Eretz Yisroel: The Battle for Torah

I was wondering …

Let’s say I had an issue with Ethiopians. I had a bad run-in or two with them. Would it be acceptable to write to the papers, voicing my beefs with the group as a whole? How they do this, that and the other thing disturbs me, because I had a few run-ins …

You see … for some strange reason, it’s perfectly okay to write similar articles about the Chareidi (Ultra-Orthodox) community. Assigning group-blame is par for the course.

For example (all together now): They don’t pay taxes! They don’t work! They don’t participate in the Army! They don’t educate their children! They freeload off the government! They keep women at home, taking care of children! They force women to go out to work to support them in kollel, leaving the kids in the street! They sit around and do nothing! They’re parasites!

Minus the Army bit, all those claims are false … and have little or no relation to religiosity.

Currently, there’s a big religious-secular war being fought in Israel. What brought it to a boil?

There’s a small group of … oh … meshugenas … that live in parts of Meah Shearim and Beit Shemesh. In Beit Shemesh, all told, the population of meshugenas numbers maybe 35-40 families. They decided the girls in a nearby Religious-Zionist school were not dressed appropriately. So they spent their mornings protesting and calling the girls names. In some cases, they even spat on them.

The media and politicians caught wind of it and zoomed on over. The next thing you know the headlines are spewing anti-religious ra-ra, all about the Ultra-Orthodox troubling little girls. And, once again, everybody’s up in arms about the people they love to hate: the entire Ultra-Orthodox community.
Ironically, the same group of meshugenas has a record of making trouble for the Ultra-Orthodox community as well. They belong to a small, breakaway Chassidic group, do not listen to any Torah leadership (which is, of course, also being blamed for not stopping them somehow), nor do they (obviously) follow the Torah. They number 35-40 families out of a city of 100,000 people (many of whom are Ultra-Orthodox themselves). Yet, suddenly, they represent the entire spectrum of the Ultra-Orthodox world. According to what I’ve seen, the Ultra-Orthodox comprise about 10 percent of Israel’s population. Suddenly, the 35-40 families now represent all 750,000 people.

If that wasn’t enough, a second wave of attacks began.

Many publicly-owned bus companies in Israel run special lines for the religious community. Although these lines are based in religious neighborhoods, anybody is allowed to use them. On these buses, men sit in the front and women sit in the back. Couples can usually sit together in the middle, depending on the line.

Not surprisingly, attacks on the mehadrin bus lines began almost as soon as we could sniff anti-religiousness in the air. Remember, the religious Israeli world does not have the same history as the American world. Sitting in front and sitting in the back is no reflection, indication or representation of who is better and who is lesser.

Egged, the company that runs bus lines in Jerusalem and many other cities, created the majority of these lines because it saw profit in them. It was Egged who offered to create new lines for the religious communities. Now, these are lines VOLUNTEERED by Egged. And because there is a demand within the religious world for them, they have maintained popularity. And they haven’t impacted other, regular lines in any way.

Nonetheless, on more than several occasions in the last two weeks, secular women, in the name of “women’s rights” (and, ahem, to get their names in the press), have boarded these buses and sat with the men. In some cases, they even harassed the men to provoke a fight. Granted, they never used the lines before. Granted, the religious women don’t seem to side with their “sisters.” Granted, it doesn’t affect them. But they wanted to fight discrimination against women.

Why they didn’t protest in Tel Aviv, where advertisements use women for their bodies? Where the streets are paved with women’s “business cards” and there’s a nice amount of illegal trafficking of women going on … Oh, never mind, that’s not “in.”

Last week, a female soldier pulled such a stunt, starting a verbal fight with a man. He responded in kind and called her a “prutzah” -- wrongly translated in the media as a “prostitute,”but more like “immodest woman”. Lo and behold, a few stops later, the police boarded the bus and arrested him! Now he’s being charged with sexual harassment.

I’ve been riding the buses here for years. I’ve heard secular Jews use FAR worse language on the bus. Yet NEVER did I see an arrest! But when a religious Jew is provoked and calls somebody an inappropriate name, the police and media are there two minutes later, filing charges for SEXUAL harassment???

Logic would state, then, that if you argue with a woman and you’re not careful, you can get arrested for sexual harassment! He didn’t touch her, nor did he make any lewd comments. In fact, he hardly was able to see her in the crowd! While I don’t agree with how he handled the situation, he most certainly did not deserve to be arrested.

On the other hand, just yesterday, a young religious girl had her life threatened. She was pushed and spat on while riding a bus. A secular Israeli did it -- several times -- and in front of everybody on the bus, including the driver. Nobody stood up to defend her. No one called the media. And, most importantly, no arrests were made.

Then, in one of my old neighborhoods, a young boy was beaten by two secular Israelis. Again, no arrests were made. Then a secular Jew declared on national television that he wanted to take an Uzi and gun down Chareidim. And, gasp: no headline stories!

