Shark Feeding Frenzy

When my husband was a flight surgeon on the US Air Force base in Guam, he witnessed a feeding frenzy by sharks. Daily, a huge garbage truck would gingerly back up to the edge of a cliff, and dump the waste into the Pacific. In 40 seconds sharks made mincemeat of the garbage, leaving disposable dishes floating. In another 20 seconds those were also disposed of by sharks. If you can’t go to Guam, you can see a shark feeding frenzy on the Discovery Channel. Or you can follow the current media frenzy against haredim in Israel.

Perhaps this is what Rabbi Chanina had in mind when he stipulated, “Pray for the welfare of the government, for without fear of governmental authorities people would swallow each other alive” (Pirkey Avot 3:2).

Here are examples of the media frenzy.

(a)Yair Lapid showed a video in December on Israeli TV, which featured the most extreme peripheral haredim whose behavior is considered outrageous by almost all haredim and ultra-Orthodox rabbis.

(b)The NYTimes has blown out of proportion issues related to controversies in Beit Shemesh, on buses, and at conferences. On December 28 the weekday NYTimes gave wide coverage on p.4 to religious extremism.

(c)By Jan. 15 the topic had moved up to the Sunday edition, page one, and was headlined, “In Israel, a Seismic Clash Between the Secular and Ultra-Orthodox”. It included a slide show about haredim.

(d)On Jan.20, Rabbi Dov Linzer discussed similar issues in the NYT op ed pages.The Times appended the headline, “Leachery, Immodesty and the Talmud.”

What is highlighted in this media feeding frenzy is not necessarily what is happening on the ground. I will touch on some points of contention, brevatim et seriatim, using quotes from Rabbi Linzer’s NYT oped with which I respectfully disagree.

1) “Is it possible for a religious demand for modesty to be about anything other than men controlling women’s bodies?” The concept of men controlling women appears several times in Rabbi Linzer’s essay. After interviewing hundreds of haredi women, the concept that emerges is rarely men vs. women. The women see themselves as partners with men in keeping the focus of men’s attention on their own families.

2) “Last month an… 8-year-old girl… in Beit Shemesh described being spat on and vilified by religious extremists… who believed that she did not dress modestly enough while walking past them to the religious school she attends.” This is inexcusable behavior of the fringe of a fringe, but the incident described occurred not in December, but in September. A video of the girl was aired by Yair Lapid on Israeli TV Dec. 27, shortly before he threw his hat into the election ring (see Lapid introducing the tendentious video).

In actuality, the real reason for the abominable behavior by the fringe is not the dress code of their national religious neighbors. It is a turf war over a school building, a confrontation that is a spatial expression of a century-old culture clash, as described kli rishon by Dov Krulwich.

3) “…public buses in Israel are enforcing gender segregation imposed by ultra-Orthodox riders.” The buses do not enforce seating arrangements. There are a few bus lines that run between haredi neighborhoods where most men voluntarily sit in the front, and most women voluntarily sit in the back. Although I am not personally in favor of same sex seating, I have ridden thousands of miles on these buses when convenient to do so, and only once, 4 years ago, saw an incident where someone was asked to move. Unfortunately, there are a few such self-appointed sheriffs who are obnoxious, but those are miniscule in number and decreasing to the point of extinction.

Women who do prefer this arrangement do not see it as a zero-sum-game, but as a gain. I have attended the Supreme Court sessions on the issue and read reports and court decisions. The bottom line is that the buses have a sign that people may sit where they want. On the voluntarily gender separated buses I almost always see some women in the front, some men in the back, couples here and there. There are also women and men who are unabashedly provocative and get on these buses to stir up and film trouble. Unfortunately some haredim fall into the trap of responding to provocations.

4) Rabbi Linzer writes that there is a “battle being waged in Israel between the ultra-Orthodox and the rest of Israeli society over women’s place in society, over their very right to have a visible presence and to participate in the public sphere.” No one is battling over the presence of women in most spheres in Israel. The chief justice of the Supreme Court is a women, five women just graduated from pilots’ course, etc. There was an incident which seems inappropriate and may have shown poor judgment by the haredi deputy health minister asking the female recipient of an award to send her husband to the podium to receive the award. Perhaps the deputy minister was being unnecessarily cautious. Mistake. But a much worse mistake was made in a separate incident when the Israel Medical Association boycotted and forbade physicians to attend the annual Puah conference to acquaint rabbis with developments in the field of fertility medicine.

This was a case of the IMA acting like the proverbial bull in a china shop. Rabbi Menachem Burstein described how it took him a decade to quietly gain the confidence of rabbis who heretofore were not used to public discussion of delicate matters. What happened to values of tact and sensitivity? Must everything be done by fiat?

