Haredim also have a place in the revolution

By MELANIE LIDMAN
August 19, 2011 04:27

"This is a Jewish struggle," says Beitar Ilit resident Avi Abood, "but we need to remember, haredim are scared to come."

3 minute read.



Nordau tent city

Nordau tent city chilled_311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

Despite efforts to cast the tent cities across the country as tolerant havens for both religious and secular activists, the tent cities across the country have been noticeably devoid of ultra-Orthodox activists over the past month.

Avi Abood, a 22-year-old Beitar Illit resident, is the exception to this rule. His black-and-white haredi uniform stand out among the tank tops and shorts lounging about Jerusalem’s tent city, but Abood is certain that the haredim also have a place in the revolution.

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“This is a Jewish struggle, the way I see it, it’s based on the morals of the Bible and of Judaism,” said Abood on Wednesday at the Jerusalem tent city in Gan Hasus (Horse Park).

A first-year social work student at the Haredi College of Jerusalem, Abood has always been heavily involved in social advocacy. He’s been involved in the current protests since the day they started, though it hasn’t always been an easy decision.

He recalled walking down Rothschild Boulevard earlier this month when an activist pushed him over, just because he was dressed in the haredi garb, he said. At times when he tried to join in discussions about demands for social change, he’s been verbally attacked for not serving in the army or not paying taxes, though many of his friends serve in the army and he has chosen to work rather than study.

“We need to remember, haredim are scared to come,” Abood told a group of protest leaders in a conversation in the capital on Wednesday.

“Back in the 1950s when Israelis insisted there was only one kind of Sabra, a secular Sabra, and there were all those demonstrations, 50 years may have passed but we still feel that pain and we’re still scared to join,” he added, referring to clashes between religious and secular residents over the observance of Shabbat, which were sometimes referred to as the “Shabbat Wars.”

Abood said that some haredi religious leaders, such as Adina Bar-Shalom, founder of the Haredi college and daughter of Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef, and Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Tel Aviv’s chief rabbi, have encouraged haredim to take part in the protests within some limitations.

He knows there are certain boundaries he won’t cross in the interest of modesty, such as the fact that he won’t bring his wife to sleep in a tent. But he said he has no problem helping put up tent cities, and has assisted single mothers with this in Jerusalem and the Beit Shemesh tent city throughout the past month.

The most important thing is that secular protesters need to appreciate haredim for what they can bring to the table, rather than immediately judging them based on the way they dress.

“The central point is that conversations between haredim and the protesters need to start when everyone’s on the same side,” Abood said. “Conversations where one attacks the other, they just don’t help.”

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