The 17th of Tamuz marks the beginning of a period called “the three weeks”; a time when the Jewish nation is expected to reflect upon the events which led to the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem on the 9th day of Av, and to rectify our mistakes in an attempt to help facilitate the reconstruction of the Temple in a rejuvenated Jerusalem.

According to one opinion expressed in the Talmud the second Temple was destroyed because of sinat chinam, baseless hatred in the Jewish community. One would expect therefore that over the course of a 1,000 years since the Temple’s destruction, the Jewish people, particularly those who refer to themselves as religious Jews, who are not only painfully aware of the source of the destruction but who fervently pray to God daily for the restoration of the Temple, would attempt to repress such behavior. Regrettably the events which have unfolded within the religious community prior to and during these “three weeks” have proven that history is doomed to repeat itself.

A few weeks ago a considerable group of respected Religious Zionist rabbis ambushed Rabbi David Stav’s efforts to become chief rabbi of Israel, demonstrating why they felt he was not worthy of the position and proposing other candidates in his place. Yet these rabbis have not only derailed Rabbi Stav’s efforts to restore dignity to the chief rabbinate by making it accessible to all Israelis, religious and non-religious alike, but have soiled Rabbi Stav’s name and reputation. Moreover, the election for chief rabbi has become a circus, and the ability of the establishment to capture the respect and admiration of secular Israelis reduced.

Two weeks ago, a well-respected halachic authority and spiritual leader of the Sephardi Jewish community called Rabbi Stav, whom he has never met, a rasha – a wicked man, and said he was dangerous to Judaism. This socalled rabbi proclaimed that allowing Rabbi Stav to become the chief rabbi could be compared to bringing idolatry into the Temple.

Aside from the fact that the rabbi’s comparison of today’s chief rabbinate to the Temple itself demonstrates that his judgment is skewed, his contemptuous remarks should cause us to marvel at how someone who refers to himself as a rabbinic authority can so haughtily play God and so comfortably chastise a fellow Jew, let alone a colleague! To exacerbate the matter, as a result of this rabbi’s insults, the same group of Religious Zionist rabbis referred to above, who had originally dismissed Rabbi Stav’s candidacy, now came forward with their tails between their legs and began to express their support for Rabbi Stav after all. But the damage was already done. At this point the image of Religious Zionism was tarnished; it appeared whimsical and divisive rather than unified by an ideology which espoused embracing the Torah and adapting it to society for the sake of sanctifying our surroundings.

Following the scathing remarks of the aforementioned rabbi, Rabbi Stav was attacked at a wedding by a group of so called “ultra-Orthodox” youth who shoved him and tried to trip him up on the dance floor, calling him an “evil man.”

Unfortunately it was impressed upon these young men by their religious surroundings and environment that it was acceptable to inflict physical and mental harm upon another individual.

Also two weeks ago, tens of thousands of haredi Jews protested in New York City against the proposed army conscription by the Israeli government of all of its citizens, including haredi yeshiva students. It is undoubtedly disturbing that in Israel the vast majority of the haredi population has no sense of responsibility, refusing to contribute to the security of the Jewish people, including their own children and communities, while they continue to leech off the governmental institutions and society which protects them.

The protest in New York added insult to injury not only because these protestors are not Israeli citizens or residents, but because during the course of all of Israel’s past wars the ultra-Orthodox of New York, or other communities throughout the Diaspora for that matter, have never taken to the streets to demonstrate compassion and comradeship with their Jewish brethren whose lives were in grave danger.

Two weeks ago Jonathan Rosenblum, an ultra-Orthodox journalist, wrote an article in the American version of Yated Ne’eman accusing MK Rabbi Dov Lipman of causing provocation two years ago for “leading a woman whose attire was guaranteed to provoke an angry response past a shul in the ‘Yerushalmi’ neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh.”

Rosenblum continues, “Just in case she failed in her task, he [Lipman] thrust his arms triumphantly in the air numerous times to provoke the desired response for this bit of filmed street theater.”

Rosenblum’s facts were all wrong. Before Rabbi Lipman’s arrival, an angry group of ultra-Orthodox gathered on the street, which has no shul on it. The only institution on the street is the local Religious Zionist girls’ school – which is why the ultra-Orthodox were there in the first place. They were protesting the school’s presence and demanding its removal from “their” neighborhood; a neighborhood which, contrary to what Rosenblum reported, predominantly consists of Religious Zionist families. This is why why this piece of land had been allocated for the school years before by the local city council.

The angry mob assaulted the girls on their way to and from school, calling them “shiktza” (used today to describe sexually provocative non-Jewish women) and spitting at the girls. I know this because unlike Rosenblum, I was there; my daughter is a student at the school.

Rosenblum has the audacity to refer to Rabbi Lipman’s presence as “street theater” when the only reason Rabbi Lipman arrived at the scene was to help the girls and their parents and to ensure the police would facilitate the protection, which was necessary.

The woman who walked with Rabbi Lipman was not dressed “provocatively,” as Rosenblum would have us believe, and she had accompanied Rabbi Lipman out of concern for her daughter’s safety. Once again the Jewish community was subjected to false reporting, and a rabbi’s reputation subjected to false accusations and condemnation based on self-righteousness and self-promotion.

Two weeks ago Israeli police raided the home and office of Israel’s current chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, who is suspected of accepting bribes, fraud and money laundering.

Metzger is being interrogated and has been placed under five days of house arrest.

We have fallen on hard times, and yet the most disturbing part of these events may be that large pockets of the so-called religious community are not disturbed by, or even aware of the chaos currently plaguing their communities! With our country on the cusp of war once again, it is time for us to recognize that our most dangerous foe is the one within; if not, then indeed history is doomed to repeat itself.

The writer is a teacher, author and lecturer for the IDF on Israel, religious Zionism and Jewish education. www.rabbihammer.com

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger