Two nights ago, the “modesty potrol” of Mea Shearim beat up a 70 year old ultra-orthodox woman who teaches women studying for conversion. They broke her right hand, crushed her left leg, and injured her face.
Many have observed that the victims of these so-called patrols are usually other Haredim. The violence in Beit Shemesh was a spillover of a bullying problem internal to the haredi community. The reasons why this problem persists are complicated.
Just as rabbis refused to give public condemnations against the violence in Beit Shemesh, so too when the violence is targeted within their own community. The reasons for the silence are the same ones that were given in December when the non-Haredi public called for condemnation of bullying on buses, streets, and school protests.
Some rabbis have the feeling that the violent behavior is nonsense. Talking about it will only give them their moment of fame. It will in fact egg them on. Others may feel that the ends justify the means. When attacking or arrested by police, they claim to be acting in defense of modesty and protecting the Haredi community from destruction. Even if they don’t fully approve of the tactics, they don’t really want to stop the phenomenon. Others keep silent out of fear, lest they be judged as lax about modesty and external threats to the Haredi way of life.
Vigilante behavior is not limited to Israeli Haredim. There are on-going problems with self-appointed vigilantes in Haredi communities in the USA as well. Continue reading