Shabbat afternoon, some vagrant Arab decided to attack one of the more ‘secular’ families in my building with a big rock (no-one was hurt, BH). But it was really cool to see a minyan of men, many of whom had really large payot (side curls) and the striped Jerusalem Shabbat robe running after the Arab to go and catch him before the police showed up.
Most of Breslov is a ‘baal teshuva’ in one way or another, so you can never know who’s really behind the payot and the beard, and what they may have been involved in before Rabbenu picked them off the floor. But one thing’s for sure: it defies all stereotypes of what a ‘frum’ person, or a ‘chareidi’ person really is.
Which brings me to the other interesting thing that’s been going on round here this week: loads of loads of chareidi boys (and a few men, too…) squaring off against the police, in protest of the Government’s attempts to force more religious men into the army.
Never mind all the army’s mixed units… never mind that the level of kashrut in the army is honestly a huge joke… never mind that so many of the people in the army aren’t even Jewish really, and happily celebrate crockmas on the Army base, replete with small plastic tree and winking lights. Never mind all the nivul peh and profanity going on.
And most of all, never mind that the Israeli army is controlled by a bunch of secular politicians and ‘career officers’ who really have no idea what they’re doing, or why.
(See THIS post, where one of the former top brass in the army explains what’s gone so wrong with the Israeli army.)
Going to the army today, if you’re a religious boy, is not at all a simple or straightforward issue in any way, despite the completely simplistic way the secular media typically likes to portray every issue to do with the chareidim.
In case you missed it, here’s the basic formula you’ll find in all stories about chareidim in the secular press:
Backwards, repressed, ‘dumb’ people in black clothes, who have far too many children they can’t look after, and who are bleeding the State dry with all these extra Jews they keep creating, are making a lot of trouble for the good-hearted, law-abiding, generous and ‘enlightened’ secular people who live in Israel - and must be ELIMINATED!!!! some how.
That last line is rarely spelled out so obviously (although, frankly, secular fantasies of all chareidim somehow dissolving into thin air, or being part of some ‘population swap’ with Gaza come through much more often in interviews with leading ‘secularists’ then perhaps you’d believe.)
So anyway, the secular news sites have been dusting off that tired old formula, and regurgitating it into ‘chareidim are trying to control society by force’ headlines again. (The mirror principle, anyone?)
If that wasn’t shocking enough, the next day around 200 11 year old boys decided to stand in the way of the traffic in one of the three lanes very close to Chut Shel Chesed, on the road that marks the demarcation line between East and West Jerusalem.
I know this, because we were in that lane and couldn’t get past them. So my husband rolled down the window, and asked them what was going on, and one of the 11 year olds told him: ‘Hafgooneh’ (the Hebrew word for ‘demonstration’, but said with a very thick Yiddish accent).
Ten seconds later, eight border police showed up looking very angry, and nearly all of the 11 year olds scattered away very quickly.
Now, I’m not excusing the chareidi yobbos, who don’t act properly, and who do harass motorists on Shabbat driving near Meah Shearim, and who are just as crazy as the ‘civilised’ police who are meant to be protecting us. (I have SO many crazy Israeli police stories, but that’s a post for another time.)
But here’s the thing: there are yobbos on both sides of the equation, and crazies on both sides of the equation, and by far the most violent and worrying ‘bully boy’ stunts being pulled off in this country are NOT being done by the 11 year old chareidi tearaways.
The secular government (and their ‘friends’ in the secular media and courts) keeps repeatedly trying to ‘disappear’ the chareidim, against their will, in many different ways, including by trying to force them into an immodest, treif-eating army that really doesn’t abide - at all! - by the Jewish code of law in so many areas of its operation.
That’s really not OK, whatever your views on the army. A Jewish army should abide by Jewish law, serve kosher food, respect halacha, and not force men and women to serve together in close quarters. If they did that, then maybe the chareidi draft issue would become much more of a moot point (not least, because Moshiach will have to come before that actually happens.)
But in the meantime, it looks the chareidi draft is going to continue to be a ‘live’ topic for quite some time to come.