Where’s the Story?
This morning’s JPost has this headline: Haredim riot in Jerusalem, Abu Kabir. “Hundreds of Haredim rioted in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood,” it says, “in protest over an autopsy carried out on the body of a haredi woman who was found dead in her northern Israel home overnight.”
You have to read eight paragraphs down to find out why the autopsy was “necessary:”
Weisel was found dead in her Kiryat Ata home late Monday night after an apparent burglary, police said. The autopsy carried out at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute indicated that the haredi woman had indeed been violently murdered as police suspected.
Excuse me, but if they needed an autopsy to confirm a violent murder, the Israeli police make the Keystone Cops look like Sherlock Holmes. It is very easy to confirm that trauma injuries killed a person without slicing and dicing.
The behavior of those who rioted is inexcusable — but civil disobedience in the Middle East is often decidedly uncivil. The Gaza expulsion was exceptional because of the number of demonstrators, the amount of direct contact between the police and the protesters, and the relative lack of violence between them.
The real story is — why did the police carve up a woman’s body in violation of her and her family’s oft-expressed (and religiously-mandated) desires to the contrary? Unfortunately, in Israel today, it would not be out of line to suspect that the previous parenthetical phrase offers a clue.
An autopsy is not needed only to confirm a suspicion of murder but what implement, what evidence, etc. (heck, any CSI show will illustrate that the object is to cathc the killer. The body provides evidence. In any case, the resultant damage is not necessary to make your point of opposition. And more importantly, will the Haredi violence be treated more severely or more leniently that those kdis now at Amona.
“Why did the police carve up a woman’s body in violation of her and her family’s oft-expressed (and religiously-mandated) desires to the contrary?”
What a bizarre question. They did the autopsy in order to gather evidence which would hopefully catch and convict a violent criminal. (Which is not to say that this is or isn’t halachically acceptable, but it is hardly malicious or incompetent.)
“Unfortunately, in Israel today, it would not be out of line to suspect that the previous parenthetical phrase offers a clue.”
So, if the woman’s family had opposed the autopsy on emotional grounds, with no religious motive, the authorities would have been more understanding? Please.
“The behavior of those who rioted is inexcusable—but civil disobedience in the Middle East is often decidedly uncivil.”
Nicely done. Unexcusable – and you excused it without even waiting for the next sentence. Why on earth should Torah-observant Jews base our behaviour on the standards of civility in the Middle East? Amusingly, Charedim claim to be quite uninfluenced by the outside culture.
Max, please find any quote, anywhere, that supports your last assertion. “Charedim claim to be quite uninfluenced…”
No such animal in the barn, Max.
The “real story” is the chareidi behavior, not the autopsy. There is certainly halachic precedent to
perform an atopsy. If I lived in the community I would want to make sure everything possible was
being done to catch the perpetrator.
The big irony here is that a bunch of hoodlums in “protesting” the supposed desecration of a dead body done in order to save other lives are endagering the well being of yet more lives.
As Max asserted, it is bizzare to use local mid-Eastern “norms” of civility as benchmark for this
behavior. Whether it’s youths throwing rocks at police in Chevron or Chareidim throwing tear gas at
motorists in Jerusalem once we begin to sink to the moral level of our neighbors then we begin to
validate the “moral equivilance” the world has tried so hard to cast us with and the we in turn have
fought so vehimently against.
That’s THE story, and it’s sad and frightening one at that.
Max, Menachem, you do not know that the autopsy will help catch the criminal. In fact, the opposite is overwhelmingly likely to be true. Usually the needed evidence is on the surface, not inside the body of the deceased — certainly when the person was killed by blunt force during a robbery. Even bullet extractions do not require full-scale deconstruction of the body.
The medical literature is filled with consideration with how to resolve religious objections to autopsy, including the use of MRI scans in lieu of invasive procedures. Here, for example, is how things are done in New Mexico [emphasis added]:
Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, unfortunately, has a very long history of disregarding family preferences regarding autopsies — especially among the religious community. Was the family consulted? Were they given the opportunity to object to a judge? Was there any expressed need for an autopsy? None of the above.
Abu Kabir’s conduct has even impeded investigations. As Jonathan Rosenblum wrote five years ago:
Ezzie — no, not okay. Not okay, but unfortunately also entirely too easy to comprehend. If one wishes to find a reason to judge favorably rather than assume they are inherently evil, you find a door to understanding with ease. The community that “rioted” (and it is obvious that a far larger crowd gathered than that participated in any violence) is one that has tried literally every other means possible to get their convictions taken into account when one of their own is up for dissection, and it has almost never worked — as seen here. That doesn’t excuse violent protest, but I wonder what alternative you would suggest to these people that they have not already tried. Or are they just supposed to accept unnecessary autopsies?
