Burning Down Our Own Neighborhoods Again
When I wrote my previous pieces about the violence surrounding the Gay Pride Parade, I was unaware of a recent incident that took place while I was out of the country. A clothes store in Geulah was burned down by unknown parties who presumably felt that some of the apparel being sold did not conform to their standards of tznius. This particular clothes store is owned by the wife of a rosh yeshiva in one of the better known yeshivos for American boys.
In response to this incident and the aforementioned violence, I’m told that there are now wall posters up in Meah Shearim, in the name of the BaDaTz, basically telling the local hooligans that they do not have carte blanche to do whatever they want to enforce proper standards of tznius, or anything else, and must consult with rabbonim. Among other things this demonstrates how difficult it is to put certain genies back into the vessel once they have been unleashed.
Last week someone sent me a first-person account of an alleged incident, in which a woman riding the number 2 bus from the Kotel after davening at the Haneitz Minyan describes how she was roughed up by four men after she declined their request to move to the back of the bus. The account mentioned that she was from Har Nof (my neighborhood), and when I did not find her name in the Har Nof directory, I briefly entertained hopes that the whole thing was a fabrication. No such luck. Last night, she called me and we spoke for nearly an hour.
The woman in question is a fifty-year old grandmother who was visiting Israel from Canada, and studying privately with one of Eretz Yisrael’s most esteemed women teachers of Torah. While in Israel, she davened at the Kosel every morning. At least the broad outlines of her story were confirmed by a friend of my wife’s who also davens regularly at the Haneitz Minyan.
According to what the victim told me, this incident will be the subject of a lenghty article in the coming Weekend edition of a left-wing paper (I would guess Ha’aretz) and features prominently in a petition asking the Supreme Court to review Egged’s “Mehadrin” separate seating bus lines (the bus in question was not officially Mehadrin). (Too bad the victim did not follow her host’s advice and call me before going to the media.)
When I asked her what she hoped to gain from the publicity of this incident, the victim told me that she wants the rabbinic leaders of those who shoved her, punched her in the face, and took off her hair covering to tell their followers that they must treat people decently. I would guess that news of the Ha’aretz story, and even the Supreme Court petition, are unlikely to reach those rabbis or the perpetrators of this attack.
I keep coming back to the same sociological insight: The more insular we are — the more cut off from any Jews not exactly like ourselves — the less we are to think of Torah in terms of hora’a, teaching, and ask ourselves how our actions comport with the teachings of the Torah and what impression our actions are making on those who will judge the Torah by our behavior.