Thursday, November 27, 2014

Har Nof Heroes

Following the appalling tragedy in Har Nof, we learned of the amazing qualities of the victims (aside from the amazing heroism of the Druze police officer Zidan Saif). It was also very impressive to see the dignified reaction of the Har Nof community. See, for example, the article in the Times of Israel, "In Har Nof, Introspection, But No Religious War". There was no attempt to attach blame to anyone other than the murderers and those who incite them. There were no claims from Har Nof residents that it was due to the sins of a different community (unlike the Satmar Rav, who claimed that the non-Zionist victims were killed in retribution for the Zionists who ascend the Temple Mount, as a lesson which would have been entirely lost due to neither group being followers of Satmar). The gratitude to Zidan Saif, including Rav Rubin attending his funeral, was genuine, not merely "to make a kiddush Hashem".

I was inspired, and not at all surprised. This was, after all, Har Nof. I spent countless Shabbosos there when I was in yeshivah, and I lived there for eight months after I got married, and I can attest that it is full of the most wonderful people. This is not a naive claim that they are all wonderful; I know of several people there of poor character. But my impression is that a larger-than-usual percentage of the population is of exceptional character.

Har Nof is a mostly charedi neighborhood in which a large proportion of the population are olim, and/or baalei teshuvah to varying degrees, and/or involved in Jewish education by choice (i.e. not because they had no other skills or general education or socially acceptable options). This means that a large proportion of the population are extremely idealistic. Add to this that many of them are Anglos, and this means (apologies for the xenophobia) that they have certain qualities that are often lacking in their Israeli co-religionists.

It was around twenty years ago, when I first started spending time in Har Nof, that I became greatly enamored of the charedi world, and began crusading for the charedi cause. At the time, someone argued to me that I was making a mistake in extrapolating from the idealistic Anglo olim/ baalei teshuvah/ mechanchim of the charedi world to the charedi world in general. I was reminded of this last week, when someone spread the inspirational account of how one woman had taken it upon herself to arrange free transportation for people to attend the funeral of Zidan Saif. The person who shared the story with me stressed that this was a charedi woman, from Beitar, using her story to score points for charedim. Upon reading about her noble deed, however, I was intrigued to see that she had arranged it by means of Facebook. If she is using Facebook - something that is banned for the charedi community - then she is certainly not typical of the charedi world!

In any case, I hope that we can all take a lesson from the wonderful qualities of all our fellow Jews who were involved in this horrible event. By doing so, this is a credit to those who tragically lost their lives.

18 comments:

  1. Was that a reverse “No True Scotsman” you just pulled there?

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  2. For the record - 'twas not always so. When HN was planned,it was meant to be a 'mixed' neighborhood. It began to be populated inthe early 1980's, and for the first three or four years of the shechunah there were bitter, ungly and often violent fights as the Haredi population -- including, and sometimes led by, your Anglos - worked hard to rid H N of its secular, and then Dati Leumi residents. The few dozen chiloni families who bought into the neighborhood were driven out within months. I witnessed violence at first hand. The D L battle went on for much longer - much of it centered around the interesting experiment of the Minhelet, a Teddy-Kollek-inspired experiment in local neighborhood government. The H N minhelet was headed for a long time by Anglo lawyer (later judge) Marcus. There were Bet Shemesh-like incidents over schools, shuls, stores etc. [Why anyone should have been surprised at the shenanigans in Bet Shemesh mystifies me - it was a rerun of the territorial HN battle.] Too long to detail here, but it was UGLY, and the Anglos supported it all, and often led it. In general, Haredim, incl BT and Anglo Haredim are wonderful people - as long as they have what they want. The BT's drank the Kool-Aid fully.

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  3. R. Slifkin, you are mistaken. The widow of R. Moshe Twersky categorically blamed the Litvishe leadership - i.e. Rav Steinman - for the death of her husband. She rated it as caused by their heated opposition to the radical anti-Zionist Yerushalmi (R. Auerbach) faction, with which her family is associated.