Remember, the religious are often the positive exception, even in the Middle East. Most of Gaza was evacuated with only passive protest. A 200,000-strong demonstration against the Supreme Court’s oligarchy was widely predicted to be a risk to public order, and passed without even a scuffle. But in a country where striking workers burn tires, demonstrators often throw rocks “to kill,” and the police hardly have a history of controlling haredi demonstrations in a peaceful fashion, this hardly qualified as a “riot.” Should they have done better? Certainly.
Interesting points about the autopsy, but you did make it sound as if the violence in response was somewhat okay…
I didn’t see your last comment earlier, but this sounds terrible: That doesn’t excuse violent protest, but I wonder what alternative you would suggest to these people that they have not already tried.
What? That is the same argument the Palestinians make!! It is completely illegitimate there, and completely illegitimate here. You cannot possibly feel that rioting is justified in this case – without then saying the same by the Palestinians.
“That doesn’t excuse violent protest, but I wonder what alternative you would suggest to these people that they have not already tried.”
Hmmm, where have I heard that before?
– That doesn’t excuse the blacks rioting in LA, but…
– That doesn’t excuse looting during the NY blackout, but…
– That doesn’t excuse terrorism, but…
I suggest and expect that civilized people act civily, all the more so people who so outwardly represent G-d and his Torah.
OK, so burning a garbage can is on a par with looting stores and the murder of innocent children.
Do I have that right?
Chances are that if approached with sechel from all sides this could have been avoided. The authorities have a vested interest in doing an autopsy in this situation and have very reasonable arguments on their side. What should happen is that it should be done in consultation with respected rabbinic authorities who will rule on the individual acts that are requested by the coroner. For some information non-invasive techniques MAY suffice for other details there can be NO ADEQUATE SUBSTITUTE to an invasive autopsy. The problem is as most often the case when those in authority (both secular and rabbinic) talk past each other and view each other with suspicion
OK, so burning a garbage can is on a par with looting stores and the murder of innocent children.
Do I have that right?
They didn’t burn garbage cans, they trashed a labaratory. That’s quite bad.
That doesn’t excuse violent protest, but I wonder what alternative you would suggest to these people that they have not already tried.
Definitely not this! Push for laws that prohibit autopsies against the family’s will, with heavy penalties for those who do. I’m really not sure – but trashing the lab does nothing but incite anti-Charedi attitudes. There is no “but” in this case.
>The behavior of those who rioted is inexcusable—but civil disobedience in the Middle East is often decidedly uncivil.
You should have put the period after inexcusable. “Inexcusable” followed by “but” generally negates what came before the “but.” And surely you aren’t expecting Chareidim to behave similar to disgruntled Arab masses simply because they are upset. The truth is, I’m surprised that you equate this behvior with typical, impassioned Middle Eastern demonstrations. Surely this demonstration was at least more restrained then typical demonstrations throughout the Middle East.
Yes and no.
No, in that your being a bit selective in how represent today’s chareidi rioiting. There is, of course, a concept of civil disobedience and burning garbage cans may fall under that category.
However, the rioting today also included blocking traffic with the potentially dangerous side effect of preventing emergency vehicles from reaching their destinations, throwing rocks at cars, and in at least one case throwing tear gas at a motorist. So if you include the full gamut of today’s “activities”, yes, throwing rocks at cars is definitely on par with looting.
Furthermore, you are the one that defined this as “violent protest” and said that it’s not excusable. So, no, even throwing rocks at cars is not on “par” with mudering innocents. However, the concept of finding excuses for inexcusable behavior crosses all types of behaviors. Once you justify it for a “lesser” form of violent behavior you lose the moral authority to codemn them for justifying their extremely violent behavior.
Yaakov: I agree that the autopsy might necessarily not be helpful in finding the killer, but I’m sure that no country in the world would release the body without some sort of extensive forensic examination.
And no, burning a garbage can is not on a par with murder though at times, as in the case of “Photo Alain” several years ago, it does go along with looting stores.
Question that needs to be asked is: Was the protest a Chillul Hashem (Desecration of G-d’s name) or not.
Orthodoxy is and should be held to a higher standard. Did they ask of their leaders whether this venue is appropriate? It doesn’t matter how wrong the autopsy was. It doesn’t really matter how other demonstrations occur in the Middle East. (And as you said look at the demonstrations during the Gaza withdrawal.) It seems the demonstrators forgot or chose to ignore how they will be perceived by non-Orthodox. Ergo my question.
