With so many potential threats developing from the “Arab Spring” fallout or
Iran’s dangerous nuclear ambitions, it is easy to forget that some of our
greatest threats actually stem from within the country. One of the main issues,
haredi (ultra-Orthodox) extremism, has landed in the spotlight once again as
recent developments have made headlines.
Disturbing incidents are
becoming commonplace and the question is whether an increasing number of ultra-
Orthodox Jews are becoming blinded by the notion that they must save the world
from itself by verbally or physically attacking anyone who does not adhere to
their standards of religion. Is radical ultra-Orthodoxy becoming mainstream?
exposure a few years ago of a small group of haredi women in Beit Shemesh who
wear burkas received further attention last week when the Badatz Eda Haredit
court ruled against the group and forbade other women from joining
Their reasoning was based on a recent case of alleged bigamy and
another case where a woman refused to give birth in a hospital due to modesty
The Eda Haredit finally took action, not when one woman was
discovered to have abused her children to the point that they allegedly
committed incest, but only when the women’s husbands complained that their wives
refused to go to the mikve
(ritual bath) for reasons of “modesty.”
this paper published an editorial in 2010 in which it defined women who wear
burkas as undermining social cohesion.
In Israel’s case, it means these
women are essentially inventing their own religion. They have stopped sending
their children to school and have created all sorts of stringencies for
themselves which have no place in Judaism.
And if Israel were to legally
ban burkas, it would not be alone though it would, almost certainly, come under
heavy criticism from many directions.
Several European countries,
including the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Italy,
Denmark and France have already been considering and enforcing anti-burka
legislation for the past few years.
And now, Canada’s immigration
minister, Jason Kenney, announced that new immigrants will be required to remove
any face-coverings, such as the burka, while they take the oath of
While it does get credit for banning violent acts such as
stone-throwing, the Eda Haredit, considered the representative body of
ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel, can and should be taking further steps to prevent
OTHER INSTANCES of radical Orthodoxy have begun to occur more
frequently and the younger generation appears to have been swept away by its
idealism. For a number of years, haredi men have hurled epithets, and even
chairs, at monthly gatherings of Women of the Wall members, screaming “Nazis!”
and “You caused the Holocaust!”
These protesters aren’t necessarily from
stringent hassidic backgrounds either. More of these types of protests are a mix
of ultra-Orthodox Jews from different backgrounds.
In 2010, the High
Court of Justice ruled that “voluntary separation” would be permitted on public
buses as long as riders aren’t forced into separate seating. But many haredim
have little regard for the High Court of Justice and still believe they have the
right to force women to move to the back of the bus.
In October, The
reported that separation barriers erected in the streets of Mea She’arim designed to prevent
male and female intermingling during Succot were ordered dismantled.
hearing of the High Court of Justice, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch
ordered the police to remove the separation barriers and also ordered the police
to remove private security personnel enforcing the gender
Where does this type of thinking come from?
community leaders in the ultra-Orthodox world must be aware of the damage they
are causing. Hillul Hashem
(desecration of God’s name) is one of the gravest of
sins, and yet radical haredim seem to have no compunctions when it comes to
protecting their “religion.”
Over the past two years, a bookstore, known
as Or Hahaim/Manny’s, was targeted by the Sikrikim, a small group of radicals
considered by locals to be the “mafia of Mea She’arim.”
“Sikrikim” comes from the Latin “Sicarii,” or “dagger-men” a term applied, in
the decades immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, to an
extremist splinter group of the Zealots who tried to expel the Romans and their
partisans from Judea through assassinations with concealed daggers.
men smashed the stores’ windows several times, glued its locks shut, threw tar
and fish oil at it, and dumped bags of human excrement inside.
this year, the Post
reported that “the same group of Sikrikim has also targeted
an ice cream store in the Geula neighborhood because they thought licking ice
cream cones in public was immodest. Haredi media reported last year that
Sikrikim in Beit Shemesh have targeted shoe stores in ultra-Orthodox
neighborhoods that refuse to remove high-heeled shoes from their
“They attack haredim in their own neighborhood,” said David
Rotenberg, an employee at Or Hahaim.
These radicals are also said to be
related to the extremist group causing trouble at the Orot Banot
nationalreligious school in Beit Shemesh.
Earlier this week this paper
reported that the school, located between the haredi neighborhood of Ramat Beit
Shemesh Bet and the mixed neighborhood of Givat Sharett, has drawn anger from
certain haredi groups who are opposed to the school’s location close to their
In 2008, it was discovered that Hassidic parents at a
state-funded school in Immanuel had established a separate track for girls from
more observant families, which in practice meant that the overwhelming majority
of girls in the track were Ashkenazi. The two tracks were taught in separate
It was claimed that the separate tracks were established
because the Sephardi families were less stringent in their observance of Jewish
law than the Ashkenazi parents, and so negatively influenced the Ashkenazi
THESE ARE no longer isolated cases, but a real and growing
phenomenon that is quickly becoming the norm.
Extremist groups in the
haredi world seem conflicted between the ideal world and the actual world and
they are expressing their confusion in an overt and extreme manner by trying to
manipulate others to conform to their radical ideals.
resolving to be more personally devout, these people have become convinced that
they can enforce their radical beliefs on the general public.
haredim becoming extreme? Are extreme ideals becoming mainstream?
above cases can be considered extreme and the people involved are not
representative of the general haredi public, if they aren’t stopped, what will
this mean for the haredi world? Will the rabbi’s allow these “Jewish Taliban”
groups to terrorize the general haredi public with their heresy?
If small groups
of extremists today are threatening the public – and succeeding – what will this
mean for the future?
The Central Bureau of Statistics has just released its
latest report on the projected population growth through 2059. Concerning
haredim, it projects their community will grow to 30 percent of the entire
population within the next 50 years.
Given the fact that many haredim do
not work or serve in the army, this type of forecast, if accurate, is somewhat
And if the violent extremists today are not stopped, what
will happen 50 years from now?
Something needs to change and it can only come
There is something about the way rabbis are responding to
this heresy that appears wrong.
If rabbis are encouraging their students
to help fix the world, perhaps they should focus on correcting the one sin that
destroyed the Second Temple in the first place – sinat hinam, causeless