The ultra-Orthodox are becoming increasingly integrated into mainstream Israeli society the author argues. But will it be enough for secularites, and for the media?
Special To The Jewish Week
Noah Efron, a young American-born graduate student at Tel Aviv University, was standing in the cafeteria line, just before the outbreak of the first Iraq War, when he overheard one female student say to another, “The best thing for the country would be if there was a chemical attack on Bnei Brak [the largest haredi population center] before they get new gas masks [for bearded men].” The Silver Spring, Md., native had never before experienced anti-Semitism, and was shocked to hear a Jew talk about the salutary effect of gassing other Jews.
Secularites grouse about how ‘black’ the country is becoming, but issues of religion and state in Israel may not be as divisive as they seem.
Special To The Jewish Week
Jerusalem — The separation of religion and state, be it ever so beleaguered, remains a fundamental tenet of American democracy. In Israel, it’s quite the opposite. A Reform or Conservative rabbi, for example, cannot not perform a legally binding wedding in the State of Israel, whose Chief Rabbinate, dominated by ultra-Orthodox leaders, has hegemony over Jewish marriage, divorce and conversion.
Haredi Jews have become accustomed to their portrayal in a variety of negative ways over the years, the result of our stubborn refusal to assimilate Western values and mores into our lives, our rejection of the notion of a multi-winged Judaism-bird (and, perforce, of conversions of non-Jews to “new Judaisms”) and, to our shame and chagrin, the inexcusable actions of some individuals in our community.
If Al Gore actually did invent the Internet, as he once claimed, he would be the least popular guy in any ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. It is clear that the fervently Orthodox Jewish leaders really despise the Internet and technology because they're willing to spend over $1.5 million in a rally against it next month in Queens, New York.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Israel Police to act aggressively against violence against women in the public sphere.
The order came from Netanyahu Saturday night through Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, following a television expose the previous evening showing an eight-year-old modern Orthodox girl who said she was afraid to walk to school because of harassment from local haredi Orthodox men.
Late last year, Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbis banned the popular blog Voz Iz Neias and even went so far as to try to have it taken down. Now, FailedMessiah.com reports that the Agudath Israel of America's Moetzet Gedolei HaTorah has issued a ban prohibiting its adherents from using the Internet without a filter.
There were no political speeches given or placards raised among tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox who huddled under umbrellas Sunday in Lower Manhattan.
There was only the steady hum and slow sway of men and women separately at prayer, calling upon God through the Psalms to right what they see as the wrongs of Israel: its people and its government.
"Redeem Israel from all its iniquities," the crowd, estimated at 20,000 to 50,000, beseeched through the recitation of Psalm 130. "If you should take account of iniquities, my Master, who would survive?"
Please stop writing out against us,” read the e-mail message I received recently from someone who identified himself as Chaim, a local haredi man, pleading with me not to be “the lackey for people who have no idea what Torah is. Please.”
I responded to his e-mail with one of my own, and before I knew it we were back and forth in an exchange I’ve found both fascinating and frustrating.