Friday, July 17, 2009

Toldot Aharon

The Jerusalem Post has a very good analysis of Toldot Aharon (AKA Toldos Aharon) which tries to explain why they have acted out of all proportion to the arrest of one of their members (other reports say that the arrested woman was a member on Neturei Karta which AFAIK is a break away from Toldot Aharon and is a separate movement).

For people who aren’t familiar with Tolodot Aharon, their blue and gold striped coats and white kipot are very distinctive (although similar clothing is worn by other “Yerushalmim”). Their central Beis Midrash is towards the end of Mea Sharim street, opposite Bretzlav, not far from the Ministry of Education. If you find yourself in the area on a Shabbat (after the present round of violence dies down) I’d highly recommend going there to see their Tisch. They also have wonderful Simchot Beit Shoeva on Succot and I was once there on the Shvi’i Pessach to see their re enactment of Kriyat Yam Suf.

In general, if you respect their wishes (no cameras even on weekdays, modest clothing, etc.) they are very welcoming to individuals.

The thing that always impressed me with Toldot Aharon is that they were at least consistent in their views. They reject Zionism and refuse to have anything to do with Zionist institutions. But that means that they don’t vote or have representation in the Knesset and I’m pretty sure that they refuse to accept money from the state. They may even have private generators for electricity so that they are not relying on the State Electric Company.

Anyway, this article from the Jerusalem Post was a very interesting read.

Background: When 'evil Zionism' touches insular Toldot Aharon, the outcome is explosive

The Eda Haredit is engaged in a battle for survival against what it sees as the forces of evil. Nothing else can explain the stone-throwing, the trash-bin-burning, the rioting and sheer intensity of rage that has rocked the capital over the past days.

And for the Toldot Aharon Hassidim, who considers the Munchausen's-by-proxy mother as one of their own, this is doubly true.

For Toldot Aharon - perhaps the most insular, well-organized and cohesive of the groups that make up the Eda Haredit - any type of intervention in its domestic affairs is tantamount to a total usurping of the community's belief system.

And when the intervention is perpetrated by representatives of the evil Zionist entity - police officers, social workers, employees of the Jerusalem Municipality - the effect is literally explosive.

That's why the hassidic sect, which was established in Jerusalem by its founder Rabbi Aharon Roth in 1928, has developed extensive social and cultural barriers to protect it from the bustling secularism of Jaffa Road and Rehov Ben-Yehuda, located less than a kilometer away.

Roth, who died in 1947, started the tradition, which continues to this day, that every male member of the sect signs a contract obligating him and his family to abide by the strict dictates of Toldot Aharon. Clothing, customs, even how the hassidim spend their spare time, is carefully regulated. Cohesion is as tight as super glue.

In contrast, the outside world - especially anything affiliated with Zionism - is described as dark and evil.

For a municipal social worker and police officers to enter the home of one of the hassidim is a desecration. But when the person arrested is a pregnant mother who is being forcibly separated from her children, nothing short of a world war is in order.

Shlomo Guzmen-Carmeli of Bar-Ilan University's Department of Sociology and Anthropology, who is an expert on the Toldot Aharon Hassidim and is the source for the information here about them, says that the current rioting is, for the hassidim, a way of defining "who we are."

"Members of Toldot Aharon do not see themselves first and foremost as individuals. Rather, they see themselves as one organic entity," said Guzmen-Carmeli.

"No one would ever think of involving outsiders in internal issues of the community, let alone representatives of the Zionist entity, which is perceived as an apostate body inimical to the sect's belief system.

"The present unrest is actually an opportunity to strengthen themselves against outside influences and it is also a warning; it's as if they are saying, 'Leave us alone.'"


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