Ovadia & Nehemia: Two Ends of the Same Shmekel (Doss vs. Chiloni, Part II)

In Doss vs. Chiloni: Two Sides of the Same Shekel, written during a slight down period (with Tel Aviv especially), I expressed my despair at the ultra-Orthodox/secular polarisation of Israeli society and my longing for the mutual tolerance and respect – relative, at least – which I had known in the Jewish community in the UK.

While I snapped out of that downer some time ago, and am once again certain that I much prefer being a Jew here than anywhere else, I am again feeling the deep, often ugly, religious and even racial chasms within (the purely Jewish constituency of) this country.

Firstly, there has been the shocking – at least to idealists, like me, who believed (or wanted to) that they were living in a modern democratic Jewish state – case of charedi (ultra-Orthodox) Ashkenazim (Jews of European origin) segregating their daughters from charedi Sephardi/Mizrachi (of North African/Middle Eastern descent) girls, at a school in the West Bank town of Immanuel.

Pouring oil on the flames, when this appalling racism was (quite naturally and predictably) challenged in the High Court, the supposed spiritual leader (and former Chief Rabbi) of Israel’s Sephardim, Ovadia Yosef (right), castigated – of all people – the Sephardic petitioner, proclaiming that anyone who “raises his hand against the Torah of Moses” by petitioning the chiloni (secular) High Court “has no place in the World to Come.”

I have made no secret of my contempt for the shenanigans of Israel’s charedim and the disregard with which they treat this, their country: see The Good, the Sad and the Ugly. Moreover, it never fails to amaze me how irresponsible – many would add “malevolent” and “dangerous” – characters such as Rabbi Ovadia succeed in becoming leaders of their own households, never mind entire communities. In 2000, for example, the firebrand ‘Ayatollah’ described the Holocaust as God’s retribution against the reincarnated souls of Jewish sinners (The Independent). Nice.

Then, on June 13, Israel’s Haaretz daily published an op-ed about certain, ostensibly nefarious, activities in the Ramat Aviv suburb of north Tel Aviv:

“At night they lurk among the trees and on benches for the teens, offering refreshments and sweet talk . . . taking in a youngster and destroying a family . . . Where are the police and the municipality as strangers badger children among the trees at night . . . with their butter-wouldn’t-melt smiles?”

Such language, from the keyboard of veteran journalist Nehemia Shtrasler, immediately summoned up images of Mein Kampf:

“. . . the black-haired Jewish youth lurks in wait for the unsuspecting girl whom he defiles with his blood . . .”

I would often recite this passage to an old school friend – newly religious, incidentally – who, with similar intent, would prowl the streets of Woodside Park for Scandinavian and Eastern European au pair girls with defences (and, often, soon knickers) down.

But what has actually been going on in the leafy suburbs of north Tel Aviv? Packet-of-sweets-and-cheeky-smile predators? Surely not?!

No. Far worse . . . frummers!

Shtrasler (right) was expressing his disdain for the activities of Chabad Lubavitch hassidim, the presence of Chabad House, and the opening of the organisation’s kindergartens, in the secular heartland of Israel.

How dare they!

And, with sentiments and language as rational as the British fascist’s “they come here, they take our jobs,” Shtrasler documents Chabad’s “organized plan to take control of the neighborhood”. Horror of all horrors, they have even opened a yeshiva (institute of religious learning) – “staffed by ‘messengers’ who are prepared to sacrifice their souls for their Rebbe” (language of Fundamentalist Islam purely coincidental?) – and encourage locals to “keep the Sabbath and follow mitzvot [Commandments]”.

How dare they!!

Experiencing a sudden bout of intellectual and journalistic schizophrenia, Shtrasler then sees fit to quote the late, great Rabbi Elazar Shach: “Chabad is the cult closest to Judaism.” Talk about picking sources to suit one’s story!

Now, admittedly, I do not spend too much time in their company – the last time they tried to get me to put on tefillin (phylacteries), outside a Jerusalem supermarket, I told them I wasn’t Jewish (disgraceful, I know) – but when was the last time anyone heard a Chabadnik tell a child that “their mothers and fathers are sinners”? Or that “people who don’t honor Shabbat are doomed to hell”?

“The sight was elevating,” Shtrasler – now himself sounding like a Chabadnik – describes the 800-strong anti-Chabad demonstration “to protect their homes” and “their values”.

What . . . Tzfonim (north Tel Avivians) with values?!

And, on reaching the very bottom of his extremely deep barrel, Shtrasler notes how Chabadniks “have no problem flouting the law” and that “they build without permits.”

Unlike other Israelis you mean, Mr. Shtrasler?!

