January 3: Chasm between haredim and others runs deep

This is a major part of the problem – the belief that if your philosophical stance is any different from mine, you can no longer call yourself a Jew.

Sir, – As I unrolled the copy of the January 1 Jerusalem Post from my mail slot, I stopped dead in my tracks. Was the image I was looking at for real? Did haredi protestors actually dress up their kids in concentration camp uniforms, don yellow stars, put the word Jude on them and parade around Mea She’arim’s Shabbat Square? No, I must have been wrong.
Then I looked again and read the accompanying article (“Ultra- Orthodox protest ‘incitement’ and ‘hatred’ against haredi community,” January 1).
While there are so many words one can use (shock, disgust, horror), I think anyone with a rational mind looking at the image and reading the article would be, as I was, at a complete loss for words.
In addition, the signs the children carried said it all: “Zionists are not Jews.” This is a major part of the problem – the belief that if your philosophical stance is any different from mine, you can no longer call yourself a Jew.
ZE’EV M SHANDALOV Ma’aleh Adumim
Sir, – The picture on the front page of the January 1 Post is simply appalling. It shows a lack of knowledge within the haredi community on two major issues regarding the Holocaust: the depth of the suffering of camp inmates, and the magnitude of the tragedy.
It certainly does not exemplify “a guiding light unto the people,” which the Torah teaches us to be.
JOYCE KAHN Petah Tikva
Sir, – Seeing your January 1 edition made my blood boil. Even my first cup of coffee didn’t alleviate my outrage.
Why do you splash a photo of haredi youth in Holocaust attire and yellow Stars of David on your front page? Is it to sell more newspapers?
Sir, – It was jarring to see haredim displaying yellow stars and complaining of victimization.
It was even more offensive to see haredim – adults and children – dressed in concentration camp garb. Worst of all were the signs proclaiming that Zionists are not Jews.
The government needs to deal harshly with these ungrateful rabble- rousers, and we, the public, should refuse to give any private charitable contributions to haredi social, educational and welfare institutions until such time as mutual respect and acceptance is attained.
Sir, – One man at Saturday night’s rally in Mea She’arim said that “what’s happening is exactly like what happened in Germany.”
He and others should talk to people who survived the concentration camps. Nothing here is anything like what people went through in Nazi Germany.
Another man said they were “being prevented from observing the Torah in the manner in which we wish.” No one is preventing the ultra-Orthodox from observing the Torah in their own way.
Another man said that “...they are trying to force us to accept their culture and their standards [and] telling us what we may and may not do in our own neighborhoods.”
I think the situation is just the opposite. No one is telling them what they can do in their neighborhoods.
It is the ultra-Orthodox who are trying to impose their ways on other neighborhoods.
Let’s hope that in the future, all sects of Judaism will learn to live in peace. We are all Jews and we have to be united.
Sir, – Here we have a typical case of the pot calling the kettle black.
“Exactly like what happened in Germany,” says one man while complaining that people are protesting the behavior of the ultra-Orthodox community. Does this person actually believe his comrades have a right to pester children and defenseless women? Does he really believe he is being incited against? Boy, that’s a strange attitude for someone who seems to feel that he, and he alone, has the right to scream if his toe is being stomped on while at the same time it is he and those like him who are doing the stomping.
Sir, – It was interesting to read Rabbi Eliezer Melamed’s comment (“National-religious rabbis weigh in on issue of excluding women,” December 30) on mixed seating on buses: “This kind of behavior damages family life. According to these principles, a man can’t sit next to his wife....”
According to strict Halacha, the only woman next to whom one might not be allowed to sit is one’s own wife, and only at certain times, though many people, both male and female, feel uncomfortable sitting next to someone of the opposite sex.
So Rabbi Yehuda Gilad’s claim in the same article, that gender separation on buses and similar moves are “without a doubt part of a process of radicalization without any basis in Halacha,” seems somewhat inaccurate.
Personally, I do not have a problem sitting next to a woman on the bus, but I can well understand that others may feel different. Why can’t both sides simply stop trying to force their way of life on everyone else?
Salford, UK
Sir, – I always thought the theory of free will was basic in Judaism. The discipline of fighting to curb evil inclinations was the strength of our heritage.
Many rabbis smugly urge homosexuals to fight their “evil inclination” – why should this not also pertain to heterosexuals, to fight their evil inclinations and control their lust and desires to engage in licentious behavior? Why must the rest of society be their guardians, protecting them from their own weaknesses? Strength of character is a trait to be nurtured.
Ginot Shomron
Sir, – I was taken aback by Hirsh Goodman’s advocacy of haredi-owned segregated buses (“Status quo nothing!,” Post- Script, December 30).
As ostensibly well-meaning as he is, Goodman forgets that segregation is wrong not because it takes place in public buses, but because it is against the law. The fact is, people cannot do what they want in privately owned places of work. If that were the case, smoking would be allowed in bars and restaurants, all privately owned, or discrimination against Arabs, for example, would be tolerated in offices, shops and places of entertainment.
Imagine if privately owned bus companies had run segregated buses in the US in the 1950s! It should come as no surprise that when plans were afoot recently to run haredi-owned segregated buses in Brooklyn, the idea was shot down.
If the law of the land is applied according to sectarian interests, we are well on the way toward lawlessness.
Ramat Hasharon
Sir, – Kenneth Besig (“On gender segregation, modesty and spitting,” Letters, December 28) demands that the haredi leadership “immediately and forcefully condemn these abusive sentiments, as well as the violent and lawless behavior of their adherents.”
The fact is that many have. To name but two, the Belzer Rebbe and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef have condemned violence explicitly.
Others have emphasized the need for the concept of peaceful relations with the general public without actually mentioning current events, but this is the more traditional Jewish way of doing things.
Manchester, UK
CORRECTION A news item on Page 3 of the January 2 Jerusalem Post about an Israeli being held in Chile on suspicion of having caused a massive forest fire was incorrectly headlined. The headline should have been, “Israeli denies having accidentally started Chilean blaze.” The Post regrets the error.