Creative Mistranslation

While the weekly demonstrations against municipal Sabbath desecration in Jerusalem are in all the Israeli papers, only the Jerusalem Post has an “ultra-“inflammatory headline: “Haredi protesters: Shabbat desecraters must die!” You won’t find anything like that in Yediot, Maariv or even HaAretz.

The reason is pretty simple. In Hebrew, a Biblical quotation sounds like… a Biblical quotation. Imagine that! And when you say to someone violating the Sabbath that the Bible says a desecrator “will surely die,” that’s not a call to murder, but the very opposite: “Why are you killing yourself?”

Only for an audience ignorant of the original Hebrew, can the media get away with turning the Bible into a call for murder. And make no bones about it — the editors of the JPost speak Hebrew just fine, thank-you-very-much, and they know better. The protesters were not calling — and would never be calling — for the death of other Jews, no matter how far from our mutual heritage they may lie.

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41 Responses

  1. Reb Yid says:

    So how does one defend those protesters shouting “Nazis” (from the Maariv article)?

    There’s no mistranslation there, creative or otherwise.

  2. ariel says:

    I don’t think you can compare them to Hebrew papers. Voice of America reported in a similar way, and Ynet news was worse.

  3. L. Oberstein says:

    Could someone explain to me what is really going on. I read that the Mayor had a wink and a nod from all the chareidi members of his cabinet to open the parking lot for free with a non Jewish attendant. The only problem was that he announced it in advance and that this embarresed the politicians and forced them to back down . The Eidah found a way to make the others look like collaborators with the Zionists. In reality, it has little to do with the parking lot but a lot to do with hatred between the Porush camp and the ones who didn’t vote for him. It’s all politics.
    Is this in any way similar to the Baltimore rally to keep the JCC from opening on Shabbos? We had a rally, we lost, the world went on. I heard that the previous mayor, a Chareidi , allowed some partking lots to open and no one said a word about it.
    I get the impression that either what I read is totally false or that we are being fed an incomplete version of what happened? How will it end?

  4. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    You should also write this as a letter to the editor of the JP asking for clarification.

  5. Menachem Lipkin says:

    R. Menken is pretty much guilty of the same thing he’s accusing the Jerusalem Post of doing. The Post headline, while sensational, is not inaccurate. R. Menken, in trying to whitewash the violent behavior and intent of some of Chareidi protesters, tries to spin his own wishful interpretation of the intent behind the screams of “mot yamut”.

    To be sure, many Chareidim are pained that fellow Jews are transgressing Shabbos and have nothing but the purest of motives in protesting the opening of the parking lot. However, the screams of “Nazi” and the throwing of rocks by some of the protesters makes R. Menken’s take somewhat of a stretch, if not completely fanciful.

    Further, the idea that somehow because these Chareidi are chanting slogans which are biblical quotes somehow mitigates their seriousness is absurd. Biblical quotes are the currency of demonstrations here in Israel. These quotes are employed by religious and non-religious alike. Do you really that think if similar protests were held in America it would be benevolent if anti-abortionists held up signs saying, “Abortion Doctors shall surely be put to death”? I think not.

    What’s worse, the current “Shabbos Wars” over the opening of a parking lot are very disingenuous. The Chareidim, by their own admission, are not protesting Shabbos transgression in general. All they claim to be protesting is a breach of the “status quo”. This means, by definition, that they accept a certain level of Shabbos desecration. Further, the opening of this lot was requested by the police in order alleviate a parking congestion problem that was compromising public safety. One could easily make the argument that having a free, non-Jewish staffed, lot will actually reduce Shabbos transgression as drivers spend much less time driving around looking for spaces. And one more thing, Chareidi Mayor Lopianski also opened a public lot while he was mayor and nobody said boo.

    Sadly, this is all about politics and the desire of a segment of the Chareidi leadership to get back at the those Chareidim, who “stole” the Mayorship away from the Chareidim. Many well meaning Chareidim, and Rabbinic leaders are being led like lemmings to protest something which makes absolutely so sense to protest.

    While, at this point, it may be hard to believe that protesters are calling for the death of fellow Jews it’s certainly clear, and I’ve witnessed this first hand, that they are willing to harm their fellow Jews to achieve their goals. Frighteningly, it’s a very slippery slope from harming to things much worse.

  6. joel rich says:

    “The protesters were not calling — and would never be calling — for the death of other Jews” Interesting- and you base this on a survey of the participants? Which pasuk were they quoting when calling the police the n word? Would they ever set property on fire? Throw rocks ?

    Who better than us to understand that words can kill – starting with the deligitimization of “the other”.

    I accept your point, but imho it’s a minor point to focus our attention on compared to the larger issue at hand.


  7. Yaakov Menken says:

    Actually, Joel, I don’t need to do a survey, since I know how many of these protesters open their homes on Shabbos to guests they’ve never met, with or without the ability to even speak the same language.

