Friday, August 29, 2014

On The Sofer Tragedy: A Defense of Israel

By now you have all heard that the body of Aaron Sofer has been found. Tragically, he fell during a hike, and died as a result of his injuries.

While the search was underway, a number of people, including prominent figures, accused the State of Israel and the general public of being relatively indifferent to the cause due to Sofer being a charedi yeshivah student. The purpose of this post is to defend the government and general public of Israel against this condemnation.

It is not an exceptional event for people to go missing in Israel. There have been several cases in the last year. Every year the police in Israel process around five thousand reports on missing persons. Most of these cases are quickly closed, but twenty to thirty cases remain open each year. According to a Jerusalem Post article from two years ago, there are currently over a thousand children and teens in Israel listed as missing. How many of them have you heard about? Cases of missing persons do not generally make the headlines, because there can be all sorts of reasons for it. The situation of a missing person only makes headlines to the extent that it is believed to be a terrorist abduction. One might argue that this is not rational - after all, the potential for tragedy is the same, whether a person has a hiking accident or a car accident or is abducted by terrorists. However, the fact of human psychology is that society is more traumatized by the latter. Furthermore, the latter is more part of the government's responsibility and purview, and thus the government expends more effort in such cases.

Now, in the charedi community, it was widely believed that Aaron Sofer had been abducted. A family member publicly quoted Rav Chaim Kanievsky as saying that Sofer was alive and being held in an Arab village. Thus, there was naturally very deep concern. But outside of the charedi community, few believed that this was the case. Especially at the outset, there was little reason to believe that Aaron Sofer had been abducted. Personally, I was certain that he had experienced a hiking accident. I have hiked in that area many times and I know that the terrain can sometimes be deceptive, with unexpected crevasses. Furthermore, it would be extremely unlikely for terrorists to be staking out that area in the hopes of capturing somebody. Since it was unlikely that he had been abducted, there was naturally less of a response than in the case of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, where it was clear from the outset that they had been abducted.

But could it be that there was less concern from the general public than in comparable cases? I don't think that there is sufficient data to answer that question. If one believes that such was indeed the case, there are a number of potential factors involved. One is that he was an American citizen rather than an Israeli citizen; another is that he was a charedi yeshivah student. As I noted in my posts contrasting the great concern that the charedi community expressed for the yeshivah students in Japan with the lesser concern that they expressed for Gilad Shalit, to a certain extent (though only to a certain extent) it is inevitable and understandable that people care more about those in their own community. Indeed, consider that some sectors of the charedi community seem have put a lot more effort into prayer rallies and suchlike for Aaron Sofer than they did for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. Of course, we should aim to care about all Jews, but it is inevitable that we care more about those to whom we feel closest. How many Jews in America, or charedi Jews in Israel, know the name Shachar Shalev, a 20-year-old soldier who was struggling for his life for the last six weeks as a result of injuries sustained in Gaza, and finally succumbed this week?

Brooklyn city council member Dov Hikind issued a criticism of the Israeli authorities that was particularly strange:
"Not enough was done from the very beginning. Not enough attention was paid to the disappearance of Aaron. So I want to say to the Israeli government: treat Aaron as if he were an Israeli soldier missing. Because we know what the Israeli government does when an Israeli soldier goes missing - every resource in the world is put into it." 
I do not think that his criticism of the government was appropriate. As discussed above, much less effort is put into these things when there is little reason to suspect terrorist involvement. The government does not put "every resource in the world" into searching for each of the 20-30 people who go missing each year. Furthermore, Hikind's demand that Sofer be treated like an Israeli soldier was very strange. Aside from the fact that Sofer wasn't Israeli, he wasn't a soldier. Of course a country will be far more concerned with the welfare of someone risking his life to defend it than with the welfare of a person who is not doing that! Likewise, I presume that people donate more money to those who are disabled as a result of IDF service than to those who are disabled as a result of car accidents. One person wrote to me about the irony of a community that refuses to serve in the army to protect the country, but demands to be treated like soldiers in terms of the concern extended to them.

