Founder of ZAKA and Head of Ponovitch Yeshiva Stand against ‘Kanoim’ (Religious Zeolots)

Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, the head of the Ponovitch Yeshiva, a leading Haredi Yeshiva in B’nei Brak, has taken a strong stand against hatred of hilonim. A week ago he delivered an address to his students where he insisted that even hiloni soldiers will get a share in the world to come:

גם חילונים שאינם שומרי תורה ומצוות, אם הם מוסרים את נפשם על הצלת אחרים מתוך אהבת הבריות יש להם עולם הבא כמו הרוגי לוד שמסרו את נפשם לטובת בני העיר

Even hilonim that aren’t observant of torah and mitzvot, if they are willing to give their lives to save others for the love of fellow human beings, they will a share in the world to come, just like the people of Lod who gave their lives for the city.

This raised the ire of some of the ‘kanoim’ (religious zeolots). They called him to task afterwards and demanded he explain himself. In response he went even further, and told his students:

אלה שעסוקים בקביעות לשנוא חילונים וקבוע מוציאים עלונים על שנאת רשעים, בסוף מגיעים לידי ליצנות על גדולי ישראל. כל מטרתם הינה שלא לשם שמיים

Those who busy themselves with hatred of secular Jews and non-observant Jews (r’shaim) at the end make a mockery of the g’dolim of Israel. All goals of this sort are not for the sake of heaven”.

Rabbi Edelstein further underscored his point by saying that his words were not his own but rather those of the Chazan Ish who told his students to hate the act and not the person. Further even though one is required to rebuke a wrong doer, since we don’t know the right way to do this, we must refrain from even doing this much. He said he welcomed further requests for clarification.

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav also speaks out

In late January, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, one of the founders of ZAKA, observed on his facebook page broadcast to nearly 20,000, that the Kanoim with their rock throwing, were no different than terrorists.

This has been going on for too long, these so-called haredi hooligans have wreaked havoc through harassment and violence. It doesn’t really matter how they justify the actions, often they are just bored and find excuses later… Whatever the reason, they cannot be allowed to go on like this, at the expense of innocent men, women and children, whose only crime is being in the wrong place at the wrong time … they cry out against blasphemy in every realm, but the greatest desecration of God’s name is their actions, there can be no justification for mindless terror perpetrated against innocent bystanders in the name of ideology. (Source: Ynet News)

Kanoim, Sikrikim and Communal Intimidation

Kanoim (religious zeolots or fanatics) have threatened many rank and file haredim into silence. Even major leaders both within and outside of the Haredi community have been attacked: Ya’akov Katz (religious zionist, National Union party), Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv, Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman (the “Rosh Yeshiva”), Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger, Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), and United Torah Judaism MKs Moshe Gafni and Uri Maklev

The intimidation is also felt at the grass roots level on both sides of the Atlantic. In October a bookstore in Mea Sharim Jerusalem, Manny’s, was repeatedly vandalized because it sold English lanague and Zionist books. In the USA, in late December, 2011, Rabbi Yakov Horowitz of Project Yes in Brooklyn, New York City, USA, spoke out against voilence and intimidation to enforce the torah calling it “communal abuse”:

Our community is just now coming to grips with the painful reality that is child abuse, and the ravages it leaves in its wake. We must now realize that there is communal abuse as well, from which we all continue to suffer. And just like we have come to understand that prosecuting and convicting child molesters can prevent future abuse, so too we must make sure that these kanoim who are rodfim in every way be stopped in their tracks.

Haredi Public Relations

It should be noted that the story of the Israeli Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovitch and the Brooklyn Child Activist did not appear in the non-Haredi press.

Part of the reason lies in Haredi public relations savey. Although words of condemnation and demonstrations of courage in the face of Kanoim are reported in the Haredi press, the Haredi press is off mainstream Israeli radar. The main-stream media does not always understand the significance of some of the protests in the Haredi community. Further, no strong effort is made to push these stories into the mainstream press, leaving the impression of a Haredi public united behind the Kanoim.

Yet, even when stories do make it to the public media, media amplification of the story is haphazard.

In late December, Rabbi Arye Deri, former leader of Shas, was interviewed on Channel 2. He passionately castigated the kanoim, stressing that Yom Kippur could not atone for their sins, because it only atones for sins between God and human beings and they had sinned human being to human being. Only death atones for such sins. Yet Yeshiva World News picked up the story and amplified it in print. Yehuda Meshi-Zahav’s condemnation was eventually picked up by Ynet on February 3, 2012, but it was old news by that point. Yeshiva World News had reported it more than a week earlier on January 26, 2012.

More well publicized protests of Israeli rabbis include Yona Metzger, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel; Shlomo Amir, Chief Ovadia Yosef, spiritual head of Shas, Avraham Yosef, son of Ovadia Yosef; Sephardi Rabbi of Israel; Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, Jerusalem based leader of the Belz Hassidim; Chaim Ansellem, MK and now leader of Am Shalem; Dov Lipman, Beit Shemesh activist and now English Language spokesman for Am Shalem; and Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, one of the founders of ZAKA.

Sources:

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