    As Menachem said, they accept a certain level of Shabbos desecration — which is to say, by individuals. They are neither calling for the death of secular Israelis nor telling anyone how to live his or her individual life. They do not accept the opening of a municipal lot with paid parking, a guard, etc., because that changes the status quo.

    I’m not better informed than Rabbi Oberstein about the politics here. I also saw the initial reports claiming Barkat had the charedi parties on board, and obviously something is wrong with that claim.

    As far as the cry of Nazi, no one is defending it. But that is, of course, aimed at the police rather than the secular citizenry. How many of those condemning the cries of “Nazi” have actually observed the behavior of Israel’s “finest”? I have seen people badly beaten for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have personally been falsely arrested and had my film stolen for taking a photograph of them in action. The “officers” — the entire unit — covered their badge numbers with tape. Approximately the best that could be said about the police is that they behaved like the hired thugs of a third-world dictator.

  8. Steve Brizel says:

    I highly recommend reading R Francis Nataf’s piece this week on this issue. The lack of sensitivity to the fact that Yerushalayim is neither NY, Miami, LA or Tel Aviv is a major issue that warrants serious discussion, as opposed to newspaper opeds.IMO, the issue warrants the following analysis: Imagine the reactuon if a hotel chain wanted to open Las Vegas style entertainment or worse in Rome or Mecca within walking distance of the holy sites in those cities. R Nataf’s piece includes the following observation care of a one Joni Mitchell-“they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

  9. Shira Halperin says:

    By protesting on Shabbat, the protesters directly cause further chillul Shabbat – the police drive over, carrying guns, and helicopters circle overhead – and it certainly causes a massaive chillul Hashem, as non-religious hate the religious for disrupting their city. The same “protesters” have also, on weekdays, burned things, destroyed property, disrupted bussing for their fellow citizens etc. Why is the JPost taken to task for making the protesters out to be worse than they are when the protesters are not taken to task for the bad things they are doing? My cousin once went to the hospital on Shabbes, as the taxi pulled away from the curb, little boys threw rocks at the window and chanted “Shabbes.” Israel happens to be 20% non-Jewish, aren’t they allowed to park in peace? I don’t see any gedolim out there in the streets throwing diapers and tomatoes, if the protest is so just, why aren’t they there?

  10. L. Oberstein says:

    My daughter in law told me today that there are signs in the Mir saying that it is forbidden to participate in “hafganot”- demonstrations.

  11. Shades of Gray says:

    I think one needs to try understand the position of the gedolim–why do they call peacefull protests if they know that others will get out of hand? I doubt that a single person is brought closer to Torah as a result of the chillul Hashem, so what is the net gain by the peaceful protests if they bring along with it violence?

    One Gadol from the Eidah cited the Torah principle that innocent people suffer if religious people don’t protest, and that this happened during the Holocaust. This apparently outweighs the chillul Hashem caused by the violence.

    Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz has written(quoted below) that Torah Jews need to publicly disassociate themselves from the violence. Perhaps one can say this is also from the same principle that causes the (peaceful) hafganot: if one does not protest violence and chilul Hashem, one is agreeing to it !

    “As a Torah Jew, I am deeply distressed by the desecration of Shabbos in our holy land — all the more so when it is government sanctioned. However, nothing can ever excuse the type of violence and wanton destruction of public property that has been reported in recent days such as the throwing of rocks at police officers and the burning of garbage dumpsters – all of which is diametrically opposed to the teachings of our Holy Torah. Lest our silence be misconstrued as passive acceptance of the violence, we condemn it in the strongest terms, as do the vast, overwhelming, majority of Torah Jews worldwide.”

  12. Moishe Potemkin says:

    How many of those condemning the cries of “Nazi” have actually observed the behavior of Israel’s “finest”?

    This observation may seem nit-picky, but I don’t think it is. No matter how many times Israeli police arrest people inappropriately, or steal Rabbi Menken’s film, or even beat people incorrectly, comparing them to Nazis is vile.

  13. joel rich says:

    7.Actually, Joel, I don’t need to do a survey, since I know how many of these protesters open their homes on Shabbos to guests they’ve never met, with or without the ability to even speak the same language.
    WADR R’YM, I believe this to be a Non Sequitur but will let it pass. Even if your response is 100% accurate, iiuc it leaves the outside observer with the feeling that at best both sides are equally at fault – is that what we want?

  14. Yaakov Menken says:

    Just because some don’t seem to have heard it the first time, I will reiterate that no one is defending calling the police “Nazis.”

    But what these comments do is both drag us off the topic, and compare “rogue” charedim acting outside the mandate of their Rabbis, with policemen on their job. On what scale of moral values is it acceptable to tar all protesters with the behavior of individuals answering to no one, and then to compare those with the actions of an official, paid police force? I do find it interesting that many of those condemning the charedim in this instance took a markedly different approach when the police were beating religious Zionists at the Amona settlement. That event was widely described as a pogrom — and not without cause. So why the double standard, gentlemen?