(Also of interest is that Rav Steinman ordered yeshivah students to take time off their learning and search for him. Evidently, Rav Steinman felt that this hishtadlus would be of greater value than their learning Torah in his merit. This is consistent with Rav Steinman's position, as told to Rav Moshe Schneider, that today's Torah cannot be presumed to be lishmah and therefore cannot be assumed to have supernatural protective abilities. We see that Rav Steinman's position is that the opposition to charedim serving in the IDF or doing national service is not because their Torah studies is a form of providing protection, but rather because army service would harm their way of life.)

The case of Aaron Sofer is a terrible tragedy. But it is not a reason to criticize the government or people of Israel. Let us pray for the Sofer family to be comforted, and for all missing persons to be located.

76 comments:

  1. It's a shame that the most important part of this post was in parenthesis...

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    1. Agreed. But I am loath to take advantage of the tragedy to score political points by shouting it from the rooftops, much as I would like to. I assume Rabbi Slifkin feels the same way.

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    2. The most important part?! Does anyone think that the Yeshivah world holds that someone should continue learning and not call Hatzalah where someone's having a heart attack?! There's obviously some subtlety you anti-chareidi apologetics are trying to gloss over; the reasoning is a local cost-benefit decision where there is a functioning army and the Torah costs... . (Additionally, there's no concept here of לכל המקום בעבורם which is relevant to national security.)
      Tangentially, Slifkin dishonestly suggests that Chareidi community held for certain that Aharon was kidnapped based on some hoogey-boogey, when we all saw the massive search efforts.
      In fact, the criticism of the police is that they handled the search efforts unprofessionally. I have a friend who was intimately involved in the recruiting and search efforts. He has a sharp critique of the police's unprofessionalism; people were repeatedly sent to the same areas in a disorganized manner without covering new areas (his and other's complaints fell on deaf ears), helicopters were sent out only twice (Friday night one of them), high-resolution helicopter images of the area were withheld (thousands of volunteers would've easily studied every square ft), police did not allow them to do unauthorized search efforts and on ly one officer came down to direct the search.
      It's a little irresponsible to give in to your knee-jerk anti-Chareidi pro-government establishment without thoroughly finding out about the search.

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  2. Great article. Could you please provide the link to R' Steinman's psak?

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  3. was the quote a bout rav kievsky true or just a rumor

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  4. http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/sofer_case_means_draft_haredim
    KT
    Joel Rich

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    1. Thanks, Joel! I hope people see this episode as evidence that the haredi argument about "spiritually protecting" Israel is bunk. Incidentally, the version in the Times of Israel is slightly longer and contains a response to the argument that "there's a big difference between one day and three years." See: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/sofer-case-means-draft-haredim/

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  5. Out of curiosity, since I have been troubled by this ever since the rumors went out; Did Rav Kanevsky really say that he was alive and being held in n Arab village? (I first heard this attributed to Rav Binyomin Elyashiv as the outcome of his alleged gorel hagra)

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  6. This piece of news was important enough for the mainstream American( like CNN and other news outlets) media to cover. I challenge you to find me a similar piece of news that affected America and Israel that was covered by America only! One may argue that this was an American citizen, not Israeli. Echoing such an opinion only proves the point even more so, that an American citizen to America, is more important than a jew (orthodox) to Israel!

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    1. The American media only covered it because they were told that it was a possible abduction.

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  7. what happened to my next comment?

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    1. It was the same as the other comment

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    2. No it wasn't. In this comment I'm proving that citizenship plays absolutely no role. Your reasoning is flawed since we do in fact see that America felt that this case is an exception to the "rule".

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    3. Here is your next comment:
      " Additionally your main point is refuted. You claim that "missing persons" are generally not reported. Well, they reported it in America, in spite of the fact that there is a lot more going on here than in Israel as there are only 8 million people living there. "

      As noted above, it was reported because the US media was told that it might be an abduction.

