Posts Tagged With: Violence

The War of Symbols Continues: More Violence on the Temple Mount and Off

Old City Rioter, masked and with stones, October, 2009 (photo by Synne Tonidas @

On Friday, after Muslim noon prayers, more than a hundred worshippers stanged a demonstration protesting Jewish temple mount extremists’ plans to enter the Temple Mount to pray. What exactly happened next is not clear as newspaprs give conflicting accounts. At some point the protesters began throwing stones. At some point the Israeli police entered the temple mount precinct to disperse the protesters. 11 police officers were lightly injured. Between 15 and 30 protesters were lightly injured. Four protesters were arrested.

AP reports that one of the Muslim officials present at the scene says stones were only thrown after police entered, but this doesn’t explain why the police entered the Temple Mount. However, the Jerusalem Post says that the conflict began when people on the Temple Mount began throwing stones down onto the Western Wall plaza below. When the police entered the Temple Mount to stop the stone throwing, the protesters began throwing stones at the police as well.

Reports of the weapons used on each side also differ. Ynet says molotov cocktails as well as stones were thrown. AP says that the police used tear gas as well as stun grenades. Arutz Sheva says the police used stun grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas. The police deny this saying they used stun grenades and nothing more. The Jerusalem Post mentions unspecified additional crowd control techniques. The police deny the use of any other crowd control techniques other than stun grenades.

Violence Triggers Yet More Violence and a Death

Violence on the Temple Mount triggered yet more violence elsewhere on the West Bank.  Continue reading

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Holy Sites and Violence: A War of Symbols

For the last two weeks the Temple Mount, churches, and several key graves in Israel and the West Bank have been the focus of tension, fears, and minor violence.

The Temple Mount

For the lat few weeks, the Al Aqsa Foundation for Waqf and Heritage, the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade and Muslim leaders such as Ekrema Sabri, have been beating the drums, expressing fears that Jews will desecrate or take over the Temple Mount.

Muslim fears aren’t coming out of thin air. Two weeks ago around the time of Moshe Feiglin’s usual monthly attempt to enter the temple mount, unknown parties distributed flyers in the Old City calling on people “to purify the temple mount from the enemies of Israel”. Feiglin denied any involvement in the pamphlets, but the timing of the pamphlets aggravated an already tense situation. Then Monday night this week, a home with right wing extremist documents discussing the Temple Mount were discovered in a home in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

The police have worked with officials on the Temple Mount to prevent riots and personal injury, but their actions have been criticized on both the Arab and the Jewish side. On Sunday, Feb 12, the temple mount was closed to Jews. This sparked outrage by certain religious Jews and prompted the Zionist Organization of Amrica (ZOA) to send a letter to the Israeli government on Monday, Feb 13. Continue reading

Categories: Building a Just Israel, Extremism | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

That US Travel Advisory Has Been Around for a Long Time

… and sadly so has violence in Haredi neighborhoods.

This week several blogs reported that the US Government was warning Americans to dress modestly when they visit ultra-orthodox neighborhoods, lest they be assaulted. In light of all of the turmoil in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh this winter, many people thought this was a new warning.

It isn’t.

“The Wayback Machine” is an archive that stores the history of the internet. It lets you turn back the clock and see any webpage the way it looked a year or two ago or even ten. Using the way back machine I was able to find a snapshot of the US State Department travel information page for Israel from June 7, 2005*.

Here’s how the page looked when it was archived on Jaunary 1, 2006 :

Jerusalem, travelers should … dress appropriately when visiting the Old City and ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhoods.  Most roads into ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhoods are blocked off on Friday nights and Saturdays.  Assaults on secular visitors, either for being in cars or for being “immodestly dressed,” have occurred in these neighborhoods.

And here is how that paragraph looks today:

In Jerusalem, travelers should … dress appropriately when visiting the Old City and ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhoods. Most roads into ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhoods are blocked off on Friday nights, Saturdays, and Jewish holidays. Assaults on secular visitors, either for being in cars or for being “immodestly dressed,” have occurred in these neighborhoods.

They are exactly the same. Just for fun we also looked at some snapshots for the years between 2006 and now. The advisory for modest dress was still there. As the warnings all the way back to 2006 clearly show, haredi hassling of women has been going on a long time. In fact, it has been going on much longer than even the WayBack machine shows.

Thirty years ago, when the internet was a plaything of academics and defense personnel, a cousin of mine walked through Mea Shearim in a short sleeve shirt. Men threw stones at her. When she told me the story a decade after it happened, there was still pain and anger in her words.