Puah has been going in the direction of greater inclusion of women. Why the sledgehammer approach by the media and IMA?

Here is a counter example — Rabbi Ovadia Yosef often shares the podium with women professors at the graduation of students from the Charedi College and he insists on staying to hear the women speakers. Does that attract the media?

5) The Talmud “places the responsibility for controlling men’s licentious thoughts about women squarely on the men… The Talmud says: It’s your problem, sir; not hers… The Talmud tells the religious man, in effect: If you [men] have a problem, you deal with it.”

Most of the haredi women & girls I interview view themselves as helpmates who would not want to put a stumbling block in front of men. They are cognizant of the choices they have and choose to minimize temptation. In the long run they see themselves as beneficiaries of female modesty. Where you find coercion is in the secular advertising realm. Example: there was 30-foot billboard along a highway with supermodel Bar Rafaeli baring almost all. You could not drive the highway without seeing it. That is visual coercion, and disrespect to women.

Rabbi Linzer is correct that men have role in self-restraint. But recently there was a case where they exercised such self-restraint and were punished for it. Soldiers in an officer’s course were compelled to attend an entertainment program where women sang. There were a few soldiers who who keep stringencies of not listening to women sing. In line with Rabbi Linzer’s emphasis that it is the man’s problem, they did not say a word about asking the women not to sing. They only asked to be excused.

They were forced to attend on penalty of expulsion from the course. Darned if you do, darned if you don’t. This is symbolic of a culture conflict that needs to be negotiated tactfully. It isn’t an isolated case of women singing at one event, but participation in a culture that is redolent with permissiveness. Example: the female soldiers who announce the traffic reports on national army radio are told to read the reports in a throaty, breathless, erotic voice.

6) I agree completely with Rabbi Linzer’s conclusion. “Modesty is about embodying the prophet Micah’s call: learning ‘to walk humbly with your God.’” It is in this spirit that I respectfully submit the above reservations about Rabbi Linzer’s NYT oped.

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34 comments to Shark Feeding Frenzy

  • E. Fink

    I am constantly amazed at the efforts, seemingly moderate people make, to defend or find favor in abhorrent behavior. Calling it a shark feeding frenzy is a horribly misguided mis-statement. Every single thing that was mentioned in the newspapers is TRUE. Telling media or rabbis in America to ignore the truth because it makes you uncomfortable is like asking someone not to warn you when a shark is coming right at you because you don’t like thinking about sharks.

  • Orit

    You make many good points here about media overkill and a lack of sensitivity for those who are trying to be religious and modest. I agree that most women and girls in Orthodox communities are happy to dress modestly and see that as part of their faith and culture. They do not, however, appreciate having little girls dressed in skirts that cover their knees and shirtsleeves over the elbows called “prostitutes” on a public street on their way to school, and it is hard to blame the media for jumping on that bizarre story: fully grown men in beards and hats, choosing to stand on a street where small girls pass by, just to call them disgusting, immodest names in the name of “modesty.”

  • Daniel Goldman

    For the umpteenth time the “spin” of the Beit Shemesh issue being about a media campaign or frenzy is used to turn victim into perpetrator.

    The events of the last few months and indeed years, which have included, but are by no means limited to, the intimidation of Na’ama Margolese and the girls of Orot Banot, for those prepared to take the time to check, prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is not simply about a tiny minority of extremists. This is about a cultural and leadership problem within the Charedi community, which has been passive for too long about disturbing trends within their own community. (BTW the Charedi leadership would be the first to admit, quietly albeit, that the violence is a problem suffered in many parts of their own community from Meah Shearim, through Beit Shemesh and all the way to Bnei Brak where anyone can become a victim for stepping out of line)

    Our community, as individuals and as a group, have attempted over several years to try and deal with constant and repeated acts of intimidation, physical and otherwise. We have always done so b’darcei noam and quietly and without recourse to the press. In addition, the change of leadership in the city has exacerbated the situation with a clear and stated agenda by the Mayor (all available on youtube) to turn Beit Shemesh into a Charedi city. Frankly, this has just encouraged the extremists.

    The straw that broke the camel’s back was the threat by the Mayor not to open the school which spontaneously galvanised all of non-Charedi (and some Charedi) Beit Shemesh into action. This was grass roots and heart felt. Rightly, once this happended it was decided that we would fight back with all the available legitimate means, which included local demonstrations by Beit Shemesh residents, PR to get the story out and direct lobbying of the police and relevant government ministries to do the right thing. None of this was driven by hate, but simply a straight forward desire that justice for once ought to be done, and that threats could not be the reason for taking City-wide decisions!

