Gafni: Probe those who keep haredim from moving in

By JONAH MANDEL
December 20, 2010 04:28

United Torah Judaism MK tells A-G secular Israelis that discriminate against haredim should be scrutinized like "rabbis' letter."

4 minute read.



Moshe Gafni.

moshe gafni 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni is asking the legal establishment to take action against what he calls widespread discrimination against haredim from secular Israelis who don’t want to let them live in their midst.

In a letter to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Sunday, Gafni noted the “severe phenomenon of preventing haredim make their home in various locales” that has prevailed in the past years.

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“A number of Ramot Hashavim residents are waging a battle against letting haredim live amongst them, including the local-born Talia, married to Itai Bachar... on December 29, these residents are holding a gathering to prevent [haredim] from living in the locale,” the letter says.

“Indeed, ‘haredi’ is not a race, religion or gender, but it is clear that this negates the law and is a blatant violation of the dignity of man and his freedom, egalitarianism and any other value upon which a civilized society is founded upon,” Gafni argued.

“In these times, in which the ‘rabbis’ letter’ – which was publicly disputed by Torah giants and others – was made public, I’ve heard no artists, legal experts and public figures who took a stance against the attempt to prevent haredim from living in various parts of this land.”

Weinstein ordered his office to look into the possibility that criminal elements might exist in the rabbis’ letter some ten days ago, but stressed that the issue is not simple from a legal point of view.

“I would request your scrutiny and involvement, to prevent this severe phenomenon,” Gafni concluded.

A member of the action committee “for a free Ramot Hashavim” was actually in support of the notion of Weinstein investigating.

“I’m all for him examining the case. There is an illegal building at hand here,” Uriel Friedmann said on Sunday, referring to the structure being used as a synagogue by the Breslov hassidim.

In April this year, the regional council filed charges against the building being used as a synagogue, which would necessitate the local committee’s acquiescence.

The petition states that “we are by and large enlightened and pluralistic, and willing to accept the other. That being said, the bitter experience of other locales proves that haredi infiltration which takes place without resistance, will often end with complete domination of neighborhoods or towns, while ejecting the nonharedi populace. The usurpers are not tolerant like us, and want to impose their lifestyle on the entire surroundings, in a way that would prevent us from continuing to live our our values.”

Therefore, the large group of concerned residents concluded that there was no choice but to embark on a struggle “to safeguard the character and makeup of Ramot Hashavim, and act in any legal way against it becoming haredi,” the petition said.

As Friedmann explained, “We are not struggling against the residents of the village, even the Breslov hassidim who live here, rather against turning Ramot Hashavim into a Breslov center, like what happened in Yavniel and Tiberias. They come, marry young and have many children; before you know it the kindergarten becomes haredi, the school, and then the whole character of the place changes.”

There are currently some 400 families in the Sharonarea village, out of which eight are Breslov hassidim.

None of the Breslov families own property; they are all renters.

“It looks like they’ve set out to increase the number of Breslov hassidim in the world; this isn’t the place to do it,” Friedmann said.

When asked about the similarity of the action committee’s attitude to the so-called rabbis’ letter prohibiting renting or selling land to non- Jews, Friedmann replied that “if an Arab came to live in Ramot Hashavim, I’d have nothing to say and wouldn’t act against him. But if many more came, and sought to build a mosque in the village, I’d object to that.”

But if there were many Breslov residents in Ramot Hashavim who would want to form their own synagogue, and the decision would go through the appropriate committee – “I wouldn’t have a say against it,” he said.

There is currently one synagogue in the village, which was founded in 1933 by immigrants from Germany.

The purpose of the upcoming gathering, Friedmann said, is to explain to the residents where things stand, “and I assume to pressure them to not rent out living units to Breslov hassidim. But each person is free to do as they wish.

“They are abusing our pluralism,” Friedmann said of the hassidic group, with whom he said there were attempts to conduct dialogue on the problems at hand, but that the dialogue led nowhere.

Galvanizing the residents against the hassidic presence is “defensive pluralism,” he added.


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