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    4. Poor response. The same information that was sent to American was available to the Israeli media.

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    5. But Israelis are better equipped to judge whether it was an abduction. The Israeli authorities did not initially believe that there was any significant chance of it being an adbuction.

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  8. Fox and cnn daily news etc...... ALL got reports from whom?? ISRAELI POLICE!!! What are that almost ALL American outlets THOUGHT it's an abduction, when reports came from the Israeli"s themselves, and nearly ALL Israeli news station KNEW pretty much for certain that it was not an aduction. CONTRARY to police reports.

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    1. Clearly, then, the American outlets were engaged in baseless speculation.
      After all, it turned out *not* to be an abduction. So the Israeli take on the story turned out to be correct.

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  9. Your hypocrisy is astounding. You have the right to criticize Charedim when they sympathize more with their own kind, but when the Dati community ignores the plight of a Charedi, it is only because "it is natural to sympathize more with your own community".

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    1. Actually, I specifically wrote (in the Schalit post) that it is acceptable for Charedim to sympathize more with their own kind. What is not acceptable is for them to express zero sympathy with soldier captured by Hamas. If a charedi yeshivah student was captured by Hamas, you can be darn sure that Datiim would be davenning for him, and not refrain out of fear that their youth might start identifying with charedim.

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    2. "...you can be darn sure that Datiim would be davenning for him...." And doing a lot more, too.

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  10. Insane that you think the Chareidim did not daven for the 3 boys. There was much more tehillim and extra learning for the 3 boys from the Chariedim in Israel and the USA then there was for Aharon A"L. I davened at many chareidi shuls and there was always Tehillim being said at the end of davening.Sadly (just because every Yid's life is precious) the same amount was not being done for Aaron.

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    1. I second this. I learn in a Charedi Kollel in Sanhedria, and the 3 boys received far more attention than Sofer did.

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  11. Regarding the comments about R' Steinman's directive for yeshiva students to take part in the search at the expense of their learning -- you fail to point out a few things: 1) R' Steinman's directive was only for Israeli yeshiva students to search while American yeshiva students should stay and learn. My sense is because American yeshiva students are not as accustomed to such rigorous hiking nor knew the terrain in which case their presence would be less efficacious, therefor their time would be better spent learning in the zchus of Sofer being found. 2) Which leads to the second point -- in essence the main differences between yeshiva boys sitting in learning rather than going to the army vs. going out to look for sofer and not relying on their learning. The vast majority of those who searched for Sofer were yeshiva boys. I am one of a few non-yeshiva boys who spent hours combing the forest in the searing heat. No dati-leumi, no chiloni, minor police and army presence. This is not an indictment of any of those other groups, just the facts.

    Given that Israel has a standing army with enough, dare I say, more than enough able-bodied soldiers, adding a few thousand yeshiva boys to the mix will likely add no physical benefit. But in a case where there was no one, literally, no one who would have made the extraordinary effort to try and find this poor boy, than of course the yeshiva world stepped up.

    Your bringing up this point was a cheap shot which, of course, you couldn't bear to pass up but ultimately is with little to no merit.

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    1. 1. I presume that he did not send Americans because there could be risks for them, not because their learning would be more effective.

      2. The army is not sent on non-terrorist matters.

      3. The bottom line is that Rav Steinman felt that the yeshivah students would be able to help more by searching than by learning. I think that point is significant. It is also consistent with Rav Steinman's that today's Torah cannot be presumed to be lishmah and therefore cannot be assumed to have protective benefits. Strangely, the chareidi world, which claims to revere Rav Steinman, does not seem to be following his view on that.

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    2. Guess you didn't like my last response...

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    3. "Given that Israel has a standing army with enough, dare I say, more than enough able-bodied soldiers, adding a few thousand yeshiva boys to the mix will likely add no physical benefit."

