Haredi Angst and Frustration
(Updated with minor edits.)
J’lem: Bleach war against ‘immodest’ women
Residents of haredi neighborhood claim attacks by religious fanatics battling against ‘promiscuity’ of clothing stores and shoppers; victim: This is Bitul Torah. Don’t they have anything better to do than look at women and determine whether they are modest or not?
More and more women in Jerusalem’s Geula neighborhood have been complaining of being sprayed with a bleach mix. The attacks mark an escalation of the religious fanatics’ battle against what they refer to as the ‘promiscuity’ on the haredi streets and the infiltration of ‘fashion’ that often times does not correspond with the strict dress codes in the community.
And there we have it. These people are “religious fanatics.” The ilk of mullahs and Taliban, they are nothing to be actually dealt with, their concerns have no validity, and they must be pushed “out of the way” for the “modern, secular society” to progress. While, granted, at least some element of this has come to be expected from the mainstream Israeli press, this entire fiasco underlies a prejudice so ingrained in the “enlightened” psyche that it precludes dialogue.
A charedi Jew, ideally, grows up to learn and proscribe all of his actions by the Shulchan Aruch, the code of Jewish Law. He, again, ideally, wants to be able to serve his Creator at all times, immersing himself in the morning, preparing himself for prayer with special (usually black, sometimes stuffy) garments, learning Torah. Among the things he has learned is Orach Chaim chapter 75 and other laws of prayer, which say that one may not recite prayers — or other holy things — in the presence of immodestly clad females. From the most holy ne’ilah on Yom Kippur to the blessing after leaving the bathroom, all invoking of G-d’s Name is prohibited until said female is out of view.
He realizes, growing up Chutz la’Aretz — proper observance of these laws proves itself to be an impossibility in the subways of Manhattan or on the streets of London or LA. He learns in yeshiva how important shmirat ha’einayim — guarding one’s eyes from immodesty — is, but what can he do? He feels frustrated and guilty and resolves — when he gets married, he’s moving to Eretz Yisra’el. He’s moving to a charedi community, where he won’t have to deal with such things.
And then he gets to Jerusalem, and realizes, even here, only 30% of the population in charedi. So he moves to the charedi “black belt” of Jerusalem and realizes that his main thoroughfares are still functional on Shabbos and connects secular communities, and has bus stops with advertising similar to what he left. So he moves again to B’nei Brak or to Me’ah Shearim. He builds walls, fences, he puts up signs, he puts up posters, he screams in the streets, only wanting to have some type of halachically proscribed religious environment, some square inch he can go to as a safe haven from an increasingly secular world.
And all the while, all he hears is “religious fanatic” and how his point of view must be done away with. How he has no rights, not even after paying double, triple the price of a comparable dwelling just to live in a place where he might have a chance to live without compromising his religious observance. Where he might be able to keep that law he learned about in yeshiva, the ones his rebbe told him were so important. But no.
And so, with his value system stripped of legitimacy by the “modern world”, and now unable to shut it out, he is subjected to stimuli day in and day out. With no choice, and no options. The Shulchan Aruch told him not be around something he now can’t escape. And the only people’s rights who matter are the people who don’t have his views.
It is quite easy to marginalize someone in whose shoes one would never walk.