    Your claim that the extremists have been condemned by “almost all haredim and ultra-Orthodox rabbis” is simply factually incorrect. Their responses have ranged from complete silence, to disdain, and to outright condemnation of my community as Charedi haters and bashers. A small number of brave Charedi Rabbis in Israel and thankfully a growing chorus of Rabbis (Charedi and otherwise) in the Diaspora are waking up to the reality that Charedi life in Israel is dramatically different from the eponymous lifestyle in the US and other places.

    I am not going to go through the multiple examples of the above but will simply point out the the Eida Charedit itself posted its response which specifically defended the thugs both in Beit Shemesh and also in Jerusalem who have carried out violent attacks in both of those cities. I personally published an open letter begging the Eida not to support the violence following their public endorsement of it, and to date have not received a response. Whilst we maintain attempts at dialogue with the Eida and other Charedi groups (which will continue) one cannot argue with the facts about their lack of public response.

    I don’t need to patronise anybody about the qualities of the Charedi community in general or many individuals within it. This is completely besides the point. The community that I belong to seeks harmony with all residents of Beit Shemesh and has constantly welcomed with open arms all comers on this matter, which of course includes members of the Charedi community!

    I am the proudest I have ever been to call myself a resident of Beit Shemesh. I am also incredibly optimistic about the future because I see what the grass roots Charedim are doing. They are voting with their feet by joining Tzahal in ever increasing numbers and by seeking a professional education in ever increasing numbers. The more the leadership of the Charedi community and it sympathisers continue to put their heads in the sand and pretend that all is Holy in their camp, and everything else is just a dastardly campaign created by the Media/NIF/Dati Leumi community/Left/secular etc, the more they will loose touch with the very people they seek to lead.

    This is the ultimate tragedy of the situation. The very Gedolim in whose name the askanim claim to speak for are the victims of being undermined by the extremist views expressed and the attempts to turn everything round as an attack on the Charedi community. With their own hands they are making them irrelevant which I believe will have a long term impact on the Charedi community.

  • dr. bill

    you misread r. linzer’s article, particularly given its venue. but i will let others judge that. in any case, regardless of your halakhic view, self-restraint is not defined as walking out, as you imply, but limiting one’s reaction/response.

    overall, you miss the point if you think this is about a few bad apples; more like the (insignificant) straw that broke the camel’s back. rest assured the camel (israeli society) will not tolerate carrying water as it has. the rabbi’s phrase – tofasta murabah- comes to mind.

  • Doron Beckerman

    How hard would it have been for Yair Lapid to get some Charedi condemnations and broadcast them along with the spitting incident, for balanced and uninciteful reporting?

    But that would take all the fun out of it…

  • Shoshanna

    so… the girls, women, people of Bet Shemesh, people of Israel living with INCREASING coercion (not going extent as you erroneously claim), and the average Joe/Jane on the street are to be vilified for exposing, talking about and resisting getting spit on, having women erased from society (billboards across J-m, posters, pamphlets & magazines sponsored by individuals, health clinics & municipalities), being bullied- yes bullied- into sitting in the back of self proclaimed mahadrin buses by disgusting people claiming to act in the name of Gd & Torah, inane signs forced upon store owners with coercion/extortion, benches being ripped from sidewalks for ‘modesty’, feces, fish, rocks being thrown at girls in school, dozens of hasidish extremists calling girls whores, shiksas & telling them to leave while they sit in, or leave school ON A REGULAR BASIS – not once in September (where have you been and moreover, where to you get your incomplete information from?), are to believe that this is not real? That its the media making a mountain out of a molehill? I invite you to Bet Shemesh, bring marshmallows, I doubt we’ll art long, but we can try and roast them over the burning garbage cans lit in the name of Torah. I invite you to come and judge for yourself who the sharks are indeed.

  • L.Oberstein

    “There was an incident which seems inappropriate and may have shown poor judgment by the haredi deputy health minister asking the female recipient of an award to send her husband to the podium to receive the award. Perhaps the deputy minister was being unnecessarily cautious. Mistake.”
    Let’s be honest about this incident. Gerrer Chassidim do not mix men and women to an extreme extent.The defacto head of the healh ministry is a Gerrer Chossid. He was consistent with his group’s norms. Can the State of Israel allow those norms in this situation? Can a scientist be shown such disrespect when being recognized for achievement ? Maybe the assistant minister should have recused himself entirely from attending rather than demand that the woman’s husband accept her award. This wasn’t the Melave Malka of the N’shei Chesed of Boro Park, it was the Health Ministry of the State of Israel. .

  • Reb Yid

    That’s right–it’s all the media’s fault this is happening. Who is the audience for this message?

