasional computer in the Charedi kollels. The charedi youth with the touch screen iphone. All this interconnection leads to one thing — being coerced to deal with modern issues and standards. Let it go for now. Lose the battle, win the war. Let evolution work itself out peacefully instead of “forcing it” with all-out war.

  • Yehoshua Friedman

    Yisrael Asper: I get the phenomenon of the intensity of Israeli life, having lived it for 41 years and counting. But where is menschlichkeit? Where is decency and tolerance? Don’t the hareidi and secular and whatever else Jews ever consider that by being shrill and intolerant they just make their world-view, whatever it is, grossly unattractive to everybody but the members of their little shtiebel? What happens to make that not be on their radar screen?

  • zadok

    The writer is correct about those in Beit Shemesh fighting the wrong battles but there may be a different cause of all this violence.It is an outgrowth of years of endless focus on the real and perceived faults of others (and too much free time).It is difficult to write about this topic particularly because I don’t think writing will accomplish anything.But one lesson we can learn from these people is what happens to a community or individuals that spent too much time on fighting and criticizing others, no matter how (initially) well intentioned.Bloggers beware.

  • Rafael Araujo

    “Contrary to what you say, Tommy Lapid was NOT anti-religious. He was anti-charedi. There is a difference. And he was anti-Charedi based on what he saw were flaws in charedi society, namely their not going to the army or working for a living as well as other thigs. He had no problems with the religious Zionists as long as they didn’t try to legislate religion. I am not defending Tommy Lapid, but we need to be honest in describing him.”

    He, together with Arial Sharon, provided a ton of money to MAFDAL for them to join and stay in the coalition. Money sure buys a lot, doesn’t it?

  • Dov (the author)

    When I wrote the article, I knew I’d drawn some of my feelings on the subject from a Dvar Torah I’d heard years ago, but I couldn’t remember which of several Rabbonim I’d heard it from. It looks like it’s from Rav Leff, who actually spoke about it on this very week’s parsha – click here to see it. (Note that I have not confirmed whether Rav Leff would agree with how I applied the concept in this article, although I have discussed my thoughts with other Rabbonim.)

    I also knew when I wrote the article that I’d get hit from both sides. Ex-Lion Tamer questions whether I would oppose kanayut directed at chilonim, and Michael Feigin claims that I (or people with me in Beit Shemesh) hate chareidim. Wow! Lucky I’m happy to be a middle ground guy. But to answer both sides: Ex-Lion Tamer, I can’t answer for events in the past, but our group of anti-kanayus activists in Beit Shemesh have also worked to prevent the closure of a chiloni school in Ramat Beit Shemesh and worked to be sure that cultural centers continue to be built in the more secular areas of Beit Shemesh. Michael Feigin, the only thing close to quotas in Beit Shemesh is a push to build thousands of apartments only for chareidim, and our push is to have housing for everyone. If chareidim want housing without non-chareidim living nearby, then new building should be split among all constituencies. As for hating chareidim, most people opposing the kanayim daven sometimes in chareidi shuls, and move freely among both segments of society, got along fine with chareidim one neighborhood over until the kanayim showed up, and oppose only the abusive kanayus.

    If you look at my video from the Chanukah rally, which ignored the speakers and focused on the people attending, you’ll see that the masses, both religious and secular, were not against chareidim, but rather were against abuse and against unfairness.

    Chareidi Leumi, I agree with your philosophy whole-heartedly, but my point is that at that earlier point in time nobody was all that accepting of others. What you ascribe to a “common thread” among chareidim was equally so at that time for those who were aggressively promoting secularlization, such as the Shomer HaTza’ir and those behind the scandal of the Yaldei Teiman. The difference is that most of us moved beyond that, while some have stayed with the mentality of cultural wars.

    I.A. in fact the rally during Chanukah that brought in the national politicians was not promoted by any of the activists in Beit Shemesh, it came fully from those outside the city, when they heard what was going on here. Whatever misgivings I or others may have about working with politicians who have their own agendas, bottom line, since that rally we’ve had condemnations of kanayus from Agudas Yisrael of America, Chabbad, Rav Ovadia Yosef, and others, and the police are now working against the zealots more seriously. If the Rabbinic comdemnations or police support had been earlier, maybe the rally wouldn’t have happened.

    Tom and others, I’m actually not supporting coercion in any form at any time period. I’m just trying to understand the background to a destructive attitude of today, with the aim of trying to fix it.