    Unlike Moishe, I think it is the obligation of the police to stop violating the law first, and to demand the respect of the public, second. I also believe that it is obvious that name-calling — no matter how vulgar — does not rise to the level of unlawful imprisonment or beating of the innocent. And I am certain that in any other context, Moishe would agree with me.

    In the meantime, I will resist further efforts to take this off-topic. I addressed a relatively simple point: the Jerusalem Post’s headline — much like police behavior — was designed to inflame rather than inform, and was untruthful. If someone wishes to argue that, in fact, the charedim were calling for secular Israelis to die, then let them so argue, but let’s stop piddling over whether a teenager should display greater decorum than that shown by the Israeli police, especially as this is a given.

  15. Raymond says:

    Is my understanding of the issue correct, that what is being protested here is the building of a parking lot in a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem? Because if that is the issue, I do not get what the problem is here. Those who wish to not drive on the Sabbath, will not drive, and those who wish to drive on that day, will do so. Trying to get people to follow the laws of Sabbath through force and intimidation can only be counterproductive. Persuading people to be more religous through kinder words and acts, is far more effective in the long run.

  16. mb says:

    Rabbi Menken,
    What bothers me about your post, and maybe others, is that you are focusing on an interpretation of a verse and condemning the JP for their translation of it, and assuming that is NOT what the hooligans are saying. I’m not so sure you are correct, and using your words, it’s “piddling” in comparison to the ugly events on which the JP is reporting.

  17. Moishe Potemkin says:

    Rabbi Menken –

    It’s a bit inconsistent to list a bunch of reasons why the Israeli police are terrible, and then declare that “no-one is defending calling them Nazis.”

    It’s also illogical to say that I don’t think the police should follow the law – all I said was that comparisons to Nazis were wrong.

    Lastly, the whole “many of the same” argument is completely without merit, because I never made the argument of which you are accusing me.

  18. Mark says:

    I have no idea what actually is going on at these demonstrations, although the reports from all sides are not encouraging. I’m not sure calling the police Nazi’s is helpful regardless of whether one believes they are or aren’t. It’s plain stupid to do so unless one intends to inflame, which it certainly will. It’s very hard to garner sympathy for those who then get clubbed. The police need little provocation. Calling them Nazi’s is giving them much more than they need.
    What I do know, from my experience, is that the news reports are not always accurate and that the police can behave in ways that are utterly unacceptable. In the one and only Hafganah I’ve ever been an up close witness to, the police were certainly the instigators.
    It took place more than 15 years ago on Rechov Shmuel HaNavi on a Shabbos afternoon where more than three hundred protesters gathered to protest the opening of a road on Shabbos. Among them were men, women and children and the crowd did nothing but chant the word “Shabbos” repeatedly. The police stood about two hundred feet away, saying nary a word. No one spoke to them or called them names. No one threw rocks or burnt garbage bins. It was a peaceful affair and that’s why I didn’t hurry past it but continued on to the Mir at a leisurely pace. Suddenly, without warning, the police chief gave a signal and about fifty cops charged into the crowd swinging batons and knocking people down. Women were assaulted, children were kicked, men were tossed to the ground and then arrested. I, an innocent bystander, was chased by one of the cops who was swinging his club wildly and only my knowledge of the area saved my skin from a certain pounding. The hatred in his eyes was something that haunted me for a long time. Not content to disperse the crowd, the cops were running all around the Mir swinging their clubs at innocent bochurim who had no part in the Hafganah.
    I don’t know if this behavior is typical but that one experience was enough to make me skeptical of all news reports about Hafganos from that point and loathe to give cops the benefit of the doubt either.
    I’m certain that some of the Charedim are behaving in unacceptable fashion – of that I have no doubt – but I have no doubt as well, that the cops are not innocent either.

  19. Lisa says:

    When Baruch Goldstein was killed, they found a copy of the vidui from Gesher HaChaim in his pocket. Not unusual for a doctor who treats victims of terrorist attacks. But the Jerusalem Post ran an article on the front page claiming that it was a “suicide note”, and translated it as “A confession, from the bridge of life”.

    There’s an old saying, “Never attribute to malice what can be as easily explained by ignorance.” I think that applies to the Post.

  20. HAGTBG says:

    There are many issues raised by whats going on here but the main question is whether there is rule of law or rule of the thug. Even cruel police acting like thugs is far far better then a street run by essentially anarchic and bored teenagers acting like thugs.

    Every person has the right to walk safely anywhere and no one will feel safe where anarchy rule. Safety/peace is a principal as important as Shabbat.

    R’ Menken, what you do not seem to realize is that the protests and the thuggery are linked. Even if only a small portion of the charedi protesters are doing it, it is the driving force for what is going on. Violent thugs has become as descriptive of the charedi community as much as hachnasat orchim or bikkur cholim. It is how the charedi ‘win’ nowdays as much as the ballot box and people see it. How can that be viewed as anything other then scandalous?? If that sentiment had not become most people – including other Orthodox people’s views – then the JPost article could not have rankled you as much as it did.

