Analysis: Keeping it all under wraps

Any wrongdoing of any kind is swept out of sight and dealt with within the Eda Haredit circle.

haredi man book 88 (photo credit: )
haredi man book 88
(photo credit: )
Yisrael Valis had just finished saying kaddish over the body of his three-month-old son before the funeral Monday evening in Jerusalem when his wife cried out to him, "You didn't do anything, I know that. And you didn't do anything to me. They can connect me to a lie-detector, it's the truth." Since Valis himself admitted to police investigators that he had brutalized his baby son and battered his wife on several occasions, the protestations of his innocence would seem to be the symptomatic denial of a victim of severe domestic violence, eager like other women in her situation to take the blame upon herself. But in this case, the denial isn't only the bereaved mother's; it's the denial of an entire community. Perhaps the most tragic detail of Yitzhak Shmuel's death is the fact that, if his condition hadn't been so critical that his father had to call for an ambulance when the infant lost consciousness, the alleged abuse would have continued, perhaps for many years, without police or social services ever having an inkling of what was going on. The Eda Haredit sect of the haredi community in Jerusalem are fanatical about having no contact with the heretical Zionist state; they don't even accept handouts from the state budget. It goes without saying that any wrongdoing of any kind is swept out of sight and dealt with within the circle. In this case it was the health authorities who notified the police that there was a suspected case of parental violence, but Valis's speedy acceptance of blame didn't prevent his family and other members of the Eda, including Rabbi Yitzhak Weiss, head of its Rabbinical Court, from closing ranks and claiming that the charges were a "blood libel" aimed at besmirching the entire community. The threats of "setting Jerusalem ablaze" if Valis is not released is a stark reminder of the hundreds and perhaps thousands of cases of domestic violence and sexual molestation going on behind closed doors that will never be reported or treated professionally. Granted, the Eda Haredit is a more isolated sect in the haredi world and other haredi communities are admitting, at least privately, that they have a problem with domestic violence and have begun opening up to professional help - but, even there, it is a slow and often reluctant process. The tendency to "close things up inside" is still very strong and, when it can be done without involving the police or other authorities, that will always be the preferred method. A representative of one of the most powerful hassidic leaders in the country is currently negotiating a deal with the family of one of the hassidim, who sexually molested at least two of the pupils in a school belonging to the hassidic sect. The deal is expected to include a promise not to go to the police. Another representative of the same leader was a member of the UTJ negotiating team that yesterday demanded at the coalition talks that, in the next state budget, all money going to fund haredi education be put aboveboard as an official part of the budget. Perhaps if haredi leaders put more effort into bringing to light their communities' hidden problems than they do in publishing their financial demands, they might go some way in preventing the next death.