    Rabbi Landsman, there actually are many partners to conversation among the chareidi populations of Beit Shemesh, although not yet with the kanayim. Lo aleinu hamelacha ligmor…

  • Harry Maryles

    I remember you from your Chicago days, Dov. I am very impressed with your insightful analysis. It explains a lot. Sadly I am not sure he hearts and minds of these people can be changed. If a Posek the stature of Rav Kopshitz is so sheltered that he doesn’t recognize the current reality and thus lives in the past – then how can he possibly influence the people he Paskins for to change?

  • dovid2

    R’ Dovid Landesman: “This trend [the growing number of chareidim and charedi lights who have chosen to make their peace with the Zionist entity and become a contributing part part of the nation], should it continue to grow, will spell the end of the museum espoused by RYCZ ….”

    Are you sure about it? From the States, it appears that the demographics are in their favor. They used to be only in Meah Shearim and Geula. They spilled over to RBS and it appears to me they will spill over to other places. Furthermore, it appears to me that the charedi velt tolerates them as a necessary evil, while the dati leumi circles are not willing or are unable to put up a fight (I mean a real fight with the charedi hooligans). Reb Dovid, I am a quiet and peaceful Yid. But if someone attacked my children, used and directed nivul peh towards them, if my children were terrorized while going to or returning from cheder, and I can expect that to happen every day, I would grab a baseball bat and soften the bones of one of the hooligans till I leave the fellow unconscious, spread on the pavement. And if that’s not enough, I will consider other violent ways. B’kitzur, fighting fire with fire.

  • Yisrael Asper

    “Yehoshua Friedman

    Yisrael Asper: I get the phenomenon of the intensity of Israeli life, having lived it for 41 years and counting. But where is menschlichkeit? Where is decency and tolerance? Don’t the hareidi and secular and whatever else Jews ever consider that by being shrill and intolerant they just make their world-view, whatever it is, grossly unattractive to everybody but the members of their little shtiebel? What happens to make that not be on their radar screen?”

    Decency and tolerance are the less media friendly aspects I’m sure amongst Israelis. We basically are going to hear of hardliners and nuts. But there is the phenomena of people finding it harder to see what things look like to an outsider. This causes people to say stupid things but on the other hand many Diaspora Jews are more tolerance because they feel less of a connection to Jewishness and so don’t see what anyone should get excited about. That should never be the reason for our tolerance.

  • Dr. E.

    It is a good piece overall and a valid thesis of a group that is still waging old battles. Anyone who visits Israel with his eyes open realizes that as a modern country in 2012 (or any country in 2012), the realities do not allow for a 100% Chareidi presence. (If some had their druthers, that would be the utopian ideal.) There is a need for an infrastructure including transportation, utilities, commerce, high tech, research, etc. Of course, there is the need for security and military entities both on the borders and in the inner cities. For anyone, Chariedi or not, to believe that a country can be viable without having things services covered in not in touch with reality. Given that the Chareidi community has failed to produce individuals to satisfy these critical roles, the goal of 100% will never happen.

    But, I believe that the battle is less limited than some of the extreme behavior referenced in the article. There is an entire ideology and rhetoric of intolerance which attempts to belittle and marginalize all in the out-group. And this rhetoric is somewhat mainstream as opposed to be limited to fanatics and their violent behavior. “Daas Torah” is part of that equation and is opportunistically manipulated, representing a convenient shield behind which to hide to support this marginalization of others. We have seen numerous examples of this narrative through at best taking what comes to others for granted or lashon hara, and at worst cavalierly putting people in the out-group into cherem, through posters, misinformation, rhetoric, and claims of an anti-Chareidi conspiracy. (Ironically, the Internet and technology is OK for that “noble” goal.) The point is that revisiting old battles, apart from its manifestation in extreme behavior, is quite prevalent.

  • Shimon

    Kol hakavod Dov! This man is a true leader! The next step must surely be for like-minded people to join him in his peaceful, active opposition to this vile behaviour. May there be dozens, scores, hundreds of Dov Krulwichs gathering in calm, determined, and loving opposition to these extremists! And in so doing, hilonim will see proof of the overwhelming goodness that exists in the Torah world.

  • L. Oberstein

    The more I think about it, the more Western Immigrants move to Israel and the more advanced the economy gets , the other Israelis will gradually come around. The sensitivities that we have need to be nurtured. This means that American olim need to inculcate our values instead of trying to submerge into a certain Israeli mind set. Specifically, American olim should not have to choose to deny their own children a high school education, much less a college education, in order to “make it” in frum society. I know this sounds like cultural imperlialism but it is the way it is. We have developed a way of living together in peace with Jews of other points of view, maybe we can bring that tolerance to the very religious Israeli Jews. If the chareidim are indeed going to become a very significant part of the population, then they have to be able to take responsibility. This idea was told to me a few years ago by a top official in the American Agudah. Off the record, they don’t see things the way the Israeli chareidim do. Maybe we can teach them a thing or two and help Israel be a modern country, with a positive perspective of religion.

