The recent Haredi attack on the Intel plant in Jerusalem was far more serious than what the media originally reported. Aside from the rocks and obscenities hurled at those people who were standing near the building, the Haredim broke into a special synagogue and destroyed prayer-books and used the “shtenders” (miniature podiums) as a battering ram to break through the doors.
The rioters’ disregard for the sanctity of a synagogue is a grim reminder of what can happen when the local authorities fail to protect the civil liberties of its people. Haredism continues to be a divisive and malignant force in Israeli society. Jewish tradition demands that we act in the ways of pleasantness and peace.
This is not the first time Jews have turned against fellow Jews. The events unfolding today bear an uncanny resemblance to the internecine battles that led to the destruction of Judea almost 2000 years ago. Due to the militant hysteria of the Zealots, an extremely volatile group of Jewish fundamentalists who opposed to making peace with the Romans, this group attempted to break Rome’s grip on Judea—regardless of the price. While the Romans surrounded Jerusalem, they felt no need to attack; Jews inside the city walls were divided into three groups; each faction killed each other with zeal, and requiring little help from the Roman soldiers, who probably watched the spectacle with amusement.
After the Romans cleaned up shop, Jewish thinkers had to come to terms with why this terrible loss occurred in the first place. Our ancestor’s love of factionalism destroyed the country decades before the Romans did. The end result was a 2000 year exile of suffering and persecution. All this because a few stubborn Zealots remained determined to maintain their honor rather than let the Romans hang their flag over Jerusalem.
Have we learned anything from history? Philosopher George Santayana said it best, “He who forgets the past is condemned to repeat it.”
One last thought: A Shabbat in Jerusalem and its holy atmosphere deserves to be preserved, e.g., families walking down the streets is a beautiful thing to see and experience. There is nothing wrong with the Haredi and their supporters going to the city council and insist that certain areas of Jerusalem be zoned to minimize incoming traffic or business. In our country, many states used to enact blue laws in order to restrict certain kinds of businesses from operating on Sunday. I would strongly recommend that the Haredi community take a softer approach and attempt to win the hearts and minds of the people without having to resort to violence.
Young people will express violence unless the parents, rabbis, and leaders instruct them differently. Destroying property on the Sabbath is a violation of the Sabbath laws; we have every right to expect that the Haredim will respect the rule of law that governs the Jewish State they live in.