    And in response to other post which does not allow comments, oh yes–clearly it’s the media’s fault that Gingrich got married and divorced and married and divorced and married once again. With an affair or two on the side. All while sanctimoniously and hypocritically advocating for new laws on marriage and leading the charge to tar and impeach a sitting President, by flaunting his marital infidelities while keeping his own secret.

    Gingrich flamed out infamously in 1998 (among other things, becoming the first Speaker to ever be disciplined for an ethics violation–and this in a Republican House, to boot) and it’s only a matter of time before he does so again–he can’t help himself. Believe you me, he’ll do it all by himself–no help from the media or anyone else.

  • Shades of Gray

    “Most of the haredi women & girls I interview view themselves as helpmates who would not want to put a stumbling block in front of men.”

    Taking this argument further, unless there are separate sidewalks, like in New Square, a woman can be a stumbling block for a man. Rabbi Eliezer Melamed has argued that the result of separate buses is that “any informal encounter or glimpse of a woman will only give rise to unwanted urges.” Dr. William Kolbrenner has argued similarly.

    Perahps the key is that people are different. Maybe some people need to focus on learning how to interact with a woman–by sitting in a regular bus– in an appropriate way. Perhaps the system of separate buses is good for some, and can therefore be defended, but not for others.

  • chareidi leumi

    >How hard would it have been for Yair Lapid to get some Charedi condemnations and broadcast them along with the spitting incident, for balanced and uninciteful reporting?

    But that would take all the fun out of it…<

    How do you know he didn't try and that condemnations were simply not forthcomming. Further, this was going on for months before the report and no chareidi organization thought to condemn it then. Further, the chorous line from most in the chareidi community ever since the report has been "we don't need to comdemn people who are obviously not really chareidi – a real chareidi would never behave this way" – not exactly an attitude that shows a realization of the extent and severity of the problem.

    Further, no one considers this "fun". Going to the media and taking this issue to the public sphere is simply the lesser evil, considering that the chareidi leadership either can not or will not deal with its internal problems in a realistic and ethical manner.

    The attempt to portray the chareidim as the victims in this whole story is the most pathetic and orwellian PR approach I have seen in a long while. It is truly unworthy of the intelligence of the people who seem to push it.

  • ZAK

    Shira Schmidt: This is the crux of the problem — “Pray for the welfare of the government, for without fear of governmental authorities people would swallow each other alive.”

    How many Charedi shuls in Israel pray for the welfare of the Government let alone those soldiers who are risking their lives to protect the country? There may be a few exceptions to the rule, but take a look at most siddurim printed in this country (Israel) that are not Koren or Rinat Israel.

  • Ben Waxman

    How hard would it have been for Yair Lapid to get some Charedi condemnations and broadcast them . . .

    Actually Rav Beckerman, in the story, the reporter was speaking with an elderly gentleman, who seemed to be an ish mechubad who was condemning the violence when some of the “more energetic locals” came along and ended the conversation.

  • Doron Beckerman

    How do you know he didn’t try and that condemnations were simply not forthcomming.

    Yep, it is hard to find a Charedi who would condemn spitting on an eight year old girl. You don’t really believe such utter nonsense, do you?

    Further, this was going on for months before the report and no chareidi organization thought to condemn it then.

    I’m talking about making spitting on Charedi kids and bullying them legitimate, because “Charedim do that to us.” That was the immediate aftermath of the broadcast, and those who went to the press either thought that worthwhile (could be) or failed to consider that that would happen. If you think that’s a fair price for moderate Charedim to pay, okay. My fourteen year old son has had to walk through an area of RBS with a sweatshirt hood over his head instead of his hat, to avoid being taunted by some local louts.

    Further, the chorus line from most in the chareidi community ever since the report has been “we don’t need to comdemn people who are obviously not really chareidi – a real chareidi would never behave this way” – not exactly an attitude that shows a realization of the extent and severity of the problem.

    First of all, that’s true. Yair Lapid, by failing to broadcast the 10,000 condemnations he could have gotten, created the impression that “Charedim spit on eight year old girls.” He would never do that to Muslims. And Yair Lapid knows that Charedim don’t spit on little girls.

    Further, no one considers this “fun”.

    Some do and some don’t. I have not heard a peep of condemnation for the immediate aftermath of the broadcast, which was a mass vilification and demonization of Charedi society.

    The attempt to portray the chareidim as the victims in this whole story is the most pathetic and orwellian PR approach I have seen in a long while. It is truly unworthy of the intelligence of the people who seem to push it.

    The Charedim are not THE victims, but there are certainly victims of media slant and its aftermath.

