Haredim, the ultra Ultra-Orthodox Jews fighting the state

Image © "odedgal" on Flickr.

Extremist Ultra-Orthodox Jews have been rioting for three days after social services took a woman's child away from her for alleged starvation.

Known as the Haredi community, the majority of Israel's extremist Ultra Orthodox Jews live in the Mea Shearim neighbourhood. It was here that a three-year-old, weighing seven kilos, was removed from his mother on Tuesday after social services were warned that she was starving him. The mother was detained.

Extremists from the community took to the streets in defence of the mother, burning litter bins, vandalising state property, and attacking civil servants, from policeman to cleaners. They initially claimed that the boy was not sick, and then insisted that he was ill because he suffered from cancer. The hospital he is being treated in, however, deny the claims, saying that his ill-health is a result of malnutrition, and that his mother has a psychiatric disorder called Munchausen-by-proxy - which entails abusing someone in order to generate sympathy.

On Friday (July 17) the mother was bailed, following concerns that protestors would become even more dangerous if she remained in custody during the Shabbat, which begins at sundown on Fridays in the Jewish calendar. She is to be tried later.


Amateur images of the riots

Image posted on Flickr 16 July by "odedgal".

Photos posted 16 July by Reb Akiva of the Mystical Paths Blog.

Photos posted 16 July by Reb Akiva of the Mystical Paths Blog.

Posted 16 July by "jot.Punkt"

“Any attempt to intervene in their affairs, they see as an attack on their society”

Lisa Goldman is a blogger and journalist in Tel Aviv.

The people behind these riots are extreme Ultra-Orthodox Jews, so they're really a very small minority. These people live in another world. Their customs are based on 18th century Eastern Europe. They speak Yiddish, not Hebrew. They live in Jerusalem for religious reasons but they don't believe in Israel - it's a secular state. They don't accept the law. Any attempt from the civil police to intervene in their affairs - like this one - they see as an attack on their society.

Communication between the Ultra-Orthodox and the police/ rest of the community is not good. We simply do not interact with them. They live in an isolated area. They don't go to secular schools or universities, they don't work. They refuse to serve in the army. We don't even speak the same language. We're like foreigners to them.

They suffer a high level of poverty. It's very normal to have 12 - 15 children per family and the husband is a full time scholar, studying in the Yeshiva [Talmudic educational institute] from 8am until 6pm. The wife has a baby per year after they're married at 18 and works full time at the Yeshiva doing administrative work. They live off state funding at what works out at around €800 per month. They have a strong faith that ‘God will provide'. It's a lifestyle that the vast majority of Israeli people just cannot understand.

It will die down - it always does. The mayor will threaten not to collect their rubbish or something, and they'll forget about it. The Ultra-Orthodox go through a period of rioting every few months. Something always sets them off - a gay event, a cinema opening on Fridays..."


mmm mmm, taste the bigotry, yum!

1. "I am not anti-Hared" - I'm not racist, some of my best friends are blacks!

2. "I did say that Hasidism is rooted in an 18th century eastern European lifestyle" - And the American constitution is also rooted in 18th century political thinkers, so when you refer to Americans, do you refer to their 1th century roots? Nice try.

3. "Only a minority of Haredim are out on the streets rioting." - has there ever, in the history of civil disobedience, been an instance when the majority of the population came out in force? Did the African Americans march as a majority in Selma, Alabama? You are so disingenuous.

4. "The reason is that most men study full-time," - I would love to know the source for this 'statistic'. Let me guess, your grandmother told you, or was it your gay hairdresser? Perhaps the cab driver gave you that one? In other words - it's pure hearsay, with no basis in fact.

5. "for the most part, an impoverished community" - Which implies, by extension, that the Morocan and Sephardi Jewish communities are poor because their members learn full time and their wives don't work.

Here's the truth - there's an ugly strain of racism and bigotry in the secular Ashkenazic community. It's getting better, but it's definitely still there. Lisa is a prime example of why it refuses to die. Utter, mind blowing ignorance and smug, smirking denial.

