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    Understanding the Beit Shemesh Conflict

    0 תגובות   יום שני, 2/1/12, 01:30

    Beit Shemesh has been in the media again with images of an ugly conflict being shown around the world.  People are very quick to pass judgement over the parties yet very few understand what is really happening.

    To understand the Beit Shemesh conflict one must understand who the people are and what motivates them to act in such extreme ways. 
    Firstly we must understand that the Jewish nation is one body.  We deeply care about each other and therefore, when one party insults the other there is tremendous hurt.  When one party hurts another there is tremendous anger.  
    Secondly, we must understand that there are a large number of opportunistic individuals who are using this conflict to advance their own causes, political or private agendas.
    Thirdly we must understand that a people's perception is created by the History that the group records and learns.  The History books of the Chareidi Community are very different to those studied in the Secular Community.  They describe the same events, but with opposite connotations.
    Lastly, one needs to understand that in every community there will be found a criminal element.  That is, people who do not understand the consequences of their actions, people who act out of impulse, obsession or anger and do not listen to any authority figure.  This criminal element often gives expression to the frustration of the community through its actions.  Such a criminal will enjoy a measure of sympathy and protection by the community.
    A general observation that I make about conflict is that nobody in history has ever won a conflict.  In a conflict there are always two losers.  Sometimes, the one party may lose less then the other and then be erroneously heralded as the winner, but had he invested that effort in a constructive endeavour he would have had a far grater yield. 
    This is particularly true when the parties involved are in fact one unit that is bonded.
    This conflict started in 1920 with, what is referred to in the Secular History books as, the second Aliya.  This wave of immigration started soon after the First World war.  It was the first time that non-religious Jews came to Israel.  The shock and horror that was expressed in the streets of "The Old Yeshuv" are still discussed today.
    This wave of Aliya brought accomplished and educated professionals  to Israel who embarked on an enormous project of development and modernisation.  By the existing religious leadership it was perceived as a hostile take over by anti-religious heretics who's prime aim was to replace the Torah Belief with Nihilistic Nationalism.
    Thus the two main streams were formed.  Amongst the Religious there developed a number of streams as to how to deal with this stand off.  There were many religious Jews that abandoned their faith and many secular that became religious.  A third stream developed later that would create a compromise between the two extremes.
    These streams are what makes up Beit Shemesh Today.  What they all have in common is that each one perceives the other as being self-serving, aggressive, unenlightened and misguided.  Each group feels that their own value system is the only true one and labels the other side is evil and unreasonable.  The criminal element of each group vents its frustration on the other.  This criminal activity is perceived by each group to be orchestrated by the other group's leadership.  Whoever makes better use of the media captures the hearts of the world.
    This conflict has been brewing for a number of years.  It rose to a new level with the opening of the Orot Banot School.
    Ramat Beir Shemesh Bet, where most of the conflict occurs, was initially planned as a high density residential area, for no particular population group.  The residential projects were bought by members of different communities.  Various conflicts arose in the area resulting in the non-Chareidi members moving out.  Many of them selling their homes at a loss.  There were numerous incidents where people passing by have been harassed, embarrassed and even severely beaten.  Some of the people beaten were even professionals and medical practitioners that were serving that very community.  As a result, when the opening of the Orot Banot School was protested by members of the Chareidi community, it was met with fierce resolve that the bullying techniques of the "Chareidi" criminal component should not be allowed to win again.
    At this stage it becomes very important to understand that "tags" have to be used very accurately and correctly. The Tag "Chareidi" is now too broad a term to help understand the problem.  The term "extremist" is used to justify disregarding certain persons and their expressed needs.  Terms such as "Modern", "progressive", "moderate" or even "normal" just indicates that the speaker approves of them.
    As with any community, one needs to segment the groups by their primary influencers.  In the case of these communities it is their Rabbis.  The rulings of the Satmer, Breslov, Gur, Bels or Chabad Rabbonim are all different to each other.  The Eida Chareidit rule differently to She'eiris.  Etc. etc.
    Many of the people who are being called extremists are in fact highly educated, intelligent and very conscientious people who feel that their core values, that they feel, should be the core values of every Jew, are under attack.   They see the current events as being a continuation of the cultural war that was declared in 1920 and will end when Moshiach comes.  They feel compromised and jeopardized.  They feel that the Chiloni and Dati-Leumi communities have ganged up on them.
    They feel that the ground upon which the school was built is legally theirs' and that they have the moral and Hallachic right to insist that the sanctity of their suburb is not being upheld by the school.  Their greatest fear is that their children will be influenced by the less religious and would want to drop their level of religious observance.  Some have even used specific terms such as "Shat Hashmad".
    The Leadership told their followers that they need to protest the presence of the school in a non-confrontational manner.  There should be no intimidation, harassment and definitely no violence.  The criminal element did not listen.
    We have to bear in mind that here the criminal element has resorted to hurling abuse and spitting.  These are very disgusting acts, but in other communities in Beit Shemesh, the equivalent criminal strata are involved in robbery, murder, drugs etc.
    I came to see the "anti-extremists" protest that was sponsored by the Movement For a Free Israel.  Enormous speakers were set up on the border with the "Chareidi" suburb and pop music with the voice of a woman singing was heard right to the other end of the "Chareidi" area.  Girls in tight pants walked up and down the the road singing loudly, seemingly to spite the residents.  Some carried large posters with slogans that would be considered inflammatory and some were even inciting to commit murder.  This protest was protected by hundreds of policemen that were brought in from the entire country.  Every one of these things is the same as spitting at the residents.  Not only the one that spat, but the entire community and their children, including those that were instructed by their leaders to show openness and tolerance towards all.
    These acts was perceived by the residence as a clear message that the same war of 1920 is in full force.  The next evening I was approached by one of the residents who explained to me that he grew up in a home where nobody ever spat at anybody else.  To him it is a utterly disgusting thing to do.  Nobody was ever allowed to insult or humiliate another person.  But after this blatant show of disregard in their own homes, now he feels that he wants to spit at them.
    In another discussion the concept of human rights came up, and the question was asked: "Do your human rights depend on your income?"  "Do your property and ownership rights depend on your willingness to compromise your traditional religious belief?"    "People who get paid to teach Secular Law or Greek Philosophy have more rights then those that are paid to learn Torah?"
    Hundreds of non-Chareidi people took it upon themselves to show acts of spite against the "Mehadrin" buses and segregated facilities in the last few days.  
    The self appointed leader of the "Moderate Chareidim" declared the campaign as an enormous success.  The next two nights there were country wide protests with a higher level of violence then before.  Jews have taken to wearing the Yellow star.  
    The situation is currently snowballing out of control.  With the current efforts of the new political leaders to maximise their exposure through this battle, it is guaranteed to end in bloodshed.
    I call on all parties to calm down and to look for ways to show respect instead of disrespect.  We need to emphasize that a person's dignity depends on the way he treats others.  Not on his ability to point a finger at others.
    We need to understand that we are one nation.  All we have is each other, the Torah, this country and Hashem.  If after almost 2000 years of misery, we still don't learn to accommodate each other then we may (Chas Veshalom)  lose the land gain.
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    Please note that all the facts that I mention here I have on a first hand basis.  The historical perspective and the sentiments were expressed to me directly by the specific leaders.  I was present at that protest that I refer to.  I am a volunteer with the Beit Shemesh Police and I have regular discussions with top members of the Emergency Medical Services in Beit Shemesh.

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