      Conversely, given that Israel has a sitting army of unemployed chareidim, diminishing it by a few thousand will likely impose no detriment.

      RM

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  12. I once asked a Rebbe why we say Tehillim in a time of trouble, if learning Torah is more effective. He responded that evidently Tehillim work as a quick fix, an emergency measure. I imagine the same goes for searching for someone missing. IN GENERAL, Eretz Yisroel needs Torah just as much as it needs an army in order to fully ensure its safety (see Baal Haturim at the very beginning of Devarim). When push comes to shove, though, and we're in an immediate life-and-death situation, we stop learning and go search, just like we stop learning to say Tehillim.

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    1. Israel is always in a life-and-death situation. They don't have borders like those between the US and Canada.

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    2. "He responded that evidently Tehillim work as a quick fix, "

      Evidently? I've never seen any evidence.

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  13. No one is discussing the fact that his "friend and fellow yeshiva student" separated from Aaron and continued n his way after Aaron failed to reply to his "shout-out to him" as part of their method of keeping track of each other.

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  14. Also, why did his friend take 6 hours, as originally reported, to notify anyone about Aaron being missing? This is outrageous as far as it appears. This so-called friend should be doing tremendous teshuva about this incident. I guess they might be protecting him from criticism? But surely deserves some.

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  15. Ploni said:
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    Given that Israel has a standing army with enough, dare I say, more than enough able-bodied soldiers, adding a few thousand yeshiva boys to the mix will likely add no physical benefit
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    The ONLY body that is authorized to decide who should serve in the IDF is the state. No one has the right to say "they have enough soldiers to I should be exempt". Only the state can decide that. The US in the 1960's had something called "selective service" in which some of the able-bodied young men were asked to serve whereas others weren't but Israel isn't in that situation, at least regarding young Jewish men. Only the state can decide if it wants to exempt groups, such as blue-eyed people. Even generals who say "we don't want or need the Haredim" have no authority to make such a decision. They can recommend such a policy but the people, through their elected representatives who then appoint people to make these policies in the Defense establishment are the ultimate source of authority.

    I saw an interesting interview made in the 1970's with Dr Noble Frankland who was a well-known British military historian and who flew in RAF Bomber Command during World War II (a not very safe occupation at the time) and he said something that surprised me....he stated that many or even most veterans who fought in the war "feel that society owes them something but it doesn't". I thought about what he said and I finally concluded that he meant that everyone had a DUTY to fight when called upon to do so. (I presume he is not including the state's obligation to help heal the soldier if he is wounded or to aid his dependents should he fall in battle-President Lincoln mentioned this in his Second Inaugural Speech). Thus, if he is right, no individual or group has the right to look at military manpower figures and to decide on his own that he or any special group can decide for themselves they are going to opt out.

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    1. When the Yom Kippur War broke out, an army truck came by the Chabad synagogue in Kiryat Malachi and took all the able-bodied men--still wearing their tallitot and kittels. Even those who didn't have military training were assigned to digging trenches, or some other service. In a situation that was such a clear existential threat, nobody asked any questions if they were really needed. I hope we'll never be in a situation like that again.

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    2. And how do you think that scenario would play out today?
      R.M.

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  16. Rabbi Slifkin: I agree with you about the news coverage and Dov Hikind's foolish remark. But, as you said, you thought right away that it was a hiking accident, and presumably the responsible Israeli authorities thought so as well, Would it not have been, then, the rational thing to organize a systematic and professional search as soon as possible, given that time was of the essence? I am not sure this was done right away. Had it been done, it is hard to understand why it took six days to find the body? I am not sure I am right here. Could you please clarify?

    Lawrence Kaplan

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    1. There was indeed an intensive search conducted right away. The reason it took so long is that he was hidden in dense brush, a fair distance from where he was thought to have disappeared.