6. "about 90 percent are exempted from service" - exempted implies they are not hassled mercilessly. Do we make the Amish join the army? Do we give them any of the level of hell you routinely direct at the religious? Do you know that up until recently if you did not serve, you were not technically allowed to work? What do you think that does to a community? When are fools like you going to get off your high horses and work together with a community to integrate and move forward instead of using them as your personal whipping boy for making yourself feel better about your worthless shallow existence?

7. "A casual survey of the available data" - here is all of your problems in a nutshell. Everything you do is based on a casual survey. None of it shows any depth, sensitivity or a hint of thoughtful analysis.

You don't even realize how bigoted you are. That's what makes this so damn pathetic.

Unfounded Assumptions Show Unintended Bias

To point 2 - Your statement of "an 18th century lifestyle" is absolutely inaccurate. Rather, you're responding to a modest style of dress with the men wearing an 18th century outer coat and hat. These people are not churning their own butter, they're calling on their cell phones and microwaving their dinner - just like you. Unfortunately, much of secular Israeli society works on these assumptions.

Further, less than 1/3 of the Israeli ultra-orthodox are chassidic. (Even less outside Israel.)

The fact they choose to live a different lifestyle with a different primary focus in life does not make them 18th century.

To point 3 - Because the ultra-orthodox community perceives (for many valid reason, and some invalid ones) Israeli government authorities and secular society as strongly biased against them, they are prey to rabble rousers hoisting the banner of bias and abuse. Because they have no representation within the police, government offices, or various authorities, and the non-representational aspect of Israeli democracy, there is no positive outlet for their response. By the way, similar complaints are heard from Israeli Arabs, Bedouin, and Druze Israelis with, unfortunately, similar responses.

To point 4 - Please check your secular Israeli biases at the door and do some fact checking. There is no such "can't be in the same room with men" Jewish law. There is a "can't be a LOCKED room 1 on 1 with the opposite gender" religious law. I assume if your male boss called you into his office and then pulled the blinds and locked the door, you'd be concerned? These are the religious laws of 'yichud' - seclusion of a man and a woman a private area. My ultra-orthodox female religious co-workers in the IT consulting firm in Tel Aviv have no problem being in an office full of men (religious or not). When called to the boss's office, they ask him to leave the door open.

However, you are correct there is a problem with the majority in the ultra-orthodox sector making their way into high paying professions. This is more oriented around the Israeli secular education system requiring a series of well rounded very in-depth educational achievement tests (the "bagrut"). The religious education system refuses to devote the time necessary to cover the range of necessary secular material to complete these tests (and taking away from a similar depth they focus upon religious studies). Therefore, the majority of ultra-orthodox young people enter the work force without the secular diploma, and therefore are ineligible for good professions.

This is an exclusionary oddity of the Israeli system. A similar ultra-orthodox education in the US or Canada is sufficient for secular diploma requirements, and many ultra-orthodox of the US or Canada enter high paying professions (such as accountants, IT, etc.)

I fail to see how being responsible for a large family limits ones employment options. Doesn't seem to do so for the ultra-orthodox in the US, Canada, or England. Clearly there's other exclusionary factors at work in Israel.

As far as State aid, this is a common Israeli secular canard. Lets bring some facts to the table. Israeli State Child Support payments, received by everyone (including Israeli Arabs with multiple wives) is ~NIS 200 per child. So for that family with 10 children, they're making ~NIS 2,000 per month, or US $500 / Euro 363. The Religious Affairs Department pays ~NIS 2,000 per month for a State registered mens higher religious study institute (kollel), of which the institute gets NIS 700 for operating expenses, with NIS 1,400 to the rabbinical student. That's another US $350 / Euro 255 to the family of 10 children, 2 adults.

That's 12 souls living off US $850 / Euro 618 / NIS 3,400 per month. Since that's clearly NOT POSSIBLE, and if you walk through an ultra-orthodox neighborhood everyone is clothed and the children do appear fed, somebody is working somewhere and the community, via whatever means, is supporting itself with the State money being a supplement, not a primary.

