Op-Ed: Why is There Hatred of Hareidi Jews?
Giulio MeottiThe writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary. He is at work on a book about the Vatican and Israel.
Marty Peretz just penned a long essay for New Republic titled “Defending Israel against its Right-wing Jews” (that includes haredim, modern orthodox, religious Zionists, 'settlers' etc...).
Meanwhile, ultra-orthodox heroic stories never find a place in the media. Very few web pages were dedicated last week to remember the martyrdom of Chabad Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, who were brutally killed three years ago along with four other Israelis in Mumbai.
Moshe, the only member of the Holtzbergs to have survived the terror attack, just celebrated his fifth birthday. Rivka, who was five months pregnant, was found covered with a tallit, the religious shawl that her husband spread over her disfigured body before he was cut down in his turn, as if he wanted to protect it. Alongside him was a copy of the Torah, still open.
The Holtzberg story has been already “digested” by the press, like the monumental hareidi rescue of Chernobyl’s children, their help in bolstering the morale of Israeli soldiers with holiday gifts or their efforts devoted to giving charity.
There is a liberal witch hunt against the most pious segment of the Israeli society. It’s an eruption of anti- Orthodox vituperation. The "ultra-Orthodox" are accused of being extremist, radical, fanatic, disgraceful, medieval, benighted, corrupt and cultic.
It’s true that ultra-Orthodox Jews live with strong contradictions. On the one hand, they benefit from the successes and security provided by Israel. At the same time, they are aware they contribute less than others to the material well-being and safety of the state.
But the standard caricature which pictures ultra-Orthodox as “parasites” became an instance of blood libel.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews, like the Holtzbergs, are disdained for their “passivity” and because “they are having too many kids”; their “trust in God”, not their own might, to right every wrong; and their reliance on their rabbinic leaders for guidance on life decisions.
No understanding of ultra-Orthodox Jews is possible without an appreciation of the place of Torah learning in the pantheon of Jewish values. Holtzberg’s ideal of Torah produced a holy dedication unparalleled by any other community in the world.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews are hated because they are fighting against assimilation in the United States. They are among those who kept Jewish tradition alive in a time of destruction (virtually the entire world of Torah scholarship was wiped out in the Holocaust).
Western media depicts ultra-Orthodox world as dark, narrow and archaic, while it’s a fascinating and vital piece of the Israeli mosaic. The Holzbergs were sparky, feisty individuals driven by a common cause they perceived as greater than themselves. They didn’t imagine themselves to be more worthy of divine protection than all the generations of Jewish martyrs who preceded them.
Nor are Holtzberg’s survivors are kidding themselves that their relatives were far more righteous than others.
The 70 C.E. destruction of the Holy Temple, the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648, the Holocaust of the 20th century, all are vividly present for the ultra-Orthodox Jews, and so are the issues of theodicy that they raise. Their insistence that everything has a purpose forces them to seek to extract something positive from even the darkest events, and protects them from despair.
Israel has a lot to learn from their holy stoicism. Ultra-Orthodox Jews represent the mystery and stubbornness of Jewish survival. Like the saintly hareidi and other Jewish martyrs who went to the gas chambers with Shema Yisrael on their lips, the Holtzbergs were bound and mutilated and they emerged as immortals in the calamitous tree of Jewish memory. Their names will inspire kindness and love. They were a force for good in a hostile world.