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    2. I live in Har Nof. Throughout Friday night and into Shabbat morning there were helicopters, at least two or three of them, flying over and around the forest and the neighborhood. I apparently was exhausted enough to sleep through it, but they kept waking up my wife. On Shabbat itself an ambulance drove through the neighborhood asking for people's help in looking for him over a loudspeaker - clearly taken seriously enough to violate shabbat in the middle of a neighborhood such as this.

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  17. Rabbi Slifkin nad Yerushalmi: Thank you for your clarifications. I now have no issues with the search.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  18. Shimon says
    I have never yet seen such a foolish post.
    If someone is lost you dont say t'hillim or bang your head at the kosel. You go looking for him. Learning or davening wont help. Every able bodied man and woman should have gone looking for him. Anyone who didnt is part of causing his death. Any rabbi who could have persuaded others is even more liable.
    This blog has also got the meshugas that learning torah solves everything. It doesnt solve anything.
    If everyone went he may be alive today.

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  19. The cause of death was dehydration. See http://www.bhol.co.il/Article_EN.aspx?id=72826&cat=0&scat=140

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  20. Also see http://pitputim.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/issues-tangential-to-the-tragic-death-of-aharon-sofer-%D7%96%D7%9C/

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  21. I still cannot believe that these boys are sent off hiking without any education or normal precautionary measures. It is negligent to an extreme.Some of the news articles I did read in the Israeli press pointed out that there's no more than an hour's walk to the nearest road, and that is why they began to suspect foul play. If he died of dehydration, that means that he had run out of water long before he became separated from his so-called friends. This level of negligence is hard to fathom.

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    1. He had his hat.
      R.M.

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    2. He was a 23 year old man. Not a boy.

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    3. Interesting factoid: ny area press reports identified him as a teenager. The same report said he was 23. Probably indicate s the maturity level they feel a (non high school gtad) yeshiva "bochur" has.

      as for that comment about why the American press covered the story, this is probably the reason.

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  22. I would guess he dehydrated, didn't recognize the symptoms, then fell (perhaps also due to not understanding the risks of scampering down a steep slope in dress shoes) or fainted and then eventually died.

    The response will be that we have to be mechazek ourselves, not that we should take water with us and wear proper shoes.

    They should darshen instead Chazal's intent in saying that boys need learn how to "swim," because the failure of such is why this kid is dead and why his friend was so ignorant that he left him out there on his own (as was the boy ignorant for not going with his friend).

    His death was due to his society's yiddishkeit being so divorced from practical life.

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  23. "Indeed, consider that some sectors of the charedi community seem have put a lot more effort into prayer rallies and suchlike for Aaron Sofer than they did for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali."

    That's a despicable falsehood. There were unprecedented prayer rallies in every Charedi community on behalf of the three boys. Stop looking at everything through a prism of bias and criticism-- this has been a time where there has been unprecedented unity--instead of recognizing it you try to deny it. Seems like you should spend a half hour listening to Mrs. Rachel Frankel speaking about her ahavas yisroel and feeling of achdus with the charedi communities response.

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    1. Lakewood had a big atzeres for Aharon Sofer. I can't find any record of their holding one for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali.

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    2. The big atzeres was his funeral. The reason Lakewood had it and not Bnei Brak for instance is because he was from Lakewood Yeshiva. See http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/194394/2014/08/29/

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    3. No, the atzeres was during the search. Lakewood had it because they felt closer to him, proving my point. Also, there was a big event at the Tamir hall in Jerusalem.

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    4. Your apparent blind hatred of an entire sector of klal yisroel has apparently led you to publish blatant lies. The entire Charedi community (including BMG), along with all other communities in Klal Yisroel publicly prayed for the safe return of the boys.

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    5. You are obfuscating matters. Yes, they all said Tehillim. But that is not the same as having a special atzeres with addresses from the Roshei Yeshivos. Lakewood had several with Aharon Sofer, before and after the news of his passing.

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    6. They had a special tehillim asifa for the boys also. It must be really hard that your negative spin had no basis.