It would be interesting to review the State tax authority records and city tax records and see if the numbers coming in exceed the supplement going out. I strongly suspect they do.

The fact that cuts in government payments, down 50%, did not starve out the community clearly demonstrate that the ultra-orthodox community IS NOT living off those State supplements.

To point 5 - Until 5 years ago, the army was seen as a means of acculturating an immigrant society to a common Israeli culture. Israeli society has a shameful history of intentionally stripping immigrants of their religious culture and trying to create the "new Jew". (See the story of the Yemminite Jewish immigrants of the 50's.) Much, if not the majority, of this effort was aimed at the ultra-orthodox. It is no surprise the ultra-orthodox response was to avoid such efforts.

The army, after 4 generations and a change of army leadership from a majority kibbutz anti-religious generation to a mix of secular and national-religious generation, began to create army units that no longer tried to indoctrinate but rather provide some reasonable accommodation to the ultra-orthodox community. The community is responding by testing the waters and seeing the results of sending in some young people less suited towards long term rabbinical study. So far the results are positive on both sides, and acceptance in the community is growing. (See the recent article on the Air Force religious program, where over 60% of the ultra-orthodox soldiers extended their enlistment and requested officer training, the highest of any group EVER.) However, it will take a generation or two to undo the negative affects of 4 generations of general societal attack.

To point 6 - Families of 20 children are less than 0.0001%. They are sufficiently unusual to make the news in the ultra-orthodox community when it happens. Regardless, when Israel's leaders declare the greatest concern is the Arab demographic threat, shouldn't you be celebrating large Jewish families? For it would seem the alternative is to start learning Arabic within 2 generations.

It's also worth noting that 1 generation ago the average secular Israeli family size was 6. Western society seems to perpetuate the idea that 1 to 2 children is ideal, and the vast majority of those considered successful seem to keep this standard. Yet, by the simple laws of evolution (you believe in evolution, right?) if the successful intentionally choose not to share their genes and leave having 'many' children to the 'lower' classes, doesn't that by nature make their 'successful' genes less in the future?

And this is where liberal democracy and the handling of the ultra-orthodox community come into conflict. If the same open opportunities being advocated for the gay community were being offered to the ultra-orthodox community, the fear is the ultra-orthodox community would take over. Better to keep those people down for as long as possible.

Until it explodes.

jewish fundermentalists

Whatever the secular Jewish birth rate was generations ago is not what it is today. Why don't they have reprepensation within the departments you mention?
Why do so many of them have American accents? Could that be because they are American?

Is there a gay Israeli political party propping up an Israeli government? or an ultra-orthodox political self serving party?

'The alternative is to start learning Arabic within 2 generations', learning? why the hell are you not speaking it now? You that have colonised with your blond hair, blue eyes and silly hats the land of the Arabs. Says it all.

However, you are defending a child abuser that is starving her children on the grounds that she is a religious, superstitious fruitcake and therefore one of yours. That sums up you.

More Assumptions

"So many have American accents". American immigrants to Israel are approximately 100,000 out of a population of 6,500,000. That's 1.5%, not exactly "so many". However, when the foreign news shows up looking for English speakers, the Americans tend to step forward.

Colonized, blond hair/blue eyes??? It happens that this neighborhood in conflict is over 130 years old, the first neighborhood (of any sort) built outside the walls of Ancient Jerusalem EVER. The Land of Israel has been the Jewish people's since time immemorial, as given by G-d in the Torah. By no source, no history, has ANY government or people made Israel "their country" since the ancient Jewish kingdom.

It was overrun by Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Marmadukes, Crusaders, Ottomans, and British - with Jews here the whole time. But stood as an independent people and country by NONE since the Jewish people.

Colonized, no. Returned.

And for reference, 50% of Israelis were expelled from Arab countries.

