haredi riots jerusalem 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
A collective abandonment of authentic Jewish values seems to have overtaken the
Nothing else can explain the phenomenon of tens of
thousands of religious zealots, dressed in black hats and coats, congregating
under the glaring midday sun to fight for the right to discriminate against
their fellow Jews.
A group of haredi families in Emmanuel has for months
contemptuously refused to abide by a High Court ruling that reflects what the US
Supreme Court in Brown vs. Board of Education ruled back in 1954: segregation is
unjust. Emmanuel’s Ashkenazi families, most of them members of the Slonim
Hassidic movement, have refused to integrate their elementary school girls with
a group of Sephardi peers. They insist, instead, on maintaining a quota of
“quality” Sephardi girls that makes up about a quarter of the total school body,
while separating the rest. At the same time, they insist on receiving full
funding from the State of Israel for their segregated educational
Walls inside the school and on the playground that once
separated the “Ashkenazi” and “Sephardi” sections were taken down under
order. As a result, the Ashkenazi families, in violation of the
education law, have refused to send their children to school. Attempts
a compromise were rebutted by order of Rabbi Aharon Barazovsky, the
the Slonim Hassidim. Families were fined for being held in contempt of
no effect. Finally, the judges lost patience and ordered the mothers and
to sit in prison for the remaining two weeks of the school year.
argue that it was unwise for the court to imprison the recalcitrant
fathers, even for such a short spell. True, they will receive special
conditions, including separate cells, but they are not criminals in any
conventional sense. They are guilty of holding the opinion – widespread
haredi community – that Sephardim are culturally inferior to Ashkenazim.
some Sephardim share this opinion, which explains why many – including
Shas MKs – choose to send their children to Ashkenazi schools, while at
time fighting to ensure that a strong Ashkenazi majority is
MEANWHILE, DURING Thursday’s mass demonstrations, which drew
over 100,000 in Jerusalem and in Bnei Brak, haredi leaders, in a
perception of history, compared the High Court’s decision to incidents
repression perpetrated by the Greeks, the Romans, Tzarist Russia and
Rabbi Yosef Efrati, a protégé of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv,
the most important living halachic authority for Ashkenazi haredim,
High Court’s attempt to bring together students of diverse backgrounds
idolaters striving to coerce Jews to bow down to a statue.
Efrati, agreeing to learn with fellow Jews who come from a different
background as a condition for receiving state funds is not idolatry – it
acting like a mentsch. Even if Slonim Hassidim did not enjoy the Zionist
largesse, they should have accepted elementary school girls different
themselves – even those with a lower level of religious observance – as
expression of their care for fellow Jews. This is the way of Chabad and
religious Zionists, among others.
To call such an arrangement idolatry is
a distortion of Judaism. To compare it to the situation in Tzarist
reveals a total lack of appreciation for the Jewish state’s role in
haredi Judaism rebuild itself after the Holocaust. Thanks to the
provided by the IDF, the generous funds made available by successive
governments, and the exemption enjoyed by young haredi men from the
to serve in the IDF, there are today more devout Jews dedicating
the full-time study of Torah than ever before in history. And they have
privilege of doing so in the Land of Israel thanks to the secular
initiative broke nearly 2,000 years of humiliating exile.
Nor does the
haredi community seem to appreciate Israel’s democracy. Despite the
notice, police fastidiously guarded the haredi community’s right to
High Court’s ruling. Haredi leaders were free to publicly criticize the
and the state. If one day the haredim become the majority in Israel,
treat minority groups so fairly? Ask the Sephardi girls who were walled
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