Of course, Shtrasler fails to mention any of the fine works for which Chabad is so renowned, not least the warm and generous hospitality it extends to all travelling Jews and Israelis in every far-flung corner of the world. But heimishe (homely) Friday night dinners are, no doubt, of little importance to a man who would probably sell his own mother if he was concerned about fellow leftie ‘intellectuals’ thinking her too Jewish.

The Biblical Nehemia (and this is as close to a Devar Torah as you are ever going to get from me) is believed by some to have been a eunuch. And seeing as “no one whose testicles have been crushed or whose penis has been cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 23:1), can Shtrasler’s bitter anti-religiousness perhaps be interpreted as some bizarre, misplaced sense of identification with his namesake?

Anyway, what arrogance! Only, this time, chiloni. But, make no mistake, it is no less hateful than the bigotry of the Immanuel charedim (whom Shtrasler must surely despise even more than the far more worldly ones of Chabad . . . or perhaps not, because at least the former leave him alone).

Indeed, replace “Chabadnik” with “Jew” and “Shtrasler” with “Streicher”, and such poisonous rhetoric (full article) would not have been out of place in Der Stürmer.

At the end of another polemic, in this Monday’s Haaretz, Yoel Marcus – demonstrating that Shtrasler’s language was no one-off – summed up the racial unrest amongst Immanuel’s charedim by referring to a Heinrich Heine poem:

“. . . if the rabbi and the priest could both move back a little; both of them stink.”

To my mind, however, arrogant chilonim such as Shtrasler and Marcus are as much a part of the stench as the charedim whom they so decry.

So much for the “Jewish state”.


18 responses to “Ovadia & Nehemia: Two Ends of the Same Shmekel (Doss vs. Chiloni, Part II)

  1. Actually Mike, you are wrong on two counts, allow me to explain….

    First and foremost, I hardly think it’s fair or accurate to define SIXTEEN years of dedicated spiritual growth, awareness, sacrifice of worldly pleasures, and committment to the ‘derech’ as ‘newly religious’. So I’m afraid it’s off to 2SL for you, for an early Double Maths.

    Secondly, I am rather proud to be likened to the ‘black-haired Jewish youth’ in Mein Kampf, largely because I suspect that, not unlike many of your readers, it gratifies me to remember the days when I actually had hair.

    Just for the record, my hunting/stalking ground back then, as a testosterone-charged youth, was Woodside Park, not West Finchley, so get back to Geography too while you’re at it!

  2. As it is said, “2 Jews, 3 opinions” … or in the words of 1 of the USA’s great 20th century thinkers, Rodney King, “Can we all get along?”

  3. Jeremiah Bullfrog

    It is always a pleasure to read your banter from the depths of rural France.

    Whilst I don’t have to deal with chabad or the haredi, I’m proud to be able to stand resolute for Judaism & Eretz Yisroel!

  4. In attempting to maintain your anonymity, Kaufman, I used “West Finchley” instead . . . I just considered that you wouldn’t want any Heidis or Svetas confronting you out here with “black-haired” – though, perhaps, blue-eyed – teenagers.

    “dedicated spiritual growth, awareness, sacrifice of worldly pleasures, and committment to the ‘derech’”

    There seems to be some misunderstanding . . . I was writing about you! 😉

  5. Mike

    The Immanuel case is rather different from your brief summary.

    It is not a matter of Ashkenazim segregating their daughters from Sephardi / Mizrachi as several Mizrachi daughters were also being educated in that particular charedi Askenazi stream . Were there any cases of Mizrachi girls who had applied being turned away from that Ashkenazi school? I believe not.

    As for jailing their parents – that’s absolute madness on behalf of the courts. Sadly another case of judicial chiloni arrogance.

    We need many more people in Israel like you fighting hard against discrimination and rudeness towards fellow Jews wherever in the spectrum of religious practices they may reside.

    (a Sephardi/Mizrachi)

  6. I thought I read that there was/is discrimination against the Mizrahi girls. I thought that was, exactly, the basis for the lawsuit. At least that’s what I got from the limited reports I saw. If I’m wrong, please pardon my ignorance.

    As an outsider — & I know I’m about to stick my foot in it, but I really do want to understand …

    1) Why does Israeli society in general tolerate the tremendous drain of tax monies that go to support hareidi (& other orthodox) education while leaving non-ortho educational institutions largely un- or under-funded?

    2) Why is total financial support for ortho religious institutions (synagogues) acceptable to the greater (non-0rtho/non-practicing) citizenry while Masorti/Reform, etc. institutions go wanting?

    & 3 — to make matters worse) Why do most Israelis accept the burden/obligation of military service for themselves while allowing the hareidi total leave to avoid it? I refuse to accept the notion that yeshiva bochers can’t fight. They seem to be pretty good @ throwing rocks & steel benches … & l’havdil, we must remember the heroism of the martyrs of the Warsaw ghetto. (Just don’t get me started on the (im-)morality of conscription/forced military service.)