  21. JewishAtheist says:

    And when you say to someone violating the Sabbath that the Bible says a desecrator “will surely die,” that’s not a call to murder, but the very opposite: “Why are you killing yourself?”

    That’s disingenuous. The pasuk was setting forth the death penalty for violators of the Sabbath, not warning violators that they were killing themselves.

  22. mnuez m says:

    One more thing, and I should have included this in the original comment so that you can’t splice the points:

    What these ugly thugs in Meah Shearim are saying is not “we love you so much! Don’t you know that a Jew who is mechalel Shabbos is considered to be death worthy by divine law? Oh God, please come back to what’s best for your soul!” This is what you claim their Biblical chants are intended to mean. They do not. How do I know? Because I’ve been there, lived there, been chased and threatened by both parties (police thugs and chareidi thugs – though I’ve only actually been spat at by the chareidi ones) and am well aware of the disgusting part of the human nature that causes them to act as they do. You know PRECISELY what these useless ones are saying with their “mos yumos” chants, they’re saying that the lives of these people being mechalel shabbos are hefker k’afrah d’arah. not that they ought to be killed sans any sanhedrin but that they are DESERVANT of death. When you regard someone as such, you aren’t very likely to care too deeply about them.

    The frummeh velt in general has a hundred and one teirutzim for how mechalelei shabbos are NOT actually deservant of death. These useless thugs do not share those teirutzim. They believe that mos yumos applies and that’s why they shout it.

    Kol Tuv,


  23. Yaakov Menken says:

    Moishe writes: “It’s a bit inconsistent to list a bunch of reasons why the Israeli police are terrible, and then declare that ‘no-one is defending calling them Nazis.'”

    I don’t see why that is any more inconsistent than detailing how they acted at Amona, while refraining from using the word “pogrom.” I think if we have our priorities straight, we will first condemn the police for acting as they do, and *then* condemn those who respond by calling the police names.

    No one, least of all me, is claiming these charedi demonstrators are behaving in an excusable fashion. We managed to do a protest in Baltimore just a few months ago without any confrontation at all. [In Baltimore, the police and the charedi community have an enduring partnership and friendship.] But I think it is unreasonable in the extreme to ignore the way the police and government have treated and continue to treat the chareidim in Jerusalem, and expect the chareidim to behave like malachei Elokim (angels of G-d), even if we all agree that they *should*. To overlook police behavior and hyperfocus on charedi dumpster burning and name-calling is both hypocritical and also places the cart before the horse.

    I’m not unfamiliar with those, including charedi Rabbis, bemoaning the tremendous Chillul HaShem of this misbehavior. Having been to these demonstrations, and having also been a college student in America, my reaction is “give me a break.” Both U Maryland and Penn State routinely do far more damage to their local communities in the wake of NCAA victories and losses. When Lod Airport workers strike in Israel, they burn aircraft tires, any one of which is more expensive than half the dumpsters in Jerusalem.

    And what both Mark and I have reported is by no means unusual, extraordinary police behavior. HAGTBG wrote that “even cruel police acting like thugs is far far better then a street run by essentially anarchic and bored teenagers acting like thugs.” While the dictators of Iran and China, and the architects of the Honduran coup, would undoubtedly agree, I frankly do not share the opinion that civil disobedience has no place. Alas, they do not behave like Ghandi, but the police have been far worse than the British.

    There is a long history of the Jerusalem government, especially under Teddy Kollek, of deliberately trying to curb chareidi growth — especially by creating new routes through and bordering chareidi neighborhoods around Meah Shearim to be used on Shabbos, such as Rech. Bar-Ilan and Kvish Echad. The charedim were outvoted and were deliberately oppressed and excluded — and the only mechanism available to the community was civil disobedience. The police responded with unnecessary thuggery and brutality, leading directly to the current circumstance.

    I do not, for a moment, condone the behavior of thugs of any stripe. I do, however, think it entirely appropriate to expect the forces of government to be the first to adopt a more rational approach. In *any* other circumstance, all those bemoaning the charedi chilul HaShem would agree with me from A to Z, and that, my friends, is hypocrisy. Yes, the charedim are behaving abominably; stop expecting teenagers to solve the problem. And, for that matter, stop expecting Rabbis to solve the problem. It is both hypocritical and irrational to expect private individuals to behave first, and the paid, on-duty officers of government to behave second.

    To return to the topic of my original piece, I disagree with Lisa that this one was simple ignorance. I do recall when the big Degel HaTorah convocation was praying the evening service, and the radio announcer said we’re waiting for the Chazzan’s repetition (there is no repetition of the evening service). That’s a lack of awareness — this, our current situation, isn’t.