On Shavuot 1997, in the days before the Kotel had been declared a Beit Knesset, I was with a group of men and women in the plaza behind the kotel, praying off to the side near the entrance gates from the parking lot. We were half way through the Torah reading when suddenly a mob of black coated men surrounded up, screaming, yelling, throwing stones and bags of milk. The police had to escort us out.

In 2004, novelist Naomi Ragan was harassed on a Mehadrin bus because she was in the wrong seat.

Monday morning, in the throes of a new exercise regimen, I found myself walking down Strauss Street and, as luck would have it, the number 40 bus stopped right in front of me. It’s the bus with the shortest route to my home in Ramot, a neighborhood divided between secular, modern Orthodox, and haredi inhabitants. The bus was empty when I got on. Completely empty. So I paid my fare, got my receipt, and chose a single seat near the front.

I was happily immersed in an article about Yaddo in Vanity Fair when I was interrupted by an angry haredi man who announced that I needed to move to the back of the bus. I looked up at him, astonished, feeling a flash of what Blacks must have felt in Alabama in 1950….

Very calmly, and politely I think, I told him that this was a public bus and I would sit where I liked. He didn’t have to sit next to me, and he didn’t have to look at me. He shuffled off quietly, taking one of the many, many available seats. And that, I thought, was that.

It wasn’t. A few stops later, another haredi man – this time with the build of a Sumo wrestler – aggressively planted his two feet squarely in front of my seat and, in a loud and abusive tone and in no uncertain terms, demanded that I move to the back of the bus…. I am absolutely confident that only the prohibitions against touching a woman (that actually are in the Shulchan Aruch) saved me from being bodily hauled from my seat….

The entire ride, I continued to be the target of intermittent abuse until he finally got off…. ALL THIS TIME, the bus driver said nothing, even though it was clear to him what was happening.

Violence in Haredi neighborhoods not the real news this winter. The real news is that we are now talking about it. Street harassment and bullying can’t end unless people talk about it. However, if we can talk about it, then we can also work together to find a solution.

The question is, will we?  This problem has been going on a long time.  It will not go away, unless we start doing something more or different from what we did before all the media fury erupted.   We should never confuse media attention with real change.

Nor should we be lulled into believing the problem has disappeared just because it isn’t on the 6 o’clock news.  The media attention has died down, but our efforts to make a difference must not.
* Note: At fist glance the archived page appears to be current as of 2012.  This date is due to the archived page including a small amount of embedded javacode that generates today’s date whenever that might be.  The actual date of the warning and the warning itself are hard coded in the html and not generated.   One can see this date by scanning about half way down the page just above the beginning of the text of the warning.  The hard coded date is  June 7, 2015.

Categories: Calls to Action, Extremism, How Others See Us | Tags: | Leave a comment

From Midat Hasid to Midat S’dom

by Sid Slivko, cross-posted with permission from Got Talmud.

Editor’s Note: Deja Vu. Although this essay was written in the middle of Chanuka (Dec 27, 2011) in response to a media expose that showed the trauma created for a little girl who was spit on an cursed as a prostitute by adult men, it is especially pertinent today. Yesterday, January 24, there was an escalation of violence when a mob stood by while a woman was attacked with not just words and spit, but stones and bleach.

In about an hour, thousands of people will converge on Beit Shemesh to protest the behavior of certain self-styled Haredim who have been polarizing the community. They and their fellow fanatics have recently dominated the headlines in the Israeli media these last few weeks by their misogynist actions, such as erecting mehitzot (dividers) on sidewalks to separate men and women pedestrians or holding up buses when women refuse to sit in the back. But the big rallying point that made all the media happened last week when one of the men spit on an eight year-old Orthodox girl going to her religious girls’ school in Beit Shemesh.

Now, I live in the Ba’aka neighborhood of Jerusalem where my two nine year old boys attend the religious school across the street. I don’t worry about them being harassed. But I do worry about is that these intolerant ignorami have successfully Talibanized Judaism. Not only are the Haredi religious leaders themselves afraid to voice opposition but even our own chief rabbinate is staying silent.

It reminds me of the story cited by Rabbi Yochanan in Masechet Gittin (54b). Rabbi Yochanan explains that the second temple was destroyed on account of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza (You can read the story in Wikipedia by clicking here ). And while ultimately Rabbi Yochanan lays the blame on an overly pious Rabbi Zacharia ben Avkolus who refused to accept the less radical solutions of the majority of rabbis regarding Ceasar’s tainted sacrifice, the real blame rests on the rabbis and scholars who were at the party where Bar Kamtza was humiliated and remained silent.

