TV show aims to reveal haredi world’s mysteries

Where does the haredi world stand in its relation to the Internet and the dangers it bears?

haredi crowds 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
haredi crowds 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Where does the haredi world stand in its relation to the Internet and the dangers it bears? The last segment of Haredim, a documentary trilogy airing late Saturday night on Channel 2, takes a look at this loaded question through two haredi men with an Internet agenda.
Yigal Revach, owner of a successful advertising agency, is certain that the increasing Internet usage among haredim should lead to an official rabbinic recognition of the medium, which would enable rabbinical supervision over the content. Micha Rothschild, on the other hand, is the Great Torah Sages Council appointee to safeguard the haredi world from the dangers in computers and the worldly allurements they can inject into the sanctity of one’s home.
“” is the third part of directors Ron Ofer and Yohai Hakak’s cinematic glimpse into the ultra- Orthodox community through three of the topics most interesting to nonharedi Israelis, while at the same time enabling a taste of how the haredi world perceives the secular one.
Besides the Internet, the widely misunderstood haredi relation to the State of Israel is touched on in “Gevald!” which contrasts the worldviews of Shmuel-Haim Pappenhym, a member of the anti-Zionist Toldot Aharon sect, and the late head of United Torah Judaism Rabbi Avraham Ravitz, who besides being a long-time member of Israel’s Knesset, also fought for it as a member of its military.
In “The Rabbi’s Daughter and the Midwife,” the place of women in haredi society, as individuals, mothers and often breadwinners, is examined through Adina Bar-Shalom, who opened a landmark college for haredi men and women. Bar-Shalom is the titular “rabbi’s daughter,” her father being head of Shas’s Council of Torah Sages, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who years ago discouraged her learning psychology, but has given his blessing to her educational endeavor, aimed at providing haredim with the academic tools to enable a better-qualified entry into the employment market.
The “midwife” is haredi Rachel “Bambi” Chalkowski, who over her many years of work not only delivered over 30,000 babies, but also saw again and again the hardships some haredi women encounter not only as mothers to many children, but also as sole breadwinners for their large households.
“A woman is not just a machine for having babies,” Chalkowski, who established a charity to help such people, says.
In “,” both protagonists are portrayed as being torn to some extent between the ideal world they strive for and how they accommodate to reality.
Revach is filmed for much of the movie in Ukraine, where he makes some eight annual pilgrimages to the graves of holy men, to cleanse his mind and soul of his very worldly routine of wheeling and dealing with some of the largest firms and political players in Israel and refresh himself amid the simplicity and humbleness of the villages and villagers who live in the vicinity of the graves.
His great achievement in the film is the moment when a rabbinical council of sages acknowledges the very existence of the Internet, and the need to “consider its problems” against the backdrop of Revach’s intensive work with Bezeq to brand a “kosher Internet” service that can and should be sold to haredim – especially since nearly 50 percent of haredim use the Internet anyway, according to the film.
The ending scene in which he immerses himself in the freezing waters of a lake in Uman is portrayed as the near-contrite act of a man who once wanted to be a great rabbi and now is helping to promote an imperfect but unstoppable product to the ultra-Orthodox.
The amiable Rothschild is seen toward the end of the movie promoting a computer that has no Internet aside from emails – a “post-factum” product that is the reluctant recognition of the presence of technology in the lives of those who have set up ideological barriers between themselves and the outside world.
The three movies’ dialectical structure does not, and cannot, address every important issue in the world of the immensely diverse ultra-Orthodox populace. But the makers’ pertinent choices provide an interesting peek into some aspects of the life of haredim, one of Israel’s best-kept secrets.