  • Commentator

    == “The vast majority of religious Jews nowadays, of virtually every affiliation, know that this is not true. But in the 1930’s and 1940’s, in the time of Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, it was in fact the case. The early Zionists saw the return to the Land of Israel as a Messianic fulfillment that obviated the need to keep Torah U’Mitzvos. The Shomer HaTza’ir were busy taking the Yaldei Teiman away from their parents and feeding them on Yom Kippur. Most of the chilonim in Israel then had grown up in Yeshivos and were virulently against religion.”

    Not true then and not true now. In the 1930’s most immigration was already Jews escaping Nazism (which is why Aguda, from 1933 onwards, supported statehood… and before you start writing in, read the history books, including the testimony of R’Moshe Blau ztz’l to the British ‘Round Table’ Conference (1937), and look at R’Itche Meir Lewin’s signature on behalf of Aguda in the Declaration of Independence). There was no aliyyah 1939-1945, and from 1945 it was an aliyyah (often illegal) of Holocaust survivors and refugees. The suggestion that “Most of the chilonim in Israel then had grown up in Yeshivos” is also nonsense — while I applaud, in general, this posting, the author needs to read some serious Jewish history books. As do the kanoim he is complaining about…….

  • Tziona Harel

    Dov Krulwich, Thank you for your concern and thoughtfulness. Such a response is heartening. Your explanation of the objectionable mindset and behavior that we are witnessing posits that somehow this is a throwback to a mindset from the 1930s. Your model, while intellectually interesting, strikes me as a distraction from a more immediate and plausible explanation; psychopathology. Historically, Jews have witnessed and suffered from group pathological behavior from non-Jews. ‘Time to recognize it within “our own.”

    If we think about the situation based on a diagnosis of psychopathology we have a somewhat more “robust” model than the “historical throwback model.” I will be the first to admit that current Western psychology carries many limitations in its ability to explain and ameliorate suffering. However, the advantage of identifying the perpetrators as mentally ill is in the way we can learn and apply lessons for our own communities, institutions and individuals. Can we gain insights into how these violent individuals came to their present state of mind? How have their institutions and leaders contributed to their delusions? Can we, as individuals and as institutions, apply lessons in how NOT to take paths of negativity and hatred? Can this situation come to teach us to be grateful for our mental health, for our kind and loving families, for our constructive and nurturing institutions? Finally, could we come to a point of understanding that the perpetrators must be suffering greatly; that the fear and revulsion that we feel when confronted by these people is indicative of the ever present “atmosphere” of their own mental world? We may not be able to “change them” but certainly we could glean lessons of understanding and even compassion that might keep the rest of us on a path of kindness, mental health and abundant gratitude.

  • lo fidalti

    “If a Posek the stature of Rav Kopshitz is so sheltered that he doesn’t recognize the current reality and thus lives in the past – then how can he possibly influence the people he Paskins for to change?”

    There is more to it:
    If the Chareidi leaders give these “Kano’im” tacit support and fail to understand that these “Kano’im” really are the source of the secular “Chareidim bashing”, then the “Kano’im” have nothing to worry about.
    Once the Chareidi world would realize that the “Kano’im” are the real “Rodfim” of the chareidi population, the “Kano’im” will lose their ideological base, and secular chareidi relationship can improve.

  • Tehila

    This is wonderful. Thank you for writing it. Please try and get it published in chareidi publications so more people can read it who don’t go online. When a community values searching for truth in Torah learning, and accepts all kinds of arguments in that search for emes, but doesn’t value working through different points of view and truth applied in any other field or way of looking at the world, there is unfortunately something skewed in this. The Torah tells us to use binah as well as just remembering our history, we’re not meant just to accept at face value what we are told. The observations that you make about the way the Israeli chareidi communities tend to view current events is apt and wise.
    I think the problem is rooted in good intentions- the desire to read only kosher news and see only kosher things, the fear of being exposed to ideas that are indeed dangerous, led to blocking more and more until we ended up with an insular community with a feedback cycle for news and information that constantly loops back on itself without any new information ever being introduced. When one begins by stating, “We are a persecuted minority.” Then X event happens- “Look, here is proof, we are being persecuted as a minority.” Everyone around you nods eagerly and the social proof allows no room for doubts. It’s a classic sociological phenomenon that is easy to recognize, but when an entire community doesn’t study pyschology or sociology they can’t recognize it, they just think that is how the world is. I wish I knew what could be done to fix this. What small steps can we take, as individuals in the Orthodox community who realize that something urgently needs to change?