Disenfranchised Minority Expresses Frustration

Ms. Goldman comments on a "very small minority", which is the traditional Tel Aviv view of the ultra-orthodox. However, their birthrate plus outreach drawing in others (to their religious ideals) has resulted in over 55% of grade school children in Jerusalem being from this "small minority".

Secular Israeli society's traditional approach to limiting opportunities and history of attempted cultural assimilation has resulted in this massively growing societal segment feeling completely disenfranchised from the system. None of the police facing off against them in these riots is wearing a yalmulkah, sidelocks or religious beard. Nor are the officials in the medical offices, social welfare offices, or city offices.

As such, when this community has a complaint or perceives a major bias, they have no one they trust with whom to speak on the other side. And when the system is taking even what may appear to be a valid action (to protect a seemingly abused child, for example - which is one of the issues in the current riots), those arriving from "the system" to take the action appear to be foreigners and are completely unaware of the sensitivities of the community which they are about to enter.

Because Tel Aviv believes these people to be backward (per Ms. Goldman's statement of "their customs are based on 18th century Eastern Europe"), they consider trampling the considerations of these backward peasants to be perfectly acceptable.

Unfortunately those 'backward peasants' are organizing instant coordinated community responses by cell phone and are growing sufficiently large as a segment of society that their concerns are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

Oh, and Ms. Goldman, the vast majority do work, you'd be surprised at the number serving in the army, very few women anatomically are capable of having "a child per year" (even starting at 18 the average family size is 8 over a 27 year period of potential fertility) and state funding was reduced to NIS 2,000 over 8 years ago (that's ~$500 per month or ~Euro 363 per month). No family of 10 people is living off of that.

The fact that secular Tel Aviv society believes it can trample this societal segments concerns may very well lead to a US style "long hot summer", perhaps finally opening the eyes of liberal Tel Aviv that their liberalism somehow always ends at the rights and concerns of the Jewish Religious Israeli, and that the doors of accomodation must not only be opened for a gay couple in Tel Aviv but also a religious family in Jerusalem.

Reply to AkivaM

The word extremism would not be so offensive, if in fact this minority did not rely on the rest of Israwel for any servives. There is nothing wrong with rejecting modern times and living according to the very old culture and customs, if they did not choose the good between modern Israel and the old of the 18th century. It is the hypocrasy of choosing the best of both worlds, that makes secualar management and tolderance, difficult to deal with. Perhaps its time to divide Israel a little bit more, let them have their own lands and develop their own economy and state without taking any advantages whatsoever, of the modern Israel and its people.

Not so tiny, not so 18th century.

This is not a tiny minority, nor 18th century. Rather this is a devout religious society that liberal Tel Aviv needs to just box off rather than deal with or relate to.

Why does the community feel this is it's only method to approach 'the system'? One of the answers to is the Israeli bureaucracy is a closed narrow system with little room for 'outsiders' - and therefore the ultra-orthodox community has no one advocating their concerns within the system, nor people they can turn to or relate to when interacting with it.

With an non-representative form of government (elections yes, representation no) and the doors closed to participation 'in the system', the community has no one to express their point of view from the inside, no one to relate to when issues arise from the outside, and no stake in the game.

Socially very similar to the African American situation in the US in the 60's that led simultaneously to the civil rights movement and the 'long hot summer' of the burning of most US inner cities.

Indeed this community picks and filters aspects of modern society that fit their religious life. And what's wrong with that?

Lazy Sect

Why give them any state funding ? 800 euro a month ? Nice money for doing nothing . If they are having 8-12 children then that is another generation of lazy bums. They should be asked to work and if they refuse......then no state freebies. I guess the rest of Israel doesn't object to paying for this lazy sect.

So true. The government

So true. The government should just stop providing for them. After all why should the rest of society work at two jobs just to pay bills, state taxes and so on.

They sound like Anarchists

They don't believe in the state or follow it's laws but expect hand outs of €800 per month from that very state.
And it's OK to let a mother attempt to murder her child!

What are these people on?