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    7. I am not into spin, I am into reporting the facts as they are available to me. I follow Lakewood via various frums news sites, including special Lakewood sites. None of them reported a special asifa for the three boys, but they did report on special asifos, with addresses from the Roshei Yeshivah, for Aharon Sofer. If there was a tehillim asifa, it apparently was not a large enough or significant enough event to warrant reporting.

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  24. The Haredi Yeshivas are criminally negligent, at least morally, in not teaching their students basic safety procedures. That Sofer went for his hike in "Yeshivishe Levush," woith black hat and black jacket, without water and a cell phone, is incredible This tragedy was entirely avoidable. That is why is it is such a tragedy..

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  25. Finally someone who hikes the area regularly. Question s: are there marked trails in the area? Is there adequate cell service in the area?

    I assume answer is yes, to both. Sign me as a former hiking counselor in upstate ny camps.

    MiMedinat HaYam

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    1. I don't hike there regularly, but if it's like any other place in Israel where I have hiked the answer is yes to both, especially the latter, but one can also go off the trail.

      The problem with dehydration is that the first thing that it impairs is your judgment. This is true even in the early stages. In fact, whenever I meet people who are coming to Israel for the summer, I always tell them that one of the first signs of dehydration is irritability. Flushed cheeks and irritability, which often manifests as a refusal to drink especially when you're told to do so. If you're not used to this, you won't know that it's happening until it's too late.

      Criminally negligent to let the boys go out there without supervision.

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    2. Basic rules of hiking:

      1. Hike with a buddy.
      2.. canteen (in my day). Today, water bottles.
      3. Cell phone with GPS. Not allowed (any cell; my nephew was there last year and had to go to his sister to call) in brisk / pinkus.

      At least he had his hat: actually, comfortable clothes is essential, but the yeshivish hat (and the .compulsion to not be with out a hat for even a second) is dangerous.
      PRoper, comfortable shoes..
      At least he wore long pants, a he wouldn't get poison ivy.

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    3. As I commented above, yeshiva students are perceived by the public as 23 year old teenagers.

      Nevertheless, its not supervision that's required, it's basic training (whoops). Cell phone with GPS, water bottles, stay on trails only, hike with a responsible buddy (not six hours buddy; does his protexia protect him from criticism?)

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  26. He comes from Lakewood. It follows Lakewood would be first and foremost affected. As for caring sure we Jews care about Jews around the world but hitting home affects more. The soldier who was killed after going to the dentist was from Pittsburgh years back and the community was affected across the party lines.

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  27. Again---how blinded could you be by your desperate search for negativity? During the days leading up to the news breaking of the horrific tragedy of the heinous murder of the dear boys--Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, there was an increasing unprecedented level of achdus in klal yisroel--in Charedi, Mizrachi, Daati Leumi, Chardal, Modern Orthodox, Chiloni, etc. communities there was a united front of men women and children praying for their safe return. There were tefilah/tehillim asifas in all of those communities. Are you so troubled by the tremendous achdus, that you chose to pretend like it never happened? Again, you should spend a half hour listening to Mrs. Rachel Frankel speaking about her ahavas yisroel and feeling of achdus with the charedi (and all other) communities responses of ahavas yisroel. It's extraordinary that the families who actually directly suffered the tragedies exhibit and focus on pure positivity--and you focus on negativity.

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    1. I have no idea what you are talking about. Where did I say that it never happened?

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    2. I believe you missed R' Slifkin's point, which is quite subtle actually. To quote: " Of course, we should aim to care about all Jews, but it is inevitable that we care more about those to whom we feel closest. "

      It is not only inevitable, it is also positive. It is how it should be.

      The problem arises when you expect others to care equally about your own close circle as they do for theirs, and blame them when they appear not to. It is an even bigger problem when you have not done so yourself.