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    1. You are absolutely correct.

      http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Widow-of-slain-rabbi-blames-internal-haredi-discord-for-Jerusalem-synagogue-terror-attack-382932

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    2. The way I read the article you cite is that she has blamed the strife and division between the two sides, not R. Steinman. If we are looking for an internal cause, then the in-fighting between these two contesting sides is a reasonable candidate for cause.

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    3. I read some of the comments to the JPost article--I'm saddened by seeing so many people saying that Ms. Twersky's soul-searching for individual transgressions after such a tragedy is "superstition". These commentors aren't aware that such soul-searching is a Torah command (Rambam, Hilchos Ta'anis, 1:3), and there is nothing superstitious about it.

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    4. I didn't read the article from jpost. I will just tell you that is nonsense. Rebbetzin Twersky said the fighting between all sects of Judaism is what causes Hashem's anger and that people fighting that my way or my gadol is better than your way and your gadol and throwing insults and fights at each other (much of what this blog is committed to) is what causes Hashem's anger. She most certainly did not blame any gadol, not Rav Shteinman or anyone else. Actually, just the opposite, her message was that we all need to respect each other and each other's rabbonim, even if they are from a different "camp."

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  4. http://shtieble.net/%D7%9C%D7%9E%D7%94-%D7%9E%D7%9B%D7%AA%D7%91-%D7%94%D7%90%D7%9C%D7%9E%D7%A0%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%91%D7%A7%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%90%D7%94-%D7%9C%D7%90%D7%94%D7%91%D7%AA-%D7%99%D7%A9%D7%A8%D7%90%D7%9C-%D7%9C%D7%90/

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  5. Here's a faculty member at a division of YU itself blaming it on people who go up to the Har HaBayit:

    http://rygb.blogspot.co.il/2014/11/har-habayis-redux.html

    By the way, the whole topic is a classic example of rationalism vs. anti-rationalism. You should write a post on it. I'll do it, if you want.

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    1. Well, he's not exactly a paragon of rationalism. But does he mean it as a natural consequence (inflaming the Arabs) or a metaphysical punishment unrelated to incitement?

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    2. He means it as a natural consequence - I don't believe he said that that is THE reason, just that since going up to the Har HaBayit can inflame the Arabs, it should be avoided (even if there is only a slight chance of causing an attack).

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    3. The existence of Jews inflames Arabs even more.

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    4. R' Slifkin: I wasn't referring to his post, but the whole question of whether it is mutar or assur to go to up to the Temple Mount. (Leaving aside Arab-related concerns.) One one side you have what seems to me to be people rationally pointing out the actual halakha as well as "facts on the ground" regarding geography, archaeology, and history; on the other side you have people yelling "Assur!" "Karet!" and the like without much else.

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    5. The irrational view is the one which claims Temple Mount has anything to do with the 3rd Intifada currently ongoing, or any of its specific acts, including the one in Har Nof. Because there is no factual basis to that "opinion." Hamas doesn't even claim that this attack was due to the Temple Mount. They claimed it was a "response" to the arab bus driver, whose autopsy showed he committed suicide, but whom they claim was murdered by Jews (of course). To a rational being, the 2 young adult jihadists were trained operatives who spent months planning their attack and surveilling its target after being trained in their village by the hamas organization. Just like every other professional terrorist operation. When will people open their eyes to the fact that these are professional acts by operatives within highly trained militia groups?

      They are professionally trained in hand-to-hand combat, trained in the use of weapons, trained to embark on an ultimately suicidal mission of jihad. And all allowed to happen because God forbid the Israeli occupation entering one of these villages and policing what goes on there.

      "Blaming" it on a suicide from 2 days ago isn't any more credible than "blaming" it mystically on the footsteps of Jews on Har Habayit which apparently so angered God that he sent jihadis to chop up haredim. Haredim who are non-zionist and anti-zionist and by and large oppose ascension of the Mount. Please can we view these issues rationally?

