Condemning Violence

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Several blogs have picked up the Haaretz report about 5 ultra-Orthodox men who apparently assaulted a woman and an Israeli soldier on a bus on its way to Bet Shemesh.

The incident began when the five men asked the religious woman to move to the back of the bus to prevent males and females from sitting together in public. When she refused, they beat her and the male soldier who sat next to her. “

Yitzchok Adlerstein over at Cross-Currents should be particularly commended for asking the Orthodox community to condemn such actions. (I say “Orthodox community” because of the context and the fact that Rabbi Adlerstein is an Orthodox rabbi.) He also invites laypeople to take a role in pressuring the rabbis of Bet Shemesh to sign a petition condemning this type of violence.

However, I’m a little bothered by Rabbi Adlerstein’s stated motivation:

Verified or not, I can tell you who is interested in the story, and who picked it up right away: the Muslim media. I have seen with my own eyes the output of one Muslim listserv under the appropriate enough title “5 ultra orthodox Jews beat the hell out of woman in public.�

When the Neturei Karta rashaim gave succor to Ahmadinejad, there was a huge show of revulsion from all – and unexpected – parts of the community. Even those who shared NK’s radical anti-Zionist platform drew the line at offering aid to the enemy. There is no reason to believe that the Muslims who circulated the story are our enemies. But there is also no way that the story will not propagate itself virally, and quickly fall into the hands of our enemies, who will joyfully point out to the world that in the much-vaunted Israeli democracy, elements every bit as primitive as themselves have free rein.

Again, I very much appreciate the note of critique, but something about this rubs me the wrong way.

Why should religiously-inspired violence be presented as a public relations problem? Do we really need an added excuse to condemn this type of behavior? Shouldn’t ethics and morality and the sanctity and integrity of Judaism be enough to mobilize our outrage?

Posted on October 22, 2007

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5 thoughts on “Condemning Violence

  1. rejewvenator

    This kind of response is endemin to the movement. I’m reminded of NCYI’s position that their recently-introduce policy for vetting new rabbis at member synagogues was to protect the Young Israel brand. Not, as one might imagine, to protect congregants from ill-suited rabbis, or to protect Orthodox beliefs from ‘heterodox’ rabbis who might fly in under the rabbi, but to protect the Young Israel brand!

    On the one hand it’s a refusal to acknowledge the core problem iteslf, but to brush it off as an outlying phenomenon. On the other hand, it’s an attempt to circle the wagons. Outsiders have identified that there is a problem, but their perspectives on why it exists or how to address it are not welcome – the Orthodox community wil deal with the problem internally, and the failure to do so is thus a public relations problem. The dirty laundry will only be aired within the enclave.

  2. The Doctor

    1) If even one penny of my Israel donations are going to support people who do this, I may have to rethink my giving…

    2) Raising the question of whether “our enemies hear about this” implies that the problem is not what happened, but that someone found out.

    Israel may be a Jewish state, but it must not become Afghanistan under the Taliban, where morality police mete out bloody justice to anyone who does not meet their standards. If this happens, the Third Temple will be destroyed even before it’s built…

  3. mbczion

    בס’’ד

    “Israel may be a Jewish state, but it must not become another Afghanistan under the Taliban, where morality police mete out bloody justice to anyone who does not meet their standards. If this happens, the Third Temple will be destroyed even before it’s built…”

    And Israel is NOT another “Afghanistan under the Taliban”. Those hooligans mentioned above represent Israel (and for that matter, Orthodox Judaism) about as much as the wacko anti-abortionist terrorists who murder Doctors who perform abortions represent America (or even fundamental Christianity).

    Does the problem need to be dealt with? ABSOLUTELY and head on. However, it is a bit of a stretch to say that Israel is on her way to becoming Afghanistan just like it is a stretch to say that Israel is on her way to becoming another Nazi Germany because of the groups of neo-nazis that were arrested in Petach Tikvah a couple of months ago.

    מנחם בן צבי הכהן

  4. The Doctor

    MBC–

    What has been the response to this? Has it been condemned by government and Orthodox circles, or has it been passed over?

    Over here, while there’s no end of nutbars who express support for doctor-killers and clinic-bombers, at least the perpetrators are tracked down and arrested and prosecuted.

    What has happened to these guys?

  5. mbczion

    בס’’ד

    I honestly do not know what has happened to these guys, as my schedule of working 50 plus hours a week is a bit full to do research on whether every punk in Israel who does something despicable is arrested.

    Regarding these Haredim who are involved in these vile acts, I don’t even know if they are Israeli citizens, as most likely (being they live in the Bet Shemesh are, an area which I lived in for a few years and know well) they are against the State of Israel.

    I can say that in my community (mainstream Orthodox/national religious) outrage IS expressed when such incidents occur, probably more so than by the secular public because we see it as the Chillul Hashem that it is.

    מנחם בן צבי הכהן

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