    The problem is that you will not tolerate any blunting of the effect of the media bonanza. You think it for the greater good. You may well be right. But I have absolutely nothing to do with Orot school, and the fact is that my kid was afraid to ride the bus for fear of being harrassed. That’s the responsibilty you took upon yourself by going to the media and letting them determine how this was going to be portrayed. Live with it, and either man up and say it was worth it, or regret it. But don’t deny that that is a result.

  • L.Oberstein

    “The attempt to portray the chareidim as the victims in this whole story is the most pathetic and orwellian PR approach I have seen in a long while. It is truly unworthy of the intelligence of the people who seem to push it”
    Well said. One question, why is there no leadership at the top on this issue in Israel. We hear nothing from the Einei HaEidah. These leaders have time to pray at numerous graves for the donors to specific charities, promise miracle cures and have no problem forbidding books, magazines, computers, schools, and many other things, yet not one word on this major issue, Why?

  • Nachum

    “get some Charedi condemnations”

    He certainly wouldn’t gotten them off of most of the contributors here, Hashem Yerachem. And there’s the proof.

    I have a small question, as a regular bus rider in Jerusalem: If women really want to sit in the back, why is it that on non-segregated buses, Charedi women sit all over the bus?

  • Eli

    Using Rav Yosef Shlita as a counter example for Gur Chassidim is like using a National Religious MP as a counterexample. Gur does not consider Rav Yosef to be Charaidi, and neither would most Charaidim, especially if they didn’t need Shas to get their benefits.

    Everyone who says it is only a minority of Charaidim is correct. But the minority needs to be kicked out, and by force if needed. And that is where they fail, and are being taken to task. When the Eidah or even Dovid Kornrich/Rabbi Meiselman puts some of the extremists into Cherem, then we will have a start.

  • Sarah Elias

    To Nachum: Who told you that Chareidi women davka want to sit in the back of the bus? They want to sit separately from men. If there are men in the back of the bus, why should they sit there? They’ll just sit wherever they find a seat.

  • Nachum Boehm

    “Is it possible for a religious demand for modesty to be about anything other than men controlling women’s bodies?”

    You respond that Chareidi women want separate seating. I’m sure that some do, and nobody has written that those Chareidi women don’t have the right to sit in the back of the bus. The issue is, rather, pressuring women on where to sit, putting up signs on public streets telling women where to walk, vandalising advertisements that are legally placed, removing public benches, etc.

    You state that the sexual harassment of little girls has nothing to do with protesting a lack of modesty, but is about a turf war. If so, why don’t we see fringe members of other communities involved in “turf wars” sexually harassing little girls? Is there really no room for introspection in this regard? Where has all of this focus on Tznius taken us? Does it give cover to the crazies? Is there anything that can be done to prevent that? Is it worth the cost?

    “No one is battling over the presence of women in most spheres in Israel. The chief justice of the Supreme Court is a women, five women just graduated from pilots’ course, etc.”

    This has nothing to do with Chareidi treatment of women in public. If Chareidim served in the military or were allowed to work as professionals, they would certainly NOT allow women to be pilots or judges.

    “There was an incident which seems inappropriate and may have shown poor judgment by the haredi deputy health minister asking the female recipient of an award to send her husband to the podium to receive the award. Perhaps the deputy minister was being unnecessarily cautious. Mistake. But . . .”

    Why not call it what it is? It WAS inappropriate; it SHOWED poor judgment; the deputy minister was not “unnecessarily cautious” but extremely obnoxious for pushing his personal religious issues on an award recipient, and this action arose out of a feeling of entitlement to have others conform to your strictest standards.

    Why is it so difficult to find a Chareidi sympathizer who is willing to simply condemn all of this wrongful behaviour, period, full stop? Why is it necessary to point out the flaws in others at the same time, or diminish the extent of the wrongdoing, or offer excuses, etc.? The Agudah couldn’t do it, and neither can most of the writers on Cross Currents.

    This is very frustrating and disappointing to many of us non-liberal non-chilonim.

  • Shanks

    I think you’re off-the-mark:

    1) Women have accepted this paradigm where men control when the former are in the public sphere, and so see themselves as partners. Lehavdil, Anti-suffragist women also didn’t see the picture as men vs. women. Here we’re operating in an explicit religious context so the situation’s different, but the socially conservative attitude is the same.

    2) How are you disagreeing with timeline Rabbi Linzer set out? You wrote yourself that the girl described the incident last month.

    It is a culture clash, but when they call the girl a prostitute etc. they are making clear that they cannot stand a school which has girls dressed the way she is and so they’ll scream about how she’s dressed.

    3) Sure, the gender segregation’s being enforced. When a woman wants to sit in the front and fellow passengers harass her, but the bus lets them do so, that’s enforcement of the status quo.

