The following open letter, published first by Yeshiva World News, was edited for length and clarity, and includes clarifications of Hebrew and Yiddish terminology. It is intended to be a "heads up" to all parents who have yeshiva boys learning in Israel.
I write this with pain, not with any political agenda.
Some of you may know about the protests that are going on in Yerushalayim ("Jerusalem") about the parking lot
What you must know if your son is learning in the Holy Land.
that is open on Shabbos ("Sabbath"). What you may not know, and what you must know if your son is learning in the Holy Land, is what is happening on the streets.
On Shabbos, the Eidah Chareidis [community organization] had a Kabbolas Shabbos ("Sabbath reception") on Bar-Ilan [Street] to protest the chillul Shabbos ("Sabbath desecration").
On the Thursday before that, the garbage bin outside my house was torched at about 7:30. The bochrim ("young men") who set it on fire, and a crowd of close to 100, sang "Bar Yochai" for a few minutes, and then left; the fun was over. While this clearly had nothing to do with Shabbos - after all, the mayor does not live on my street, and it was an act of destruction - I had to live with the smoke for the next several hours. The bochrim had their fun, but we, who live on the block, were inhaling black smoke and couldn't call the fire department because it is a chilul HaShem ("desecration of G-d's name").
I saw a man of about 60 going back and forth with his little girl, carrying pails of water to extinguish the flames. He had to walk half a block and go up steps, refill water, come back. He did this at least for two hours. There are those that burn and those who are left to put out the flames.
I woke up the next morning with pain in my heart and a scratchy throat, that is all. My rebbitzin ("rabbi's wife") told me of men and women who had to be hospitalized because they're allergic to smoke or because of excessive smoke inhalation. I got off lucky.
On Sunday, I was walking to my sister who lives on a quiet street. Two garbage bins were burning on her street and a group of about 15 bochrim stood around; some threw in garbage, the others just laughed and cheered. Again, the rabbonim ("rabbis") organized a mechoa ("protest") on Shabbos, not on Sunday. And they said, even when they asked people to come to the protests, that one shouldn't burn garbage.
Monday, I heard screaming and yelling from the street. I saw a group of bochrim rolling out the garbage bin from our street, to the kikar ("square") a block away. Smoke was already rising at the kikar, from other garbage bins apparently. Other bochrim were rolling more garbage bins from other blocks, some of them metal, some plastic.
It stabbed my heart, I was just standing there and shaking. I watched two bochrim carrying cardboard to kindle the flames. Like many of the rest, they were wearing hats and jackets, and like a very large percentage, they were speaking English.
My husband yelled down to one of them, "What are you doing here?"
They laughed. A bochur that lives next door to us pleaded with the ones that were pulling out our garbage. They ignored him.
For the next few hours, we kept hearing animalistic screaming from the street.
For the next few hours, we kept hearing animalistic screaming from the street. We decided, my husband and I, that we couldn't do anything anyway, so we would just remained inside. We went to bed with difficulty. Just as the sounds would peter out, we heard inhuman screaming again. We heard things being thrown and metal clattering against the street. I would later see that these brave warriors were pulling barricades that protect pedestrians on the narrow sidewalks out of the cement.
At about 1:30, I was still unable to fall asleep. Suddenly our air-conditioner, which was on to block out the noise of the street, not to keep us cool, went off and our apartment went dark. It turns out that the electricity of the entire area, including even the street lamps, was blown, perhaps because of the fire. The screaming on the street increased. I got dressed and went out to the porch.
A block away, the bochrim were very proud that they blew the electricity of all the families living in what I believe was a two to three block radius. After a few minutes of triumphant screaming, they began singing to the tune of Carlebach's Ani avdecha ben amasecha.
The irony was so painful, I cried loudly, on the porch. My husband, Satmar geshtimt, chassid of the Eidah, ("an authentic Satmar Chassid") didn't try to stop me.
I could go on. There were horrible sights and sounds that night, finally petering out at 2:30.
What were those bochrim thinking?
Where was the tzelem Elokim ("image of G-d") when I heard words and sounds that should not come out of any human being's vocal chords, especially not that of yeshivaleit ("yeshiva people")? Where was the basic compassion, thought for the neighbors? Where was any sort of restraint when barricades, which are extremely important for safety on our narrow sidewalks, were wrenched out with a lot of effort? How did they have the heart to watch a small old man carrying his garbage three blocks away because that was the first place the bin was still there?
Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua of Brisk said this week when one of his bochrim was arrested, "Vos tut a bochur bei a mechoa?" - "What is a bochur doing at a protest?" What indeed? Even if he is 'just' watching, why risk arrest, make a great chilul HaShem, encourage those who are causing damage, if he doesn't have to? If he cares about Shabbos, how about being mekabel Shabbos ("accepting Sabbath") early, as we have begun doing, for Yerusahalayim?
Where are you, parents? Let me ask that again. Where are you, parents? Do you realize the implication of no supervision in your son's yeshiva? Do you realize your sons could be harming tens of people and no one will do anything? This is a much broader issue than just what happened last night. Who is to say he didn't get caught up with the crowd and that he didn't scream like a maniac in the middle of a city, in the middle of the night? Who is to say that he didn't join a group of English speakers, to do the holy act of pulling out barricades from the sidewalk? Who is accountable for him? He himself? Al taamin b'atzmecha ("don't trust yourself alone") - these
If you're a friend, make sure you never justify the unjustifiable.
bochrim need higher supervision.
I didn't take pictures last night, because I was so disgusted. It's like an embarrassing episode that you'd rather erase from your mind. Now I regret it. I would have shown the pictures to the mashgichim of the yeshivas, shown them what their bochrim were doing. If five bochrim were kicked out of yeshiva, I bet all of these shenanigans would stop immediately.
Please don't respond with stories about Shabbos and pride marches and the gedolim of previous generations. This has got nothing to do with it.
If you're a mother, know where your son is. If you're a friend, make sure you never justify the unjustifiable. If you're a fellow Jew, daven for these bochrim, but never commend their actions. Daven for peace in Yerushalayim, and never stand up for those who value fun over self-respect, over basic mentschlichkeit ("honorable behavior"), over Kiddush HaShem ("sanctification of G-d's name").
Sha'alu Shalom Yerushalayim.