      The beheadings, limb-chopping, and ritualistic smearing of blood was a crafted mission. It was designed and planned. Armed and financed. The intent was murder but also the transmission of a message. We partially conveyed that message by plastering their "artwork" on the front pages of all our "kosher" Jewish newspapers. The proximity and familiarity of the assailants with the surroundings was no coincidence. The observation that none within the minyan at this time of morning carries a weapon was part of the reconnaissance and fact-gathering for the mission. Were it not the case, the plan would have been in place to strike elsewhere, and likely the janitor changes his employment until finding the right target.

      By the way, Al aqsa Mosque, and supposed Jewish plots against it, was exactly what the Mufti Haj amin Al huseini used in 1929 to pep-talk the Muslims prior to their rage-filled, murderous Hebron riot. Just as much a lie then as it is now, to say that Jewish activity there has anything to do with this violence we are seeing.

      I am sick and tired of arab murders being "blamed" on this or that perceived Jewish insult, misdeed, injustice, or political conquest. Even more sick of Jews taking the bait like true suckers, and accepting these explanations as factual. They are for western and leftist consumption to "justify" what they are doing to a western mind. They are not the true reason behind the operations. Political aspirations and genocide of Jews are.

      It is not rational to claim that Hashem is mystically punishing Jews for ascending the mount. And it is no more rational to say that Jews ascending temple mount (which they have done since 1967) has inflamed Arabs to commit these murders. That is simply a message of the Arab propaganda machine and has nothing to do with the facts.

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    6. Nachum, I think that you are making this out to be simpler than it is. Part of the argument of the "anti" side is that we don't have any special halachic reason or other religious need to go up on the Temple Mount, and thus no reason to risk sparking a religious war with the Moslems on this point. Part of the "It is Assur" crowd is really saying "let's not even open up this issue, because it can only cause strife." In that sense, the "anti" side is being more rational and the "pro" side being more idealistic and and possibly ignoring consequences to do what they view as God's Will.

      You mention that your discussion is "leaving aside Arab-related concerns", but I think that it may be difficult to disentangle that issue. I believe that if, hypothetically, Jews had the only religious claim on the site, then you would find that many Zionists on the "anti" side would be taking different positions. Unfortunately, I can't run an experiment to test out my hypothesis.

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    7. David: I see your point. But the fact is that many "halakhic" arguments are made, and in my eyes are frankly anti-rational.

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    8. Nachum: I don't disagree, but there are actually two other factors operating here besides "irrationality". One is the political issue that we agree sometimes is expressed in the form of "it's assur; let's not go there".

      The other is the reluctance to allow for the academic study of Judaism to influence Halacha. Three practical examples that I can think of would be use of horseradish for Maror, Techelet for Tzitzit (cue Techelet police) and saying Me'ein Shalos on oats. In each case, you can bring evidence that the the current custom doesn't align with the historical fact or custom. Nevertheless, a conservative view of halachah implies that what is practiced has normative value: horseradish may have been introduced because of a Sha'at Ha'Dechak, but now that it has been introduced, it is valid. I'm not saying that is correct, nor that all these cases are exactly equivalent, but it is not also not irrational.

      Student V, no one on this thread was agreeing with the notion that this tragedy was God's punishment for Jews visiting the Temple Mount or otherwise endorsing the Satmar position. And the fact that religious tension can be inflamed by evil people intent on evil doesn't mean that we should ignore those tensions and inflame them ourselves.

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  6. Temujin would appreciate refua shleyma prayers from any Yid'n here for his school friend of many years ago, Howard (now Rabbi) Rothman, one of the severely injured in the Har Nof attack. One still has and holds dear a book on Torah hashkofot Howie gave him over 20 years ago in Toronto...one of the many acts which changed the heading-tack on Temujin's compass rose.

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