    I do understand that I approach this w/ uniquely American eyes, rooted in our Constituiton-based separation of church & state. & I know, of course, that such is not part of the fabric of Israeli life. But I can’t help but believe that if the State (i.e. all nations, not just Israel) were to support religious instiutions, it should do so even-handedly, not favoring any group over the others.

    OK, 1 exception — namely no support for fanatics/fundamentalists — BOTH left & right. That is to say, don’t use my money to pay for hatred & intolerance! Now as you well know, I’m a die-hard liberal, but the only thing I cannot tolerate is intolerance. 😉

  7. It’s a pity mike that you deem it necessary to edit certain comments, thereby altering the editorial style and ‘slant’ of select contributions, at your (q)whim! Shabbat Shalom, from a newly religious contributor.

  8. “Newly religious contributor”,

    Your comment was not so much edited, as intercepted by my Spam filter due to the filth it contained . . . interesting, for a “bochor” who claims to have achieved “spiritual growth” and “awareness”.

    Kaufman, if you are expecting anyone who was with you at Hasmo to be as gullible as “Cyril” – when he bought your explanation that the etymology of the French word “bas” (low) is from the sea bass, “which swims close to the bottom of the sea” – I think you will be sorely disappointed. It is quite clear to all of us that the sole aim of your new found “dedicat[ion]” and “committment to the ‘derech’” is purely to get your filthy “black-haired” way with “unsuspecting” sem girls.

    Lucky bastard. 😉

  9. I’d still like to know what happened to my first comment! At a guess, it was probably driven into the forests surrounding bet shemesh, or possibly further north into the hinterland, and gassed to death by the anal emissions of your two rats that pass as dogs (please pass on my profound apologies to stewie & dexie)!

  10. Were I not the unclean byproduct of generations of peat-bog-wallowing, sporran-swinging Gaels, I’d have the will-power to resist the urge to comment here…but, well, to paraphrase Popeye, “one yam wot one yam”….so then:

    Seems to me that having such an immense and immediate enemy such as Israeli Jews have should make for fast friends of anybody even remotely amicable, never mind people equally targeted by said enemy—the enemy of my enemy, etc. Clearly this isn’t the case with the Charedim and the Choloni. Such is the brain-scrambling power of politics, I guess.

    This self-defeating (ultimately) animus reminds me of the case a few years back of a Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (or some such) group attempting to join an anti-Israel march in, I believe, London. Despite being immediately attacked by the Palestinian contingent of the march (the members of which being offended by the Queers’—ahem—rearward focus), the group still begged to be allowed to join the march and proclaim their hatred of the Jooz (Juice?). Strange bed-fellows indeed.

    Staggering, innit?

    (…oh, btw, do I get points for not mentioning the snigger-worthy outcome of the above begging? That the QAIA were eventually allowed to join the fun, but at the rear of the march?…oh, right…)

  11. Your summary of the Emmanual school controversy is not accurate. You don’t even have to dig deep to find out how the left has succeeded in vilifying the chareidim in this case.
    It was not about racism at all. Here’s a start.
    BTW I am not chareidi – not even close

  12. Yes, I’m sure, meri: the poor misunderstood charedi, who really does love this country, who really does want to work and pay taxes, who really does want to serve in the IDF, and who – more than anything – really does love all his fellow Jews . . . even the darkies.

  13. Pathetic response.
    Either it is true that the basis of the problem was racism or it’s not. What I have read about the case shows me that this was not a case of racism (if it was, then explain how some of the jailed parents were sefardim).
    Whether or not chareidim pay taxes, whether or not they serve in the IDF, has nothing to do with it. Falsely accuse them because you disagree with their lifestyle?
    You’re an ex-journalist lawyer so I guess that explains it.

  14. Choose to believe what you read on Arutz Sheva, meri, if it keeps your little world cosy!

    Did you also read the comment – headed “First article is full of complete lies, so no patience for the 2nd” – following the article, from Velvel of Silver Spring? Sums up the reality rather well, I think . . .

    One elementary school? Religious and non-religious track within it? Complete nonsense.

    The Beis Yakov Hasidi is a religious school and religious people enrolled – Sephardim and Ashkenazim. There is also a regular Beis Yakov and there are Shas schools. So how is this the only school?

    And why do they claim that the sephardic girls within are not religious? That’s ridiculous. Laloum raised his complaint to the courts as a *charedi* parent and under the guidance of Rabbi Yakov Yosef, who certainly is not a rabbi of secular Jews or the far-left. Why is it that whenever a complaint is raised against a particular action against haredim, they pretend that it’s an attack against all haredim everywhere, an attack on Torah, and its simply falsehood arranged by far-left elements ? What an embarrassment. It’s time to own up to real flaws and deal with them.