Regarding your first point, I decided to make a separate comment to address it.
“Max, please find any quote, anywhere, that supports your last assertion. “Charedim claim to be quite uninfluenced…”
No such animal in the barn, Max.”
Would you agree that the Yated Ne’eman, as the official newspaper of Degel HaTorah, is representative of Chareidi attitudes? In any case, most of these quotes are attributed to various prominent Chareidi Rabbonim. Here are a few:
“…the principle of separation that the gedolim of the past generation set down as being of crucial importance to the chareidi community’s ability to survive, unaffected by outside, alien influences.”
“Torah can only be upheld in our times if we separate ourselves completely from the population at large, who follow the dictates of their hearts, and keep completely away from their talk and conversation, esconsing ourselves within the Torah strongholds and the yeshivos, fortifying ourselves in Torah and fear of Heaven”
-Rav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz
“We are commanded to distance ourselves from every SHADOW of alien influence and closeness…”
-Rav Shmuel Auerbach (emphasis mine)
“…all that remains to us is this holy Torah that is our heritage and to distance ourselves from all foreign influences that do not originate within the vineyard of Yisroel.”
-Rav Shmuel Auerbach
“Just as the interaction with Mitzrayim delayed the geula from that golus, so does the infiltration of the surrounding culture prolong our own. We must, he went on, see that we, and in particular the yoshvei ohel of our times, are protected from the “dirt and influence” of the “outside”.”
-Rav Elya Svei
“necessity of the chareidi community living and acting alone, without the possibility of being influenced by other communities whose lifestyle is based on principles that are hostile to Torah life.”
-Rav Zvi Friedman
“On the contrary, we have to do everything possible to influence all parts of the Jewish nation, but this must not be on the basis of so-called common social, cultural, or ideological values, but only on the basis of our family relationship. Outreach activities are only to be encouraged on condition that absolute isolation is maintained.”
-Rav Zvi Friedman
And yet according to you, some Chareidim are steeped in Middle Eastern culture to the degree that they commit acts of rishus such as physically attacking other Jews? And whether most Chareidim act this way or not, you will not find other Chareidim condemning such behavior.
Thank you for proving my point. You have provided seven quotations concerning what is commanded, and not one that claims success.
In the post following this one, Rabbi Adlerstein referenced Numa Numa. I had another reason to call him and claimed to have two important questions, the second being “how on earth do you know what the Numa Numa is?”
He proceeded to tell me about his ultra-frum cousins who have neighbors so frum that the cousins “are Presbyterians by comparison. And the second-grade child of those neighbors is out on the corner of Rechov Chazon Ish doing the Numa Numa.”
Your claim is that there are Rabbis out there denying this reality. I haven’t seen or heard it. What we should do is, like what Avi hopes for above, an ideal we seek. But we are influenced, and the fact is that a lot of these kids have been beaten up by police for the crime of minding their own business two blocks from a demonstration. As abominable as their behavior was, they had good teachers.
Where do you imagine they got tear gas from? How many civilians do you know who stock the stuff?
So what the report really meant to say was that police used tear gas on the demonstrators, one of whom picked up the canister and threw it away — right into someone’s car. Not quite how they ran the story, now was it.
The following talkback from the JPost site is also informative. It is also, like the above, indicative of how the JPost reporter spun the tale by contrast:
Below is a photo from Yediot whose caption reads “Sabbath Square riots.” Some riot….
How would you justify using tear gas on that “riot”?
I neither condone the autopsy nor the demonstrations which got of hand. Yet, wouldn’t any standard of admissibility of forensic evidence demand that the prosecutor trace the bullets back to the assailant and the murder weapon. One wonders whether the alleged quotes from Charedi Gdolim are productive or counterproductive to kiruv and how any non religious Jew ,let alone anyone whose
job is Charedi bashing could react with joy to seeing ammunition for his views re Charedim and their leaders.
You’re still just trying to excuse what you, yourself called inexcusable behavior. Besides your picture and caption are specious. You have no idea if that picture was taken at the time you aledge the tear gas was used. According to the Jpost article, the rioters also threw rocks at police. If true that is definitely justification for using tear gas and force.
If I recall correctly, the standard enunciated by the Noda BiYehudah generally for autopsies was ” choleh shadayin lifaneinu.” Perhaps, a criminal case
does or does not meet that standard.The alleged competence of the Israeli police seems irrelevant because a prosecutor cannot prosecute without forensic evidence. On the other hand, are there not less invasive methods of autopsies that should satisfy even the most stringent Poskim on this issue?