      Having said that, there were all kinds of people wondering about the silence in Israeli media in the Sofer case, including Laura ben David (http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/where-is-everyone), and Allison Kaplan Sommer in Haaretz (yes, Haaretz). Even though the search was intensive, it did not make the local news until it hit the American press, and now it is gone entirely. So even if the natural and laudable response is to care more about members of our own community than that of those outside it, it was precisely in the wake of Achdus generated by the past summer, that people expected more of us all, and brought up the question, as Laura ben David put it, of "Where is everyone?"

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    3. He died not because of insufficient attention from the press, but because thousands of bochurim should have been out there looking for him as soon as he was discovered missing, not days later.

      I wonder to what extent they were held back due to belief he was being held in an Arab village.

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  28. Apropos my comment above from 4:46, note that the hespedim seemed to confirm what I feared. His lack of preparedness (the direct cause of why he slipped and why he dehydrated) was viewed not as a chisaron, but as a ma'alah:
    http://thepartialview.blogspot.com/2014/08/photos-thousands-attend-levaya-for.html

    Even on his last trip of which he did not return, he took along a sefer to learn from and went like a true yeshiva man with his hat and jacket. The Rosh Yeshiva also referenced to Aaron not having a cell phone.

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  29. And from HaModia, another confirmation that his lack of preparedness would be a model, rather than something to be avoided:
    http://hamodia.com/2014/08/31/thousands-attend-emotional-levayah-habachur-aaron-sofer-zl/

    Found after a week of yissurim, Aaron was still wearing his jacket and hat. A real ben Torah doesn’t change his garb during bein hazmanim. “You were Aaron with all the bigdei Kehunah,” the Rosh Yeshivah said emotionally. “You took the beis medrash with you on all your pathways, even on your last and fatal one, and arrived at the beis din shel maalah with 23 years of Torah and yiras Shamayim, kulam shavim l’tovah.”

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  30. Rabbi Slifkn: I think you should devote a separate post to the need for Haredi Yeshivas to teach proper safety procedures to their students going on hikes. Here is a perfect example of rationalist Judaism.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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    1. Do schools, Chareidi or not, Jewish or not give lectures on hiking procedures? It's assumed you will find out. There are Chareidim doing extracurricular exercise in the outdoors. They survive and presumably have done their own research. As for this being an example of Rationalist Judaism I don't imagine this has anything to do with rationalist Judaism as defined historically nor does this have to follow from rationalism. One can be Chareidi and talk of health and nutrition and one can be modern and too impractical for that stuff.

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    2. YA: Please see my posts above, and note what was said at the levaya.

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    3. Ok but the fact is that somehow you have Chareidim who are doing exercise in the great outdoors and have cell phones and live to tell the tale in between learning in Kollel. This site is getting very anecdotal for making statements. Lakewood made a big deal because he comes from Lakewood New Jersey. Here in Pittsburgh the soldier that died in Israel after going to the dentist was being noted and honored by all since he was from Pittsburgh. Home hits home but every Jew usually cares whether Chareidi or not. Knowing someone only makes it less abstract. Chareidim and other Jews do numerous charity work for Jews of other groups and even for gentiles. That's a fact.

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    4. Yes, in Israel, schools, Chareidi and otherwise, take children on hikes, and other outings, and follow the normal safety precautions. Just as there are safety precautions taken by Americans going to malls with small children, that Israelis would never think of. The onus of educating newly arrived bachurim on proper precautions is on the institution. This death needs to be a wake-up-call or else it will be meaningless. (BTW, Dovid, I wouldn't put too much stock in what was said in the hespedim. Anyway, it's not the suit and hat that killed him, it's the lack of water and hiking alone.)

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    5. Actually, I would think it was a combination of his becoming overheated from his dress, becoming lightheaded from dehydration, then slipping on a steep slope due to wearing dress shoes with slippery soles and no support while lightheaded, and then lying there until he passed out.

      I hike alone myself, but with proper precautions.

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    6. Rabbi Slifkin: What happened to the post you were preparing?

      Lawrence Kaplan

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