    And mnuez is very, very wrong. To be deserving of death, a person has to know exactly what he’s doing. Everyone knows that without a Bais Din, “Mos Yumas” isn’t something to be enforced by humans. The Tannaim of the Mishnah told us that someone who murders in private will be punished with death by G-d… that is what it means to say “Mos Yumas” today: G-d will punish you! You’re killing yourself!

    The words are angry and belligerent, and are not a call for murder. Thus the JPost headline was and remains false, unnecessarily inflaming matters yet further.

  24. Menachem Lipkin says:

    The words are angry and belligerent, and are not a call for murder. Thus the JPost headline was and remains false, unnecessarily inflaming matters yet further.

    To take us back on topic, please explain, exactly, how the Post headline was “false”. To my mind you’ve created a classic “straw man”. You’ve taken what is a fairly accurate passive “must die” and in your misinterpretation have claimed, by implication,that the Post is stating that the Chareidim have issued a “call to murder”.

    Sensational? Yes. False? No.

  25. Reb Yid says:

    I initially raised the objection to the Nazi term…

    While not wanting to start another thread, I would also like to object to the “pogrom” term being thrown about in relation to Atzmona or anything else in contemporary Israel.

    Like the Nazi term, there simply is no comparison.

  26. Yaakov Menken says:


    Thanks for putting us back on topic. I disagree in part, and take the correction in part. You are right that the JPost headline, in and of itself, simply says “Sabbath desecraters [sic] must die.” However, in a context in which the chareidi community is called a “Jewish Taliban,” it has already been said that — similar to the way Yigal Amir took the determination of Mizrachi Rabbis that Rabin was a “rodef” to its conclusion (never mind that this, too, was false) — it is only a brief matter of time before someone decides to implement “Mos Yumas.”

    Words not being said in a vacuum, what the JPost implied (at least) was not merely sensational, but false as well.

  27. dovid says:

    “That’s disingenuous. The pasuk was setting forth the death penalty for”

    Tell me, when you are sick, do you go to the doctor, or to the JewishAtheist? If you do go to the doctor to treat you, you should also go to a rabbi to interpret for you the meaning of a pasuk and not to JewishAtheist. When it comes to Torah, suddenly every ignoramus has an opinion.

  28. Moishe Potemkin says:

    I appreciate Rabbi Menkin’s responses, but I remain at a loss as to why my observations over the unacceptability of referring to Jews as Nazis have anything to do with any other offenses. Much worse than that namecalling are suicide bombers, tax cheats, and a host of other crimes. That sort of comparison continues to not be my point, and his inferences otherwise are incorrect.

    I fail to understand why, when there are stories of individual kannaim spraying bleach on people or assaulting women sitting in the wrong seats, that it is such an unacceptable stretch to worry that it is “only a brief moment in time until someone decides to implement ‘Mos Yumas’.

  29. Nathan says:

    At the funeral procession of Rabbi Meir Kahane in Brooklyn, ONE person out of thousands of mourners was carrying a sign that said NEKAMAH (revenge).

    That one person caught the attention of news reporters and was mentioned in news stories about the funeral.

    Most members of the media are NOT our friends, and us Jews must learn to NOT cooperate with them, except in extremely rare cases when it benefits us.

    If a member of the media asks you to translate the word NEKAMAH, do not answer them!

    If a member of the media asks you where Jews live, do not answer them!

    If a member of the media asks you who are the wealthiest members of the local Jewish community, do not answer them!

  30. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Actually, the Meshech Chochmah wrote that a single “yumas” means that the guilty will die, while the doubled verb indicates that he should be put to death. 🙂

    Now for the main point. People, I believe, are being far too harsh with Rabbi Menken. His point was limited to the fast and loose translation of a phrase in the most incendiary manner possible. It was clear that he did not intend to whitewash the thuggery and primitiveness of parts of the Orthodox world.

    Nor could he, or any reasonable person. Consider this report filed by an Australian journalist. Of course, since she is a media person, it could be complete fabrication. But if ten percent is true, any apologist has an uphill battle ahead:

    Reporter feels mob’s hate in the Holy City

    By Middle East correspondent Anne Barker

    The ABC’s Middle East correspondent Anne Barker became caught in violent street protests involving ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem at the weekend. This is her graphic account of her ordeal.

    As a journalist I’ve covered more than my share of protests. Political protests in Canberra. Unions protesting for better conditions. Angry, loud protests against governments, or against perceived abuses of human rights.

    I’ve been at violent rallies in East Timor. I’ve had rocks and metal darts thrown my way. I’ve come up against riot police. But I have to admit no protest – indeed no story in my career – has distressed me in the way I was distressed at a protest in Jerusalem on Saturday involving several hundred ultra-Orthodox Jews.

    This particular protest has been going on for weeks. Orthodox Jews are angry at the local council’s decision to open a municipal carpark on Saturdays – or Shabbat, the day of rest for Jews. It’s a day when Jews are not supposed to do anything resembling work, which can include something as simple as flicking a switch, turning on a light or driving.
    So even opening a simple carpark to accommodate the increasing number of tourists visiting Jerusalem’s Old City is highly offensive to Orthodox Jews because it’s seen as a desecration of the Shabbat, by encouraging people to drive.