While the above-mentioned incidents were reported, they were parts of a regular report, with no media backlash against the entire secular community. I didn’t see one article written about withholding funds from secular schools until they clean up their act (secular Israeli schools are well-known for the violence issues they have), nor do I see a call for secular society to stop and introspect.
After the mehadrin bus issues, our meshugena friends decide to hold a protest, portraying themselves as “victims.” How do they do it? They protest in Jerusalem’s Kikar Shabbos, wearing concentration camp garb. This drew the wrath of everybody across the board, from the far-left to the far-right, up to and including Chareidi leaders and newspapers.

But you would never know that if you read the secular papers. After all, the headlines blare: “Hareidi protests.” Because if some do it, everybody else must be thinking the same thing. Remember, “there is no individual thought in the religious world.”

Why? ‘Tis the season to hate Torah Jewry.

I don’t like it when people, including the frum community, cry victim for the sake of crying victim. But let’s quickly play a number game. Let’s say there are 40 meshugena families in Beit Shemesh that have been ostracized by the frum community. Obviously, there are more in Jerusalem. Those two places are where these folks are located.

Now, for fun, I’m going to wildly inflate the numbers and say there are 5,000 meshugena, trouble-causing rabble rousers in the frum community. And there are 750,000 Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel. That means these meshugenas – whose population I wildly inflated -- comprise 0.66% of all Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel.

That means the media, politicians, armchair Israelis in America and all other talking heads are speaking about the entire Ultra-Orthodox community based off the behavior of 0.66% of their population.

Does this make sense to you?

You know, just for fun, let’s double the numbers. Judge a segment of society based off 1.2% of their population.

Any better?

Can you imagine if I spoke negatively about the black community based off of even 10% of their population? What if I wrote that all black churches should lose their tax-exempt status until they clean up gang problems in the black world? Or perhaps schools that are 90% minority should lose funding until they keep their single-mother population under control? Anybody feel comfortable reading that?

The frum community is finding itself in the corner and feeling victimized for that exact reason. The entire community is being portrayed as non-working, non-tax paying parasites, who are violent and anti-woman -- and all because 0.66% of their population cannot behave.

What are all the “enlightened” ones saying? Because the “entire” Chareidi community cannot behave itself, it’s obvious that they need to undergo certain changes immediately. All funding needs to be cut off from their yeshivas and kollelim. Their schools must toe the line, adhering to secular curriculums. And, gosh darnit, all Chereidim should join the Army (just don’t put them in my platoon!). Oh, right, a nice percentage of secular Jews don’t join either; but, then again, that “medical” reason is a legitimate excuse, as opposed to sitting and learning in yeshivah.

Let’s look at the facts briefly. The Israeli public school system has rated in the bottom 50% educationally among Western nations. Never mind that Chareidim annually – and on an ongoing basis – score higher than their secular counterparts on the Israeli “SATs”. And then there’s the violence issues plaguing the Israeli public school system. Those don’t exist within the religious educational framework. How, exactly, will this help the poor Chareidim get over their poor education and violent tendencies?

Concerning the Army and work -- they’re tied together. Until you hit a certain age or receive an exception, you will not be hired by many companies until you do the Army. That’s because the Army could draft you at any time. This is a problem, since, as the Army recently stated, much to the chagrin of the religious, that they will no longer honor the agreement they’ve made with religious soldiers allowing them to serve within the bounds of halacha, and have already begun to enforce that decision (The Army has recently stated that a commander’s orders supersede Torah). This has already led several prominent Religious-Zionist rabbis to say that unless this is reversed, they will instruct their students not to join as well, only widening the rift between the Religious-Zionists and the government that has been ongoing for several years.

These are the simple facts. We’re not talking about a religious vs. secular fight here. Most people on both sides could care less. Thankfully, for the most part, on the individual level, the religious and secular get along. They live in different worlds, but they respect that and leave it be. The fight is more of the “enlightened” left vs. Judaism (both the Ultra-Orthodox and Religious Zionist). The media and politicians are using 0.66% of the Ultra-Orthodox community to attack the entire group en masse -- and to finally strike where they were unsuccessful before: the Torah.

Since the founding of the state, the secular government has always wanted to get their hands on the religious education system. I can understand why. They want a perfectly functioning Israeli society. On the other hand, the religious want a Jewish society.

And since 1948, they’ve been going head-to-head on this. And that’s why the education system is repeatedly targeted by the government and media. He who controls education, controls children. Yes, they will say it’s in the name of educating the children -- so they can earn a living and not live off the State – but the reasons run much deeper.

Then why not give Army exemptions to those who will never serve anyhow? That would solve the issue of not entering the workforce.

But, alas, it’s just an excuse.

An excuse to battle over Torah in Eretz Yisrael.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

I do know one thing though: Torah Judaism has yet to lose a fight.