Today, in Beit Shemesh, and in other places in Israel, we have examples of both parts of the tale. First, we have a fanatical minority imposing its standards on a majority afraid to act in its defense. And each victory brings increasing demands, each one more outrageous than the last. Meanwhile, we wait for the religious leaders to do something to stop it — which they haven’t. (Notwithstanding the defensive statement of Beit Shemesh Haredim released earlier distancing itself from these violent acts but blaming the media, we have nothing official from that community or any other religious community). In fact, just this week, a neighborhood synagogue which prides itself on its open, modern Orthodox image announced it was hosting a Hanukah puppet show for young children stipulating that only mothers could attend — no fathers welcome. It’s as if our leaders are afraid of what the fanatic minority will do to them!

Meanwhile, a popular video interview with one of the Beit Shemesh fanatics has gone viral. In it, the man explains that it is right and proper to spit on little girls who fo not comply with his community’s standards. The bar is rising with nobody to keep it at an attainable level.

The Mishnah in Avot states that one who says ”What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine” is evil. Those who cloak their coercion in the guise of piety and force their standards on others are doing just that. But more importantly, the Mishnah also tells us that one who says “What’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine” is a Sodom type. If we do nothing to stop this we are the Sodom type.

The same can be said of silent Rabbinic leaders.

Let’s not be like that. Let’s be like the one in the Mishnah who says”What’s mine is yours and what’s your is yours.” The Mishnah calls him a “hasid” — pious and generous. Let’s be like that. Let’s give our strength and support whichever way we can, to the ones who are victimized by this kind of antisocial behavior.

Sid Slivko is an Orthodox Rabbi and Jewish educator living in Jerusalem, Israel. He studied and received ordination from Yeshiva University and the REITS rabbinical program

Categories: Building a Just Israel, Extremism | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Extremist Thugs Attack Woman While Others Stand By

Natalie Mashiah and Her Car

Today, in Beit Shemesh, a young woman, Natalie Mashiah, was doing her job hanging up posters for the national lottery. But certain Haredim in the neighborhood did not like what she was doing. Filled with rage they attacked her and her car with rocks and jugs of bleach, breaking the back window and slashing her tires.

She fled to a nearby building for help only to be attacked by a man inside. She cried out “I’m Jewish” and they continued threatening her. She says was scared she would not get out alive. Luckily she did.

What is as upsetting as the incident itself is the response of fellow Haredi Jews in the neighborhood. During the attack Natalie says that some 50 people allegedly stood by and did nothing. Later on sources interviewed by channel 2 said she provoked the attack by coming near the door of a synagogue. Haredi media outlets excused the behavior of the men saying that she provoked them by lifting up her shirt.

Fortunately, the Haredi mayor had more sense and condemned the attack. The police have arrested three suspects yesterday and are looking for more. Two men were arrested this morning because they fit the physical description of the attacker. They claim to have alibis and sources close to them said they were personally opposed to the violence.

Although she managed to escape with minimal physical injuries, the memory of being attacked by a mob with others standing by and doing nothing while her life was threatened is likely to stay with her for the rest of her life. There are some experiences no human being should ever have to live through. This is one.

Blaming the victim for their own victimization is never right. There can be no excuse for victim blaming, particularly when violence is done in the name of religion.

Abuse is NEVER justified.
Threatening a human body with chemicals that could permanently disfigure them less so.
Making a credible threat on someone’s life even less so.

The protection of life is so precious, that it even justifies violating Shabbat.

A synagogue should be a place of refuge, not the hiding place of another attacker.

We must not stand idly by

Although the level of violence seems to be escalating from name calling and spitting to life threatening acts, so far the Haredi establishment response is the same as before: no word of protest. (so far) This is a community where rabbis and community journals are opinion setters. This is a community that can fill a field with thousands of protester when the cause is serious enough.

When exactly will outrage start overwhelming cliquish fear and the need to justify one’s own?
How far will things have to go before Haredi rabbis en mass condemn this without excuse or qualification?
When will there be black hatted mobs flooding Beit Shemesh to protest extremists?

And what can those who are not leaders in the Haredi establishment do to pressure them to do so before someone is seriously injured or killed? Is there truly nothing?

