This morning I was so riled up by the events in Jerusalem. Very Charedi woman arrested for allegedly abusing her son. Major, extremely intense protests by her community (and beyond?) against her arrest. Threats. Burning garbage. Throwing stones. Really quite horrifying!
I cannot say that it’s easy for me to be understanding about their behavior. But there are a few things I am thinking about that at least put the whole thing a bit more in perspective:
- The media is not 100% trust-worthy. It is totally possible that we are not getting the whole story. More so, I read the letter that “the family” of the woman wrote and I don’t see why we should assume they are a bunch of liars. As someone only getting information from newspapers, I can’t know that.
- Neither the media’s nor the family’s story seems totally true. We must remember to take everything with a grain of salt. What doesn’t sit right with me? For example, in the media’s story, she’s been starving him for years but he’s also been in the hospital for a long time. How did she get away with this abuse if he was in the hospital, even if it was just on and off? In the family’s story, she’s made out to be the perfect, loving, committed mother. What about the footage (which I haven’t seen)? I’d be shocked (in the event that we ever find out the full truth about this) if that turns out to be true. You can read the family’s article here (in Hebrew).
- Human nature tends to push things aside if that helps prove the point we want to prove. So many people seem quite excited to show how terrible the Charedim are that they/we might be blinding ourselves to inconsistencies or just things that aren’t very logical. (I believe that this is what happened with Madoff. I totally believe that things seemed sketchy to a lot of the investors but they swept the feelings under the rug because things were just too good to ruin.)
- The hate. Granted, the Charedim are putting the rest of us in an extremely difficult position. We are watching a large group of them act in a manner that is not at all respectful, let alone to Torah! And when they do things that are outright immoral like burning things, causing such destruction and disruption, and even stoning people, it’s the hardest thing in the world to give them the benefit of the doubt. But, and please bear with me, I know it’s infuriating, can we fully judge them? We know that we can only fully judge someone when we are in their shoes. I used to continue that by saying that, the way I see it, since we can never be in someone else’s shoes, we can never judge others. I don’t fully agree with that anymore. It’s important to pass some sort of judgement, I think. But we need to ask ourselves: Do we know what it’s like to be a Charedi person in a Chiloni (secular) country? Do we know for sure they’re wrong (not in their protesting behavior but in their beliefs regarding life, Israel and how they are treated)? We lack many details. Maybe we should keep that in mind in order to try, as hard as it is, to judge them at least a little more favourably.
- I have at least one person who I’m very close with, who is Charedi. Last time we spoke, she was convinced the mother is innocent and the Charedim are being treated really badly. How can I assume that this person who I respect very much is totally wrong? It’s definitely possible but I can’t know, at least not at this point. Also, I can tell you that, spending time with this person, I am almost certain that she gets different treatment when we’re out and about in Israel because of how she dresses. I have been appalled by it, especially since she is such a sweet person. How can people treat her like that just because she is wearing a scarf wrapped around her head? Yes, Charedim are treated differently. That is a painful way to live, especially if, like this person, you are a sweet, innocent person just living your life how you believe is best for yourself, your family and the world.
The Three Weeks
Finally, there is something that has really stuck out for me and even scared me. Right now it is a very important time in the Jewish calendar. It’s the “three weeks.” These weeks start with a fast and end with another fast. The ending fast, Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av) is one of the two most important fasts in the Jewish calendar, along with Yom Kippur. It is considered the saddest day in our calendar, commemorating the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem. Tradition says that the Second Temple was destroyed because of sin’at chinam. Baseless hatred. It was destroyed because Jews hated Jews.
Tisha B’Av has been the day on which many calamities have befallen the Jews. It is actually scary. The three weeks and the nine days (which are the last nine days of the three weeks) are considered more dangerous times. Growing up in an Orthodox home, we didn’t swim during this period. We wouldn’t necessarily travel. It was best to stay away from danger. And in order to mourn, we wouldn’t listen to music, eat meat, go to movies, get our hair cut and probably other things too.
I look at what is happening in Jerusalem and I am frightened for the Jewish people. Call me superstitious but I do think that there is something extremely meaningful, in a very scary way, that this is happening specifically during the three weeks (just like the Jews were kicked out of Gush Katif in Gaza the day after Tisha B’Av). We need to think about that and remember that our unity is probably one of the most important things for us to work on. As Jews, each of us (I’m talking about the different groups) is so sure we hold the truth, we hold the key. The Charedim hold the truth, as far as they’re concerned. The Chilonim feel the same way about themselves. And many other groups act also as if they are the ones who know the real way to be a Jew or an Israeli.
At the same time, we’re terrified someone else, with their supposed truth, is going to force us to act in one way or another that doesn’t fit our beliefs.
I know all this because I feel the same way. But I also know that at the same time, many/most of us also question ourselves incessantly. We are often 100% sure and 100% not sure at the same time. And that is probably where the friction comes in. We cannot take the different opinions.
I believe it’s time for us all to get off our high horses (or make sure we’re all on high horses, if necessary, as long as we all realize we’re “begova einayim” (eye level) to each other) and realize that each of us “groups” obviously does not have all the answers. Each of us obviously does have something to contribute. And, most of all, we better get our act together and figure out a way not to feel such animosity towards each other because, I hate to say it, but I am scared that we will do ourselves in if we don’t work on this now.