Monday, January 9, 2012

Ultra-Orthodox Jews Continue to Bully Israeli Society

Ultra-Orthodox Jews have been pushing for, insisting, and for the most part forcing their ways on much of Israeli society. For a number of years, their demands have grown more frequent and restrictive. From getting busing supervisors to acquiesce to their childish demands that women be required to sit in the back of public buses to tearing down advertisements depicting women, (including acts of vandalism in the process), The Ultra-Orthodox or Hasidim (Not to be confused with Orthodox Jews) have bullied Israeli governing officials and the society as a whole to get them to create the environment that they want for Israel.

There are two issues here:

One is the fact that what the Ultra-Orthodox are trying to do is very close to what Muslims who demand Sharia Law are doing. They are trying to turn a secular state that provides a climate for them to worship and live as they please into a society where everyone has to abide by their way of doing things in public.

The second is that the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community did not sacrifice their lives and fortunes when the Jewish state and then the State of Israel were proclaimed and fought for. By that fact, then, they do not posses the moral position to throw their collective weight around by forcing their restrictions on others.

Modern Israel was designed to be a nation that was primarily secular. Citizens were expected to be normal contributing members of the community, including serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. It was never intended to be a state that required all sorts of strict religious restrictions and practices. It is a frightening specter to see a significant body of people in Israel trying to do much of what we in the West would protest if Muslims were doing the same thing in their own countries, let alone our own.

Modern Israel, while being a homeland for Jewish people, was not founded on strict religious principles. Actually many of the most prominent Zionists were irreligious and many adhered to political positions that were certainly Left of center. I can recall publications of interviews with Sephardic Jews who were children at the time and were aghast that they would be required to do school-assigned homework on the Sabbath.

Note that one prominent Ultra Orthodox group, the Shatmars, refused outright to recognize the State of Israel as a nation, holding that only the Messiah can reestablish Israel.- Fine then, don’t recognize it and don't even live there. The Shatmars even had representatives attend Mahout Ahmadinejad's Pretending to Believe That the Holocaust Never Happened Summit a few years ago. It was quite sickening to see these attendees shaking hands with the Iranian President. Their intentions were to get on board with the lies about the Holocaust to delegitimize the State of Israel as the Holocaust was the last straw and the catalyst for the final push to create the nation.

Researching the Israeli wars of Liberation and those that followed reveals a history of struggle, deprivation, and ultimate sacrifice utterly devoid of Ultra-Orthodox members of the Haganah, Palmach, Irgun, etc.

Israeli society has made all sorts of concessions to these people including provisions that allow their young men to essentially study the Torah full time while receiving financial aid. Elevators have been adjusted so that they will stop at each floor and therefore eliminate the need to break the Sabbath by the strenuous act of pushing buttons. There have been more of such benefits allowed to placate these groups.

Ultra-Orthodox do not celebrate the anniversary of Israeli independence and treat that day as an ordinary day of business.

Note that Israel, like the US and Western European nations and their other daughter states, admittedly has a problem with the decline of morals in society. Many are and will continue to at least put the brakes on the worst of these. It is not, however, acceptable to arbitrarily eliminate each and very little difference that offends one or somehow creates so much temptation that a religious person becomes afraid that he will consequently not be able to control himself unless it is removed.

Western Nations, particularity the US, have similar problem, albeit on as much less severe scale, with Christian Fundamentalists. While Evangelicals/Fundamentalists generally and with gusto serve in and support the US military*, they have taken steps in recent years to exercise influence on activities far beyond the realm of federal, state, and local governments. One example is a few years ago in Hackettstown NJ, where local church leaders successfully petitioned the Town Council to prohibit Halloween Trick-or-Treating on Sunday as it offended their sensibilities. The day was moved, I believe, to November 1st. That of course was a reason for those who desire to have Halloween on Halloween to strongly consider engaging in acts of civil disobedience by leaving their porch lights, on, giving out treats to callers, and parading on public streets/sidewalks in costumes. When looking at traditions, practices, and ways of life intimately connected with the founding and early days of a nation, it is a terrible thing to see when those who choose to live an ultra-strictly religious lifestyle convince themselves that they are helping others and themselves by bossing people around.

If one disapproves of actions that his group prohibits, Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and Christian Evangelical/Fundamentalists need to be reminded that the most effective manner, indeed the only real one, to deal with such things is to avoid them and to teach others by their example of righteous and clean living.

* As I noted in an earlier post, The Evangelicals have been largely alone in supporting the US in its quest to defeat the threats of Muslim and other terrorists. The Catholic (My Church), Mainline Protestants, and Orthodox Christian Churches+, while not actively condemning this work, tend to play the diplomatic card and hope that the Muslims will be nice to us if we are nice to them.

+ To be fair, the Orthodox Christians have a difficult position as anything that they say will likely result in negative consequences for their coreligionists in areas under Muslim rule. There are far fewer Catholics under Muslim rule but that still may be one reason that their Church tends to stay mum.

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