No comment intended on the HALACHIC permissibility of autopsies in the case of violent death but I believe the legal/medical theory is that the prosecution needs to disprove a potential defense that the victim suffered a heart attack during the murder and thus was not actually killed by the murderer. My understanding is that even in the US, religious objections to autopsy will NOT be taken into account in the case of a violent death.
I think that attempts to rationalize violent protests by Charedim by saying that is how it is done in the Middle East and that the real story was the overzealous autopsy both can be questionned. First of all, Charedim can and do protest in a civil manner-as in the case of the huge Tefillah rally a
few years ago. How can anyone justify damage to public property? On the other hand, the autopsy center is notorious for disobeying the law. One almost gets the impression from the autopsy center’s spokesmen that the center in question inteprets the law restricting autopsies in its own way despite its purposes and seemingly and deliberately went overboard in order to spark a Charedi riot.
My wife happened to be passing through Meah Shearim on foot yesterday in the midst of the melee. When she called me on the phone, she was still shaken by what she had seen. My wife is not a woman prone to hyperbole, nor is she closely identified with Neturei Karta. Yet she was shocked by the brutality of the police on the scene. She described the look on their faces and the way they bashed anyone who came into range as “barely human.” This adds little to the debate in the string above, but it does give an additional flavor to the various news reports.
Perhaps I’m more insulated than I thought but, what IS the Numa Numa?
I have no idea!
Where do people get the time to go to protests like this?
In the case of an unnatural death the authorities have the duty to society as a whole to perform post mortems so that all possible evidence can be collected for the police investigation and any eventual prosecution. This is not only to build up a case to trace and convict the guilty – it is also necessary to exclude the innocent! This is to protect the whole of society – thousands of living people! Do we, the living, have no rights?! We deserve to be protected from murderers but how can we be if the authorities can not pursue them?
The ‘riots’ may not have been very bad on the Richter scale of riots generally – yet they show, yet again, how low Jewish Israeli society is sinking: hilonim dance naked in Tel Aviv and badmouth Israel and Jewish traiditon to the world while chareidim vandalise other people’s property and endanger lives by setting fires in public places. For goodness sake, rather than cast aspertions on the police force, collect whatever evidence you can against those officers who used excessive force and lodge a formal complaint. Stop finding excuses for lousy behaviour! Next thing we’ll be reading apologias for Jack Abramoff.
I found your citation of my wife’s former employer-NM OMI-to be interesting. She has worked in all angles of medical forensics in her career: toxicology, Field Medical Investigator, pathologist, even some medical illustration to prosecute cases. What I understand from her is, that simple, gross evidence of violence only provides a direction for further investigation. Sometimes that direction is wrong. Bodies are sometimes beaten/mutilated covering up the real cause of death. Conviction of a murderer, so that they won’t murder again, requires excellent evidence and corroboration.
The question of forensic post-mortem investigatiion and autopsies has, in fact, been discussed in Israel for a long time. The mechanisms are in place (in theory), as they are in NM, to protect the deceased and their families to the extent possible while attending to public protection. I have no citations available, but I recall some such cases over the years.
Although I recall much about the excesses of Prof. Hiss and the Abu Kabir staff; I also recall some segments of the Israeli population not wanting to even consider the necessities for thorough forensic investigation (including occasional autopsies), despite the positions taken by such rabbanim as Rav Tukachinsky, Rav Goren, Rav Waldenberg, and others. This includes complaints when burial was delayed for investigation, even without autopsy being performed. And is one Jewish body holier than another?
We need to at least admit, up front, that there are some political motivations on both sides clouding and obfuscating the pursuit of truth and halachah.
I, for one, am very concerned about the Chilul Hashem done by those of whom we expect preservation of K’vod Shamayim, even when they (we!) are pained by grievous wrongs that we sometimes see done in our own society…
Look again at the picture above. That is what they called a “riot.” Does that look like a riot to you?
It is strange. Mrs. Jonathan Rosenblum offers an eyewitness account and Calev asks how one can cast aspersions on the police force.
But no one hesitates to cast aspersions upon the charedi protesters.
What is being burned in the picture? Does it look like somebody’s idea of practicing for Erev Pesach ? It looks like a lot of paper goods and cans on fire in the middle of a street with a group of Charedi standing or milling around watching. Have any pictures from inside Abu Kabir been published elsewhere? That would shed some light on what actually took place inside the
center, as opposed to the street.
“Look again at the picture above. That is what they called a “riot.” Does that look like a riot to you?”