    4) The Deputy Health Minister doesn’t think he make a mistake worth apologizing for. He follows his rebbeim, his forbidding a woman to get on stage was a Haredi Torah Decision. This is part of a larger pattern of not inviting women to speak, telling them to go to the back of the bus, etc. It’s entirely right and proper to describe a war being waged in Israel over woman’s place in the public sphere.

    5) see 1.

  • Steve Brizel

    WADr, the author was expressing a simple POV-Tznius and adherence to its halachos and minhagim is or should be a goal for both genders.

  • dovid2

    L.Oberstein: “Maybe the assistant minister should have recused himself entirely from attending rather than demand that the woman’s husband accept her award.”

    Even better, the deputy (not assistant) minister should have dispatched his wife to attend the event in his stead.

  • dovid2

    Eli: “Using Rav Yosef Shlita as a counter example for Gur Chassidim is like using a National Religious MP as a counterexample. Gur does not consider Rav Yosef to be Charaidi, and neither would most Charaidim, ….”

    Is that good, bad, or we don’t care? Do you know Eli that Satmar doesn’t consider you Jewish? Is that good, bad, or we don’t care?

    We gripe about the media, about Lapid Sr. & Jr., Tzipi, Barak, Barack, Hillary. The emmes is that rot is in our midst. The rest only provide us with a consolling and convenient distraction not to face our problems, not to solve them, or extirpate them if need be because it’s painful.

  • Sender

    I spoke this Shabbos with a trusted friend who had just returned from a trip to E”Y, where he visited some relatives in Beit Shemesh. He told me that their 10-year-old son had had rocks thrown at him by charedim on his way to school. Of course, there was no issue of immodest dress here, and rocks are more dangerous than spittle.

    I wish I could believe that it was just a matter of one isolated incident with Naama Margolese that the media had blown out of proportion. A “shark feeding frenzy,” as Ms. Schmidt would like us to think. I know now that that is nonsense.

  • dovid2

    L.Oberstein: “One question, why is there no leadership at the top on this issue in Israel.”

    Why is there no leadership on ANY issue in Eretz Israel? I am asking in earnest. I am not a scoffer, I am not a rebel, or an apikores, or any variation on these themes. Paskening whether the chicken is kosher is important. Determining halacha in myriads of circumstances is important. But giving us direction and social, hinuch, derech hachaim, employment, and parnassa matters is not any less important. And I don’t want to hear directives in any of these matters said in the names of G’dolim. I don’t trust the intermediaries. And if and when G’dolim state something, if it contradicts the teachings and practices of the Chazal and the Rishonim, I want these G’dolim to explain, yes to explain, why their directives are at variance with the teachings of the Chazal and the Rishonim. I mentally accept they may have compelling reasons to demand changes, but I need the comfort and assurance that I tread on solid ground. I and many others do not feel we are treading on solid ground. We feel leaderless and abandoned. And I reject the claim that there is no point in giving us direction because we don’t listen to the G’dolim anyway.

  • chareidi leumi

    >Yep, it is hard to find a Charedi who would condemn spitting on an eight year old girl. You don’t really believe such utter nonsense, do you?

    I wish it was utter nonsense! I was at the orot school several times before the report came out and at demonstrations in support of the schools. The lack of a chareidi presence was palatable! And it was not because the organizers did not approach chareidi leaders in beit shemsesh and the rama – they DID and the leaders were not willing to participate or even condemn the thugs. This is the reality under which the media was approached. To then blame the fallout on the victims is the very definition of chutzpah.

    >I’m talking about making spitting on Charedi kids and bullying them legitimate, because “Charedim do that to us.” That was the immediate aftermath of the broadcast, and those who went to the press either thought that worthwhile (could be) or failed to consider that that would happen. If you think that’s a fair price for moderate Charedim to pay, okay. My fourteen year old son has had to walk through an area of RBS with a sweatshirt hood over his head instead of his hat, to avoid being taunted by some local louts.

    This is indeed unfortunate and lamentable and I don’t think anyone can tolerate such behavior in any direction. Basic human dignity must be preserved for all. However, to blame the report for this reality is to blame the victim. It is the moderate chareidi leadership’s silence and inability to purge the evil from their midst that has led to this reality – not the publication of the unfortunate reality where kids are bullied by chareidim and the mainstream is silent. What you are saying is that the chareidi community should be allowed to avoid any responsibility for the consequences of their policies. You can not do that in the modern world. If chareidi leaders think that their policies of isolation coupled with deliberate economic dependence on those from whom you isolate yourselves coupled with basic tolerance of thugish behavior coupled with a general attitude of moral superiority will not have a negative effect on members of their own society and will at the same time lead the lower strata of general society to behave in a abhorrent way towards their flock, then they truly do not deserve to be called leaders in the modern world.

