Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How can I explain this to my son?

אי”ה my eldest will become Bar Mitzva in a few months and today we went together to Yerushalayim to order his Tfilin.

What should have been a very memorable occasion was overshadowed by the scenes that we saw on Strauss Street, Bar Ilan Street, Kikar Shabbat and generally in the whole Mea Sharim / Geula area.

Baruch Hashem we didn’t witness any violence or rioting, it seems like we were there after the midday demonstration, and left before the violence started up again. What we did see was overturned trash cans on fire, remains of destroyed trash cans, the stench of burning plastic, and a very strong police presence. My son was visibly nervous, and was keen to get out of the area as quickly as possible, which was good advise as it seems that things got out of hand less than an hour after we left the area (we listened to reports of the riot on the radio on the way home).

The hardest thing for me was how to explain these events to my son. I’m a big believer in trying to understand and accept other viewpoints. Years ago when I worked with non Religious or Reform teenage tour groups I went out of my way to make sure that Charedi Judaism was presented in a positive light (no small feat given that many of these kids had a strong prejudice against Orthodoxy). But in this case I just can’t see any positive spin to put on things.

In case you missed the background, the riots were triggered by the arrest of a woman who (allegedly) has a psychological condition which lead her to severely abuse her 2 year old child, to the point of almost starving him to death. The reports are chilling -  for a parent to hurt her child in this manner goes against human nature.

The Yomim Norai’m, are just around the corner. After we blow the Shofar we try to appeal to HaShem with the clearest imagery of mercy and compassion:

היום הרת עולם היום יעמיד במשפט כל יצורי עולם אם כבנים אם כעבדים. אם כבנים רחמנו כרחם אב על בנים …

Today is the birthday of the world; today all mankind is judged whether as children or as servants. If as children, have mercy on us as a father has mercy on his children.

For a mother to deliberately hurt her own child is simply a perversion of nature.

But what is even worse than this perversion of nature is the response of the Charedi community. I spoke to a Ger Chasid in a bookstore and asked him why there are riots. He explained that even if the charges against this woman are true, she needs counselling, not to be thrown in prison.

I’m not sure what the correct action for the law enforcement agencies should be. Clearly this woman needs both counselling and to be separated from her children, however there is no evidence that the way she has been treated would have been any different if she was not Charedi. Her religious outlook seems to have nothing to do with her crime, nor the way that she has been treated by the authorities.

But for arguments sake, lets say that she is 100% innocent and the whole episode is a setup to make the Charedim look bad. How does that justify hundreds of thousands of shekels of damage; putting hundreds of lives in danger; teaching young children to act like wild animals; threatening municipal workers and police.

None of these actions are justified or justifiable in any way shape or form.

I even heard Rav Eichler earlier this evening on Radio Kol Chai describing the “Zionists” as conquerors of Jerusalem, similar to the Roman conquerors of many years ago – that the situation is out-and-out war of the Zionist-conquerors against G-d fearing Jews.

As I said, how am I supposed to explain this to my son? I have made a lot of effort to educate my kids to believe that “Ailu V’ailu Divrei Elokim Chaim”; that the Charedi community shares values and ideals with the Religious Zionist community, and that we Religious Zionists have a lot that we can learn from our Charedi brothers.

I get very upset with my kids if they make any negative comments about any segment of Klal Yisrael, particularly people who have dedicated their life to preserving our Holy Torah.

Unfortunately I fear that any attempts to educate my son to regard the Charedi world as an example that we can learn from have been undone by the terrible Chilul HaShem we witnessed today.


Anonymous said...

Keep doing what you're doing and your son will turn out just fine.

Michael Sedley said...

Thanks for the vote on confidence, however I fear that the divisions within klal Yisrael that these events highlight show that we are still very guilty of the same crimes that destroyed Yerushalayim 2000 years ago.

I hope and pray that the same aveirot wont destroy Yerushalayim again.

yoni r. said...

I don't understand Gerrer chasid's position. The police operated under their standard procedure, which has been applied to Jews of all stripes before. Why only the riots when it's applied to a neighbor? If there is a systematic injustice being applied to Jews, riot immediately. There are enough askonim in the chareidi communities with extensive legal knowledge that they can't claim that this is procedure has been previously unknown to them.

Unfortunately, the answer is clear.

Michael Sedley said...

Yoni, you're right that the answer of the Gerer Chosid make little or no sense.

As you say, the "answer is clear", you don't need a good excuse to start a good old fashioned riot - what else bochrim supposed to do to keep busy during Bein Hazmanim?

Maybe we could find a Gadol prepared to give a heter to stay in the Beis Midrash and learn during Bein HaZmanim as opposed to destroying the city .

Robertcw72 said...

Everyone is human. Everyone makes mistakes. The Chareidi communities are no different. Being human means we are all guaranteed to screw up and will do so.