    I was aware that earlier protests had erupted into violence on previous weekends – Orthodox Jews throwing rocks at police, or setting rubbish bins alight, even throwing dirty nappies or rotting rubbish at anyone they perceive to be desecrating the Shabbat. But I never expected their anger would be directed at me.

    I was mindful I would need to dress conservatively and keep out of harm’s way. But I made my mistake when I parked the car and started walking towards the protest, not fully sure which street was which.
    By the time I realised I’d come up the wrong street it was too late.
    I suddenly found myself in the thick of the protest – in the midst of hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews in their long coats and sable-fur hats.
    They might be supremely religious, but their behaviour – to me – was far from charitable or benevolent.

    As the protest became noisier and the crowd began yelling, I took my recorder and microphone out of my bag to record the sound.
    Suddenly the crowd turned on me, screaming in my face. Dozens of angry men began spitting on me.

    Spit like rain

    I found myself herded against a brick wall as they kept on spitting – on my face, my hair, my clothes, my arms.

    It was like rain, coming at me from all directions – hitting my recorder, my bag, my shoes, even my glasses. Big gobs of spit landed on me like heavy raindrops. I could even smell it as it fell on my face.
    Somewhere behind me – I didn’t see him – a man on a stairway either kicked me in the head or knocked something heavy against me.
    I wasn’t even sure why the mob was angry with me. Was it because I was a journalist? Or a woman? Because I wasn’t Jewish in an Orthodox area? Was I not dressed conservatively enough?

    In fact, I was later told, it was because using a tape-recorder is itself a desecration of the Shabbat even though I’m not Jewish and don’t observe the Sabbath.

    It was lucky that I don’t speak Yiddish. At least I was spared the knowledge of whatever filth they were screaming at me.

    As I tried to get away I found myself up against the line of riot police blocking the crowd from going any further.


    Israeli police in their flak jackets and helmets, with rifles and shields, were yelling just as loudly back at the protesting crowd.
    For once I found them something of a reassurance against the angry, spitting mob. I was allowed through, away from the main protest, although there were still Orthodox Jews on the other side, some of whom also yelled at me, in English, to take my recorder away.

    Normally I should have stayed on the sidelines to watch the protest develop. But when you’ve suffered the humiliation and degradation of being spat on so many times – and you’re covered in other people’s spit – it’s not easy to put it to the back of your mind and get on with the job.

    I left down a side street and walked the long way back to the car, struggling to hold back the tears. And the irony is that my recorder, whose use had so offended the mob, had a dodgy flash card in it.
    I hadn’t been able to record a thing at all.

    For all my illicit “work”, I went home with nothing.

  31. Moishe Potemkin says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein –

    I read your comment, and I wonder how you can claim that Rabbi Menken – who twice attempted to depict the hooligans as teenagers, a limitation totally absent from your correspondent’s article – is not trying to whitewash the thuggery and primitiveness of part of the Chareidi world. Pretending that it’s only teenagers is not honest, is it?

  32. cvmay says:

    “I also saw the initial reports claiming Barkat had the charedi parties on board, and obviously something is wrong with that claim”.

    Approximately a month ago, the Yerushalayim city council under the auspices of Mayor Nir Barkat made a democratic (?) decision. The city council has a religious majority with members from Shas, UTJ and Mizrachi parties. A decision to open a parking lot for the numerous cars filled with tourists visiting the city on Shabbos was decided with the agreement of the religious parties. A non-Jew parking attendant, no money payment and an area far from the frum vicinity was the plan.
    AGREED UPON by all Yerushalayim voters!!!! How?!?(these councilmen represent the values of their voting kehilla). Can I make a tiny presumption that the religious council members checked with their rabbinic advisors before voting ‘yay’?

    So what went wrong? Another column arose, non voters, who overshadowed this vote, with the banner of KEDUSHAS SHABBOS. Two weeks later, the news that the Shas & UTJ councilmen are planning to quit is announced. I believe R. Menken that this Shabbos struggle is quite a bit more complicated than just an open parking garage, there is a religious battle for supremacy!!!

  33. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Words not being said in a vacuum, what the JPost implied (at least) was not merely sensational, but false as well.

    You’ve already admitted that the actual translation of the headline was accurate. Therefore it simply cannot be false. You then go on to impute intent which you have no way of knowing as fact. You state that the protesters call of “mot yamut” really means ““Why are you killing yourself?” and you further state, “…The protesters were not calling — and would never be calling — for the death of other Jews,”.

    The article Rabbi Adlerstein published clearly shows that these protesters do not have the best interests of the non-Chareidi public at heart and while we all can hope that their Pinchas-like zealotry would not lead to murder it’s impossible to say “never”.