    >First of all, that’s true. Yair Lapid, by failing to broadcast the 10,000 condemnations he could have gotten, created the impression that “Charedim spit on eight year old girls.” He would never do that to Muslims. And Yair Lapid knows that Charedim don’t spit on little girls.

    Its not true. The people who are spitting on girls are indeed chareidi and no “no true Scotsman” argument can change that. And as I wrote above, condemnations were NOT forthcoming in the months before the report so I have no reason to believe he could have gotten 10 on the street, much less 10,000.

    >Some do and some don’t. I have not heard a peep of condemnation for the immediate aftermath of the broadcast, which was a mass vilification and demonization of Charedi society.

    Both PM Netanyahu and Shimon Peres warned against generalizing from these thugs to the general chareidi population – those are just two examples that come to mind from the secular world, but there were many more. It is hard to talk about the “mass vilification and demonization of Charedi society” because many chareidim consider the very act of reporting about segregated busses/spitting on girls/assaulting a woman hanging up signs to be an act of aggression. It is hard to dialog with people who think that pointing out the actions and policies of their own members is itself an attack. As for myself, I consider the lackluster response of the chareidi leadership to be a far greater evil than the so-called “demonization” of chareidi society, which is really a code word for “its only ok to report what our own apologists say about the TRUE chareidi community. Any reports of the darker side of our world is an anti-Semitic attack.”

    >The Charedim are not THE victims, but there are certainly victims of media slant and its aftermath.
    >
    >The problem is that you will not tolerate any blunting of the effect of the media bonanza. You think it for the greater good. You may well be right. But I have absolutely nothing to do with Orot school, and the fact is that my kid was afraid to ride the bus for fear of being harassed. That’s the responsibility you took upon yourself by going to the media and letting them determine how this was going to be portrayed. Live with it, and either man up and say it was worth it, or regret it. But don’t deny that that is a result.

    As I said above, it is the lesser evil but the chareidi world left people no other choice. Part of the problem is the very attitude that “I have absolutely nothing to do with Orot school.” Of course you do!! These people are part of your community and social group. They may not be under the exact same sub-sub-sub-sub group, but they are tolerated and accepted much more so than any secular person (or even dati leumi) would be. Their schita is kosher, as are their sofrim, and the sefarim of their rabbanim are studies and not in cherem. They are “in the machaneh” and until they are purged out, you will rightfully be identified with them. There is a similar phenomenon in the dati leumi world with a certain hilltop subgroup who has basically become anarchist and vandalize army bases and such. If people in the DL world don’t take responsibility for these hooligans both educationally and politically, then we are culpable in the fallout. The difference is, that I think that many in the DL world realize that these actions of the tag mechir people need to be condemned in the strongest fashion and they do so whenever something happens. All you get from the chareidi leadership is more bans against nachal chareidi, vocational colleges, any breach of the self-imposed social and economic isolation that they have imposed on their flock.

  • Nachum

    Sarah Elias: That’s simply not true. Without “enforcement,” there’s no evidence that most Charedi women or men care about any of these “rules.”

  • cvmay

    Shira, your articles are so well appreciated, written and insightful yet this one is negative on those three acounts. “Shark-Frenzy”—over exaggeration is an understatement.

    I AM PRESENTLY IN ERETZ YISROEL:
    1. & decided to visit friends in Bet Shemesh and to see with my OWN EYES, where is the Orot School? What girls attend the school? How are they dressed? and what is the commotion?
    The school is beautiful, two stories high, airy, lovely classrooms, decorated halls and bulletin boards, clean bathrooms and cheery to say the least. There was a beautiful memorial wall for Chanan Porat z”l, divrei chazal and bituim of the Chofetz Chaim displayed and a date line of Gilad Shalit’s imprisonment with a brocha of “Baruch Haba” in conclusion. The large school yard is covered with blue tarp so that the young girls playing outside will not be disruptive or annoying to those passing by(or vice versa). A large green area separates the OROT school from their brother school BET NERIAH which is a few doors away. I noticed that a parcel of land in this area had a sign announcing the future “Talmud Torah Hadar Tzion” – to be built shortly. To report that these two schools are smack in the middle of a Charedi Area, which has been printed by several popular and well-read news/magazines is an outright LIE. Rechov Herzog where the school is located is a well tread 2 lane road with traffic going in opposite directions. Lining one side of the street is a popular Dati neighborhood and 3 apartment buildings near the school called Kiryat Chassidim is on the other side of the street. The future looks even bleaker (I am sorry to say), since a large portion of the area is still under construction and will be housing Charedi residents who will be competing for these 2 gorgeous pieces of property. The teachers, students and personnel of the school were dressed b’tzinus, on par with any Brooklyn/Queens/Five Towns beis yaakov school of grades K to 6th.
    2. Traveled on two non-mehadrin buses in Yerushalayim, people were polite and when ever possible seats were changed so that men could sit with men and women with women. When an elderly couple came on the bus, the men in the front seat stood for them and found a double seat towards the rear.

