More on spitting yeshiva bochurim

A few weeks ago, I opined that a single incident of a national religious boy spitting on an Armenian priest in the Old City of Jerusalem did not warrant the Anti-Defamation League’s call upon the Israeli Chief Rabbinate to issue a public apology to the Armenian Church. That post also noted that the newspapers had incorrectly described the teenager in question as ultra-Orthodox, i.e., chareidi.

Whatever the merits of my position, I was nevertheless embarrassed when not long afterwards there was another incident involving this time four “chareidi yeshiva students” and an Armenian priest.

I called Avishai Ben-Chaim, Maariv’s reporter on the chareidi world, and asked him whether he knew what evidence his fellow reporters had for identifying the four teenagers in question as chareidim. He told me that he would look into it and get back to me.

As I had suspected, the description was a pure assumption on the part of the reporters, unsupported by any evidence. Avishai also spoke to the Jerusalem District police spokesman, who said there was no information to identify the four as yeshiva students, chareidi or otherwise. All he knew is that they were from outside Jerusalem and had “Mizrachi” sounding names.

An example to bear in mind when jumping to conclusions based on what one reads in the paper.

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13 Responses

  1. joel rich says:

    and had Mizrachi sounding names?
    I think leaving this phrase out would have improved your article.

  2. Michoel says:

    He is quoting the policeman.

  3. Nachum Lamm says:

    What’s your point, Mr. Rosenblum?

  4. Michael says:

    His point? Isn’t it obvious? No one even suspects that this is typical Mizrachi behavior, and the truth is that plenty of secular Jews give their kids “Mizrachi” sounding names. The only sector of Israeli Jews unlikely to use a “Mizrachi” name is the very one blamed for this.

    It’s just additional evidence. His point is that the attribution of this spitting incident to charedim was a fantasy product of a biased media… just like the last one.

  5. joel rich says:

    I understood he was quoting the policeman. I’m sure the policeman said some other things as well (eg Hello). Including this statement didn’t add anything to the post beyond that which was provided by stating that there was no information on the students’ Yeshiva status (except to unintentionally lead some readers to possibly cast aspersions on another group)
    Joel Rich

  6. Michoel says:

    I suppose he should have said that policeman indicated that the names were not typical Charedi names.

  7. David Brand says:

    Forget where I read it, perhaps it was even R’ Rosenblum who wrote it, but there are occaisions where the public simply calls anyone religious a “charedi.” It is possible that the reporter was trying to cast aspersions on the charedi community, and in light of past similar accusations, I can understand R’ Rosenblum honing in on this example.

    However, it bothers me that the focus here seems to be on the “group identification” of the young men in question. Why are we so group-sensitive. What if they were chassidish, modern, chiloni? Would that make some kind of difference to the “spittees”? I think not. Certainly, facts that are misrepresented need to be corrected. But, at the same time, I think that there is too often a focus on the flavor of the yid. Does anyone else think that we are making too much of groupings, when those of us who identify as Torah yidden are 99.9% in agreement on most basic religious issues (or 100% on the fundamentals)?

  8. Michael says:


    That’s a great question to ask the people who published the original story, which blamed “charedim.” For whatever reason, the media certainly thinks “the flavor of the yid” matters a great deal.

    As it is, R’ Rosenblum is making an excellent point — the media attributes evil acts to charedim not only when there is no evidence, but counter-evidence. They wanted to make charedim look bad, so they lied. Call it sloppy journalism, but when the villians had “un-charedi-sounding” names and came from outside Jerusalem, that’s not just sloppy.

    Michael [who is not Michoel 🙂 ]

  9. Michoel says:

    I agree that there is too much focus on religious groupings. However, R’ Rosenblum’s job is to defend charedim so I guess that’s where it is coming from. The distinctions are sometimes important to make. For example, when they refer to Yigal Amir as a “yeshiva student”. There are things that charedim should be legitimately blaimed for, but nationalistic violence is not one of them.

  10. Shira Leibowitz Schmidt says:

    Sometimes, Jonathan….
    …the situation is vice versa- people from the national religious(knitted kippa) stream “take the rap” for something that characterizes the haredim. A group of knitted-kippa wearing yeshiva boys from a hesder yeshiva where the boys alternate periods of study and army service went on Israel’s Memorial Day to fallen soldiers to say Psalms in an army cemetery. To honor the fallen they donned white dress shirts. While they were there I saw a woman (from her dress probably not observant) go over to them and lambaste them for not serving in the army, mistakenly identifying them as yeshiva students with deferments. They tried to gently explain that they do serve in the army. But in her rage she couldn’t listen and shouted, “I bet your rabbis tell you not to serve” “why don’t you at least guard kindergartens” etc. (Eventually her husband, who did realize they were yeshiva-student-soldiers-dressed-in-white-shirts calmed her down.) After witnessing this I understood why many from the national-religious sector are particularly vehement against deferred yeshiva students. The non-haredi yeshiva students are often grouped along with haredim in the mind of the public, just as in Jonathan’s case (of the spitting) the haredim may have been grouped along with non-haredi yeshiva students.
    Shira Schmidt

  11. Michoel says:

    I agree fully with the point of Shira Leibowitz Schmidt. There is a great deal of mussar to be learned from this. We have to sincerely strive to see the maalos of each group. A lot more could and should be said.

  12. Jeff Ballabon says:

    The last two comments completely miss the point (despite the noble sentiment in the last post).

    1. Nobody is excusing or justifying the spitting. The charedi position on army service, while controversial, is not spitting at innocent bystanders.
    2. Charedim as a group are vilified by the use of the term “ultra-Orthodox” in the media which should and do know better but are trying to marginalize/demonize charedim (or, at least as often, trying to fight against a practice or a political point of view, which they do by associating it with “brutish Charedi cavemen”) while describing acts completely associated with the national religious – not by a muddled old lady.

  13. Mordechai says:

    I think some of the commenters above may be confusing Mizrachi and mizrachi (perhaps one should be capitalized and one not, which could help distinguish them ?).

    Mizrachi is a religious zionist movement / political party.

    The mizrachi meant in the posting was mizrachi – meaning eastern, or non-Ashkenazic Jews.

    Yeyasher kochacha R. Rosenblum for the posting.

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