    You write: “Whether or not chareidim pay taxes, whether or not they serve in the IDF, has nothing to do with it.”

    Wrong, meri! It has everything to do with it! Ask your average Israeli . . . at least, those who actually contribute something to this country.

    I don’t give a toss about the charedi “lifestyle” . . . or, at least, only inasmuch as parasites have a deleterious effect on their host.

    And, if you wish to keep on ‘throwing stones’, meri, perhaps you’d consider coming out from behind your pseudonym.

  15. You are not really a good journalist or a good lawyer, are you?
    A good journalist digs deep to uncover the truth. If Velvel of Silver Spring does it for you, so be it.
    A good lawyer looks at the facts, not the person.
    So for example, if you were to be accused of a crime, shouldn’t you be judged on the facts – like, whether or not you committed the crime, not whether you were a bad blogger, or drank too much in the evenings, or played crappy cricket?
    Also, what’s the big deal if I remain anonymous? Does it make my comments less valid? If so, how? I’m not being facetious – I’m really curious about this.
    And finally, I think it’s interesting that you so forcefully accuse the hareidim of racism while calling them parasites.
    Just saying.
    One last thing – if the reference to throwing stones was hinting at hareidim who throw stones, I already said – I’m not even close to being hareidi. And I pay taxes.

  16. Re your hiding, meri, it is far easier to make cowardly criticisms – what I meant by “throwing stones” – from behind a pseudonym. But suit yourself.

    The facts, as I understand them, are all in Velvel’s comment. My rewriting, and putting my name after, them won’t make them any truer. Having trouble answering those facts, meri?!

    And do you consider the term “parasite” to be unfair for citizens who don’t work, pay tax, serve in the army, or even recognise their own country’s judicial system? What would you call them?!

  17. Re the pseudonym – i agree, you’re right. It’s not right to take personal swipes and stay anonymous, so I retract what I said about you personally and apologize.
    Re Immanuel, here’s a link to what I think is a balanced and nuanced article that explores the issues in relative depth – in the jpost and written by Larry Derfner who is not known for his right-wing or haredi sympathies. http://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Features/Article.aspx?id=178028
    I would not call the Haredim parasites. I think there is a big problem with having a section of society that doesn’t pay its way – same can be said for any group that lives off welfare and gets a free ride. It’s a huge problem.
    Yet still not a reason to condemn them as racists based on this case.

  18. According to Babylon (a most useful translation program), parasite is defined as:

    1. organism which lives on or inside another organism; organism that obtains its livelihood at the expense of another creature.

    2. Synonyms: adherent, algae, appendage, attendance, attendant, autophyte, barnacle, bean, beat, bedbug, beggar, bloodsucker, body of retainers, bracken, brown algae, buff, bummer, cadger, cat flea, cavaliere servente, chigoe, climber, cockroach, cohort, conferva, confervoid, cortege, coupon clippers, court, courtier, crab, creeper, dangler, deadbeat, dependent, diatom, disciple, dog flea, drone, entourage, fan, fern, flea, flunky, follower, following, freeloader, fruits and vegetables, fucus, fungus, grapevine, grayback, green algae, gulfweed, hanger-on, henchman, herb, heterophyte, homme de cour, hyena, idle rich, idler, ivy, jackal, jigger, kelp, laze, leech, legume, leisure class, lentil, liana, lichen, liverwort, lounge lizard, louse, lumpen proletariat, mendicant, mite, mold, moocher, mosquito, moss, mushroom, nit, nonworker, panhandler, parasitic plant, parasitize, partisan, pea, perthophyte, phytoplankton, planktonic algae, plant families, public, puffball, pulse, pursuer, pursuivant, red algae, red bug, rentiers, retinue, roach, rockweed, rout, rust, sand flea, saprophyte, sargasso, sargassum, satellite, scrounge, scrounger, sea lentil, sea moss, sea wrack, seaweed, sectary, shadow, smell-feast, smut, spiv, sponge, sponger, stooge, successor, succulent, sucker, suite, supporter, tagtail, tail, the unemployable, the unemployed, tick, toadstool, train, trainbearer, vermin, vetch, vine, votary, ward heeler, weevil, wood tick, wort, wrack.

    3. Shnorrer: a begger, a moocher; a beggar who makes pretensions to respectability; a sponger, a parasite; a person who lives by begging or by sponging on others; a freeloader.

    4. פרזיט; טפיל = parasite, leech, louse, spiv, sponge, sponger, vermin, drone.

    I dare say: if the shoe fits …

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