    Blaming the media, blaming the victims, or blaming the Charedim is a futile act. Improvements are necessary, chastising is in order and an overhaul in Education, Religious PR and coexistence is prime.

  • Leon Zacharowicz

    The only solution to such internal strife is a grave threat from an external enemy, as we’ve seen repeatedly in our history. Is that what we really want?

  • Eli

    “Eli: “Using Rav Yosef Shlita as a counter example for Gur Chassidim is like using a National Religious MP as a counterexample. Gur does not consider Rav Yosef to be Charaidi, and neither would most Charaidim, ….”

    Is that good, bad, or we don’t care? Do you know Eli that Satmar doesn’t consider you Jewish? Is that good, bad, or we don’t care?

    We gripe about the media, about Lapid Sr. & Jr., Tzipi, Barak, Barack, Hillary. The emmes is that rot is in our midst. The rest only provide us with a consolling and convenient distraction not to face our problems, not to solve them, or extirpate them if need be because it’s painful.”

    dovid2:

    Exactly the point. We (as moderate Charaidim) have to say “Ano Min HaMachane”, like Shabbtzai Tzvi followers, or followers of J, and toss them out. They are more than welcome to return if they promise to follow Yiddishkeit.

    Satmer doesn’t quite think I’m not Jewish. A force of S”A, maybe, but they count me for the minyan in Kiryas Joel.

  • Doron Beckerman

    I wish it was utter nonsense!

    I stopped reading at that point. Have the last word.

  • Charles Hall

    “But a much worse mistake was made in a separate incident when the Israel Medical Association boycotted and forbade physicians to attend the annual Puah conference to acquaint rabbis with developments in the field of fertility medicine.”

    Not a mistake at all, but entirely appropriate. I had never in my career heard of a medical conference that prohibited women from speaking. Indeed were there such a conference that engaged in such discrimination, or in racial or religious discrimination, I face sanctions by my professional organizations — as I should.

    I belong to an Orthodox synagogue that had a member whose husband’s father was a Charedi rabbi win a Nobel Prize in Medicine. She accepted the Nobel Prize herself. The Social Hall in the shul is named for her. If these rabbis are so opposed to public roles for women they should decline all the medical advances women contributed to.

  • Charles Hall

    Correction: I should have said, “were there such a conference that I attended that engaged in such discrimination,”

  • Shira Schmidt

    Just because I suggested that haredim are being put under a magnifying glass, does not mean they shouldn’t put themselves under a microscope. They should engage in self-examination (shouldn’t we all?. One model is the sicha Rav Aharon Lichtenstein gave “On the Assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin z”l.” See the shiur:RAL1-rab.htm. I reread it now. One pericope that R. Aharon discusses at length is the gemara in Yoma23: “Once two Kohanim were running evenly up the ramp [of the altar in the Temple, in order to be first.One of them intruded within the four cubits of the other, …drew a knife, and plunged it into the other’s heart.” Rav Aharon reflects,”The self-confidence that arises from commitment and devotion to a world of values and eternal truths…sometimes has led to frightening levels of self-certainty and ultimately to arrogance.” And further on in a discussion of egla arufa related to this episode, Rav Aharon writes, “Egla arufa teaches that there is another level – that beyond the individual guilt, there also is a level of collective guilt.” After rereading this sicha, I feel a collective mea culpa may be in order for our letting things deteriorate so far.
    A second approach was demonstrated by Rabbi Menachem Froman (from the Tekoa settlement) in Heshvan, in the wake of “price tag” vendettas. Although he is extremely ill, R. Froman went personally to the home of Hagit Ofran, head of Peace Now settlement watch, to apologize for whoever perpetrated the “price tag” vandalism & graffiti against her.(Full disclosure: Hagit is a niece of mine by marriage). I was moved by R. Froman’s initiative and thought it worthy of emulation by the relevant rabbinic leadership vis-à-vis the Beit Shemesh situation.

  • Mr. Cohen

    While the media commits a shark feeding frenzy against Charedim,
    you may trust that this story will be ignored by the Liberal media:

    Fogel Family Murderer Praised on Palestinian TV:

    see Haaretz