Three Ladies Three Lattes: When the righteous riot

I give Israel about 12 minutes to survive.

December 13, 2017 19:46
4 minute read.
Haredi rioters affiliated with extremist communities block traffic at a Jerusalem junction

Haredi rioters affiliated with extremist communities block traffic at a Jerusalem junction. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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 It seems to me that haredim are those we “love to hate.” What came first: their behavior, or our hatred? I’m not so sure. For example, when the disabled riot in Israel, I have heard that the public helps pay some of the fines they incur for rioting. But haredim are only despised for rioting the same way. Is this fair? In favor of fairness, Jerusalem Danit Shemesh: I want to make something clear: it’s important to differentiate between the way a message is conveyed and the message itself. I, like most haredim, deem it unforgivable for any community, including the disabled, to block ambulances, obstruct people’s daily life and offend human dignity. There are many other ways to protest for an idea that a minority of people hold dear.

A couple of weeks ago, for example, an entire Hadera yeshiva, also associated with the [extremist] Jerusalem Faction [that has been rioting in the capital], relocated to (military) Prison 6 courtyard; a beautiful, honorable Torah-loving message. The scholars hold Torah learning sacrosanct, but not through fouling the streets. This went almost unnoticed by journalists – an indictment of journalism more than of the state of affairs.

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Your chicken-or-egg question is a sad commentary on our society at large. It is my understanding that democracy means ‘by the people, for the people,’ allowing them agency by hearing their plight equally. Can you honestly say that this is the case if some of the people are hated? Is the message of the disabled more agreeable? Is it more acceptable to support their plight and their similar methods of protest? And if it is, is Israel honestly democratic? Pam Peled: The Hadera Yeshiva Boys in Black chose a good place to demonstrate; I would move them from the courtyard into the cells on a charge of desertion.

The comparison with the disabled is ludicrous: no one chooses to have medical issues; health problems can strike us all. The public knows our government has no money to help our weak because it is paying bribes to religious parties – one being the stipends to able-bodied men, like Danit’s sons, who sit in study halls all day.

I have a new plan to solve the thorny question of whether these pious are really protecting us by praying. I propose the productive members of society – the tax-paying, army-going, educated, working public – all pick up and leave Israel for a defined period. Let’s leave the endlessly learning, oh-so holy men in charge. They can pray and pray and learn and pray – and we can see how God responds.

I give Israel about 12 minutes to survive.

Then we’ll return; we’ll have to reconquer the country and drain the swamps again, and build roads and schools; universities, hospitals and banks. It’ll be easier this time round, as everyone will play a part: the argument that Torah learning casts an Iron Dome of sanctity over us will have gone the way of insisting that the earth is flat.

Plus, the tax-paying, army-going, productive citizens will be refreshed and ready to roll after their R&R in Vancouver or Rome. It’s win-win all the way.

Yalla – who’s joining me in Cape Town for a month? Tzippi Sha-ked: The question is flawed. Even though the means that both parties used to demonstrate were equally obnoxious, the underlying cause of the disabled was just and the Jerusalem Faction’s underlying cause was far from that. I assume that like Danit, most haredim denounce the outrageous behavior of the Jerusalem Faction, while still supporting their underlying cause: draft exemption.

I agree with Danit that it’s important to differentiate between the way a message is conveyed and the message itself. In this context, both the delivery mechanism and the message were reprehensible.

Haredim are not ‘despised’ (if that’s the right word) for rioting, but for a slew of other behaviors, tallying up, unfortunately, with Godspeed.

What can be done? Israel must go after the instigators of these demonstrations and haredim must help. I suggest the old purple water dye spray to leave a semi-permanent mark of shame on protesters for purposes of identification and arrest.

Hate and preconceptions can be mitigated, Danit! Here is one litmus test for both sides of the divide: Supporting causes or protesting in a dignified manner on behalf of the rights of someone who is culturally dissimilar to ourselves. Are there any haredi causes in which Pam could invest time and effort? Danit? Or are you both less likely to lend support because the cause is/isn’t haredi initiated? Last words: the onus is first and foremost on haredim to understand their mission is to be a kiddush Hashem, not a mark of shame.

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