    As someone who lives on the a “friction point” with some of these “zealots” I can personally testify to seeing something quite apart from love and caring in the eyes and behavior of some of these people. I’ve seen people severely injured, I’ve seen debris placed in the road that could easily have caused tragic, even fatal, car accidents, and much more. Rabbi Adlerstein was being kind by saying “if ten percent [of the article] is true”. Those of us who actually experience this behavior have no reason not to believe that Ms. Barker’s report is much closer to 100% accurate.

    Maybe, you can say that the Post headline is inflammatory, you’ve made a fair case for that. But, now certainly with Rabbi Adlerstein’s further elucidation of the meaning of “mot yamut” and a better understanding of the mindset of these protesters, there is just no plausible way to impugn the credibility of the headline.

  34. Harry Maryles says:

    Of course, since she is a media person, it could be complete fabrication.

    Aren’t bloggers (like you and me) all media people?

    I don’t think this is a fair statement. Most media people do not intentionally lie. Are we biased? Of course we are. We are human. Some try and leave out thier biases. Some succeed more than others but we all bring our biases to the table. But very few bring complete fabrication to the table. And those who are caught pay a heavy price.

  35. L. Oberstein says:

    The Australian woman’s report exposes something. The question is what.Were these people so assured that they were on G-d’s side that they could spit on a woman and harm her? In what way are they hllowing shabbos? Why does the chreidi majority allow the Neturei Karta minority to set the agenda? What really is the position of the over 100 year old rabbi who is the supreme leader? Whose side is he on and what instructions did he give to the multitudes that follow him without question? If the spitters make the rules, then we are all doomed. They are a sick ,mutant form of the religion my ancestors observed.Their approach to other Jews is only matched by their belief that we owe them a livlihood. If there were competent leadership of the religious community, would the spitters be able to shame the Jewish People with impunity? I blame the gang around the 100 year old rabbi for allowing this to take place. They control information, they filter his views and they delegitimize anyone who disagrees with their approach.
    If they ran Israel, we would see a lot of what is going on today in Iran. This is a sad conclusion to come to but maybe religion in the wrong hands is the opposite of what Hashem wants from us.

  36. Yaakov Menken says:


    No, the “actual translation” of the headline was not accurate in any but the most technical sense. The phrase “will surely die” is vastly different from “must die,” as we all know.

    First (comment #24), you called this a “straw man,” and said it was only in my imagination “that the Post is stating that the Chareidim have issued a ‘call to murder.'” Now you use the fact that a gang of these hooligans spit upon a reporter as proof that perhaps they might be calling for the death of other Jews after all (echoed by Moishe in comment #28). So which is it?

    Second point: if it were true that the original Hebrew phrase was nearly as inflammatory as the translation, then why did not one of the Hebrew papers bother to mention it? I’ve heard the “Nazi” cry before — again, when the police are bearing down with batons upon women and children, pardon me for not being more concerned about the policemen’s feelings. But “mos Yamus” is a new one. If it were a call for murder, it should have been very newsworthy — and it wasn’t. Not in Hebrew.

    Moishe, at no time did I say that all the demonstrators are teenagers. I referred to teenagers (as in, you’re expecting charedi teenagers to change before, and behave better than, Israeli police) because upon my own observation and that of others, they are responsible for the worst misbehavior. That is borne out by other accounts — a charedi Israeli woman wrote that young American students (“teens at risk”) burned her dumpster even though she asked them to stop. I don’t think it’s fair to point fingers at Americans, though, given the number of Israelis I saw participate in similar activity before.

    This incredible thread is further proof that the most trivial observation can be leaped upon and distorted into a series of things which the writer (myself, in this case) never said. On Motzei Shabbos, I checked the Israeli news as I usually do. I did not comment upon the political maneuverings about the parking lot, because, as cvmay wrote, the news reports are contradictory and strange. I don’t understand demonstrating about a parking lot operated by non-Jews opened as a safety measure. I also don’t understand the chareidi parties waffling on this issue. Did they agree it could open, or not? First stories said they agreed, then it was both Rav Elyashiv and Rav Yosef saying absolutely not. Bloggers are often criticized for failing to think a bit, do some research, and/or have actual knowledge about an issue, before stating an opinion. If that makes me “not a blogger” I think it’s a compliment.

    Instead, I found the inflammatory headline (it was hard to miss), and created a post. Now I’ve been repeatedly accused of whitewashing behavior I have called (both privately and publicly) inexcusable, unacceptable, the province of thugs and hooligans. None of that is true. My problem is inflammatory coverage, and hypocritical accusations. I share the feelings of everyone else that charedi demonstrators behaving this way is uniquely embarrassing — because a charedi riot is a Chilul HaShem. But we need not magnify it by applying a foolish double-standard that only further inflames.

    The stories about the pride of American academia storming through the streets to express their feelings about basketball or football are hardly rare. After one NCAA loss, U Maryland students did $250,000 of damage in a single evening. For how long did that issue dominate the front pages? How many thoughtfully blamed college administrators for not doing more to control their students? How many blamed the NCAA for inciting the crowd? Strangely, no one.