Leviticus 19:16 says “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.” (JPS).

These two command are next to each other for a reason. The verse reminds us that being too afraid of rumors can lead to the opposite sin: standing idly by while others suffer. The second half is emphatic ( לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל-דַּם רֵעֶךָ.). It literally says on should not stand on the blood. The point is that if we merely stand by and do nothing, if we are idle, it is as if we are standing on the blood and not merely by it. Even if it seems that standing by is our only option, we must not be idle while we do it. Even if we feel that nothing can be done, we must try.

Street violence based on gender or religion is a world-wide problem. The solutions below might not fit our situation here in Israel exactly, but they should give us food for thought.

As frightening as this story is, it is also a reminder that people and technology can make a difference. Natalie’s brother, a company commander in the Givati Brigade, helped her during the attack via cell phone. During the attack, Natalie contacted the police, also using her cell phone. A significant portion of the attack happened while waiting for the police, but when police finally did showed up, the crowd scattered.

He [Rabbi Tarfon] used to say, it is not upon you to complete the task, but you are not free to idle from it.’ (Pirke Avot 2:21)

News Sources:

Beth Frank-Backman is founder of If She Cry Out – a blog and on-line non-profit incubator that showcases the thought and work of survivors of extreme violence who have found ways to use their experience to innovate in the arts, academics, and social action.

Categories: Extremism | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Two Percent is Too Much

To determine whether or not riders are being forced to sit in segregated sections, Transportation ministry inspectors are boarding mehadrin buses and deliberately sitting in the opposite gender section. They found that in 4.8% of checks, the inspector was asked to move and in 1.3% of checks the rider felt physically threatened. According to MK Yisrael Eichler, chairman of the United Torah Judaism this indicates that there is NO PROBLEM.

No information on whether violence was more or less likely if it was a man in a women’s section or a woman in a man’s section. Are we talking about 1.3% violence equally distributed between men and women? Or a 2.6% (> 1 in 50) risk of violence aimed almost exclusively at women?

Regardless, I’d like to know what civilized society thinks its fine if there is a greater than 1 in 100 risk of violence merely from riding in the wrong section of the bus?

By comparison, the New York city subway has 30 million riders each week. Citywide, on and off the subway, there is there is approx 2000 felony crimes per week and 700 misdemeanor assaults, making for a less than 1 in 10, 000 risk of victimization. Only a small portion of these happen on public transportation, so the actual rate is much less.


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First Spit, Now Stones

Just when things seem to have quieted down a new report of bullying from Jewish extremists in Beit Shemesh. HaAretz reports that another Anglo third grader, this time a little boy, was spit on by teen bullies from the neighboring Haredi community.

HaAretz reports that the third grader was confronted by a group of Haredi teens who shouted at him and threw a large rock, hitting him in the back.

Last month, an 8 year old girl Naama Margolis was spit upon and cursed at by adult Haredi men on her way to school. The men doing the spitting claimed she was not modest enough. However, the willingness

The boy’s father, Jeff Klein, says that the incident with his son shows that the real issue is not modesty, but intolerance. The Klein and Margolis families live in a neighborhood adjacent to an isolationist Haredi community. In addition to attacking children, members of the community have objected to dogs and even televisions owned by their non-Haredi neighbors.

Attempts to pressure rabbis and parents within the community to reduce violence only seem to increase the violence. When Channel Two broke the story of Naama Margolis, Haredi men attacked reporters the following Monday. A demonstration against violence in the name of religion mid-week was followed by riots and stone throwing at Naama Margolise’s school.

Although rabbis on the fringes of the Beit Shemesh haredi community publicly protested, none of the major rabbinic leaders in Beit Shemesh did.  On the National level leadership was mixed with former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef condemning religiously motivated bullying,  current Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar keeping his silence, and Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger blaming the press for making too much of an issue of things.

The Haredi community relies heavily on its rabbis to define social norms and their silence was painfully obvious, even to children.  When there is a strong conviction against some policy and behavior, they have no problem gathering hundreds and even thousands together for rallies.  But nothing of the sort has happened to protest bullying in the name of religion.

Some Haredi observers suggested that this reflected general approval for the goals of rioters and bullies, even if the means of accomplishing them was distasteful.   According to Rabbi Shmuel Pappenheim,  they operate in a zone between the forbidden and the permitted by taking an issue on which there is general consensus and then trying to enforce it in unacceptable ways.

Categories: Exclusion of Jews, Extremism | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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