No, so either their caption is off, their picture is off, or the information contained in every story written about this incident was off. As usual it’s probably a little of each, but it is clear that Chareidim did riot, did throw rocks, and did destroy a laboratory.
The police brutality that Rosenblum describes, if accurate, is horendous, but it adds little to this discussion as it doesn’t excuse the Chareidi behavior.
To address your comment to Calev, unfortunately, elements of chareidi society have a long history of resorting to violence to “resolve” their issues. Most of us have witnessed this behavior so it’s not difficult to accept reports of it in the media.
Also, unfortunately it’s become easy as well to accept reports of police brutality. There is a difference in that police do have a right and sometimes an obligation to use physical force when necessary. It is sometimes difficult to clearly draw the line between legitimate use of force and illegitimate abuse of force by police.
Both citizens who use force and police who abuse it must be prosecuted and brought to justice.
I’d say the police would be negligent in not asking for an autopsy. That there is any question of this is horrifying. Post-mortem imaging is second best, at most, and may be misleading.
The goal of an autopsy is justice, not only for the slian, but for those who may have been injured in the past, and who will be in the future if justice is not pursued. I agree that the post-mortem is not an investigation to be undertaken lightly, and that it may not yield fruit, but there is no question: it is a matter of the necessity to seek justice. Furthermore, in canada, under a coroner’s warrent, autopsies are often performed against the religious customs of the deceased. Similaly in the United States.
I’m gonna repeat this just one more time: it is not simply justice for the victim and her family that is at stake here: the future and the past are also at hand. You have one chance, and it is shameful not to take it.
We now see that the police treat everyone the same brutally look what they did in Amona so now we see that the police are not against Charedim in particular.
You can’t take this incident in a vacuum. The history of unwanted, unnecessary, and illegal autopsies is a hot-button issue from way back. A major part of the problem is that they are done quickly and secretly, making enforcement of the law, (such as it is) difficult, if not impossible.
in New York, if the family objects to an autopsy and the ME (medical exmaminer) deems it necessay, the ME is required to postone it for awhile (up to 3 days?) while the need is decided. If the ME is sustained, they are required to keep the cutting to a minumum and to allow a member of the Chevra Kadisha to attend. The latter collects all body parts and fluids and ensures that nothing is taken except tissue samples for further forensic analysis.
> Mrs. Jonathan Rosenblum offers an eyewitness account
There were MORE eyewitness accounts that saw chareidim attacking the police BEFORE the police brutality started.
(Mine, for example — I was passing through when the police arrived and were immediately attacked by protesters)
Most of the protesters were not throwing stones — but too many were.
Dear Rabbi Menken,
Allow me to clarify an apparent misunderstanding of my comment – I do not ask ‘how’ one can cast aspertions on the police force. I have seen police behaviour – in the UK, the US and Australia – that is reprehensible, if not illegal. However, what I was, perhaps imprecisely, arguing was that it would be far more constructive to focus on bringing cases against officers whose behaviour is excessive than to descend to name calling. I’m afraid that such name calling is being used to deflect blame away from the rioters, who in this case happen to be chareidim.
I remember at yeshiva several rabbis bending over backwards, jumping through all sorts of halachic hoops, to convince us that Aryeh Deri really hadn’t done anything wrong. It was all an Ashkenazi secular plot… However, applying Ockam’s razor to the pilpul, the situation boiled down to this: did the money Mr Deri use belong to him? No, it didn’t. And the rabbis’ silence at this point made me (not chareidi but someone with a real desire to support rather than undermine chareidi society) realise something: whatever antipathy there is in general society to religion and its adherents, the chances of making a dent in this hostility are reduced if religious people are seen to defend behaviour that is so bad that even non-religious (but law-abiding and, one would hope, generally ethical) people find unacceptable. The Tanakh is replete with examples of Jews behaving badly – indeed we should remember that these are ‘lowlights’ and that Am Yisrael’s behaviour was generally good. However, the example has been set: as G-d fearing people, we should not be so afraid of public opinion that we feel it necessary to put a shine on a pewter pot.
Back in the late ’90s, I participated in a religious demonstration in Jerusalem against proposed government legislation. Hundreds of thousands of people – mainly chareidim – congregated in the streets. We filled the streets, showing the government how many people they were at risk of alienating. We said tehillim together. There was no pushing, no screaming, no trampling, no throwing of anything, no fires. It was a kiddush Hashem and politically productive.
And, Rabbi Menken, may I ask again the question which you have not addressed: what are the rights of the living to be protected from evildoers in society? As unpleasant as a post mortem is, if one can help to protect the living against a similarly violent fate are you saying that it should not be done?