    Demonstrators have repeatedly attempted to obstruct meetings of the World Economic Forum. In Seattle, the National Guard was called in to restore order. Do news accounts highlight the behavior of the rioters? On the contrary — they highlight accounts of police brutality when attempting to control the riots, and there was extensive news coverage of other cities learning from Seattle how to control the crowds with less violent methods.

    In every other instance, the expectation is that the police will keep order, and with the least amount of violence possible. Only when it comes to charedim is a new standard applied: the Rabbis are blamed for any lack of order, and police brutality, thievery, and unlawful imprisonment is overlooked.

    What the demonstrators did is bad enough. You need not inflate it into something even worse than it was, and to do so reveals animus to the point of hypocrisy, rather than rational condemnation. And that will hardly help calm the tensions.

  37. Daniel B. Schwartz says:

    What I don’t understand about R. Menkin’s point is that it contradicts an unequivocal admonition of Chazal. Assuming he is right that using the words “mos yumat” in the currect context are not a call to lynchings, and are merely rhetorical chants, it ought to have been clear that such usage was prone to misinterpretation from the get go. “Chachamim, hizharu b’divreichem shema. . .” The Mishne clearly places the liability for the misinterpretation at the feet of the speaker, not the listener.

  38. Menachem Lipkin says:

    First (comment #24), you called this a “straw man,” and said it was only in my imagination “that the Post is stating that the Chareidim have issued a ‘call to murder.’” Now you use the fact that a gang of these hooligans spit upon a reporter as proof that perhaps they might be calling for the death of other Jews after all (echoed by Moishe in comment #28). So which is it?

    Notwithstanding your twisting around what I said to fit your thesis, there is nothing incongruous here. (I did not say spitting is proof of murderous intent. I said that it does prove that they are not quite as concerned with the welfare of other Jews as you would have us believe. It’s my neighbor, who got hit in the head with a Chareidi thrown rock requiring hospitlization that makes it impossible for you to say that Chareidi behavior will “never” lead to murder.) This is logic 101. Just because the Post headline did not, as you claim, state that the Chareidim issued a call to murder, does make it “impossible”, as you stated, that in fact, at some point in the future Chareidi “zealotry” *could* lead to the death of fellow Jews.

  39. Bob Miller says:

    Mobs don’t think like normal Jews, and their emotions can easily lead them to violate their own principles.

  40. Yoel B says:

    Koko, the famous gorilla living near Stanford University has, according to her keeper, learned hundreds of signs from, or based on, American Sign Language. Among the accounts of Koko’s use of language there is an interesting one relevant to the various ongoing chareidi demonstrations.

    As many people who have gone to zoos have occasion to know, many primates throw excrement when they are angry or afraid. It is reported that Koko, on being taught the ASL sign for excrement, spontaneously began to use it pejoratively: when someone didn’t do what she wanted, or did something she didn’t want, she would often indicate that person in connection with the sign for excrement. That is, Koko would throw excrement symbolically (with the ASL equivalent of a “four letter word”) rather than literally. A Torah observant person might avoid such expressions as nivul peh, but it is still a great advance over the literal act.

    While it is likely that Koko’s use of language is the result of her having been trained by humans since infancy, it nevertheless seems to me to demonstrate that some language use is a faculty of the animal soul.

    So “Torah Jews,” whose G-dly soul is supposed to be nourished by the Torah they learn who nevertheless spit on and throw filthy diapers at people they disapprove of are debasing themselves, their communities, the Torah they vaunt and the Rabbanim they learned from, below the level of an animal who seem to be neurologically capable of some sort of symbolic expression and, with their limited free will, use it to throw filthy words instead of actual filth.

    Thomas Huxley’s account of his famous rejoinder to Samuel Wilberforce in their debate on Darwin’s theory of evolution goes like this:

    If then, said I, the question is put to me would I rather have a miserable ape for a grandfather or a man highly endowed by nature and possessed of great means of influence & yet who employs these faculties & that influence for the mere purpose of introducing ridicule into a grave scientific discussion, I unhesitatingly affirm my preference for the ape.

    The reality behind “protesting is a breach of the “status quo” is even worse than what Huxley was chaffing Wilberforce about.

    By their actions, the rioters have made a gorilla look more refined than “Torah Jews.”

  41. Michoel says:

    R’ Menken,
    I don’t think that we should bring proofs from college students that the coverage in Jerusalem is overdone. Everyone expects wild behavior from college students. That has been the case at least since Woodstock or Animal House. But these are (externally) Frum Jews! They need to have all forms of scorn thrown on their heads and to be completely disowned. Just as the Agudah publicly disassociated itself from the killer of Yitzchak Rabin with a full page ad in the NYT (al pi eglah arufah), so too the entire frum world (with Charedim leading) needs to scream out “We utterly and completely reject the actions of these lunatics!” And any other mixed in message will serve to weaken that pronouncement.

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