Monday, January 8, 2018

How Do You Stop Jews Stoning Jews?

Down the hill from the lovely neighborhood where I live is the world's number one hotbed of religious Jewish fanaticism: Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet, known as RBS-B. Earlier today, a religious IDF soldier was driving his car through that neighborhood when he was assailed by stones. He lost control of his car, crashed into a post, and had to be hospitalized.

It could have been worse. He could have been killed. He could have run over a child. God forbid, such a thing could happen next time. As I once wrote in a post, it may be only a matter of time before someone is killed.

What does one do about this? I've been writing about it for years, but I don't know if that's achieved anything. A number of local activists organized a rally. Maybe that will make things better, by motivating locals and authorities to take action. Maybe it will make things worse, by inciting the zealots further. I honestly don't know, and I'm not sure if anyone else knows, either.

Meanwhile, while all this was going down, I was dealing with other stone-throwing religious hooligans in Beit Shemesh. I was in my office at the Biblical Museum of Natural History, and I happened to glance at the feed from the security cameras. To my dismay, I saw three little children with long peyos, who looked no more than seven years old, throwing stones at our outdoors petting zoo. I raced outside and confronted them.

"Yeladim, would you like it if I threw stones at your house?" I asked them.

"What, is this your house?" one of them asked me in puzzlement.

They didn't appear to grasp the message, but they stopped throwing stones.

A half-hour later, we had a scheduled visit of fifty children from a local Talmud Torah from a certain sect in RBS-B. Some of these communities refuse to visit zoos, since they are open on Shabbos. We not only present a rich Torah experience, but we also provide a Shomer Shabbos, "safe" environment for them - there are no dinosaurs or other hashkafically-challenging material, we switch off all the video screens, we hide any promotional literature with pictures of women, and the female members of staff stay out of sight. Today's group even asked our guide to conceal his smartphone.

We run many such tours and it's never clear to me who finds the experience more fascinating, them or us. These are children from communities that don't visit zoos, that don't have pets, and that don't watch wildlife documentaries. They have never have had any significant exposure to the natural world, and it shows in the most unexpected ways. For example, in our record-breaking exhibit of shofars from different species, we have little plastic figurines of the animals that each shofar is from. Frequently, the children ask if the figurines are real animals!

I don't guide these groups myself; we have an American-Israeli charedi-lite guide for these groups (and a chassidic guide from the Kirya Charedit for the Yiddish-speaking groups). But I often step into the main hall to watch, and to assist with the handling of exotic animals that takes place at the end of each tour. Like all Israelis, these kids are often quite unruly compared with Anglos. And within each group, as with any group, there is a spectrum of personalities - there are the adorable, sweet, polite kids, and there are the ruffians.

Sometimes I wonder if I am dealing with a kid who, ten years down the line, will be throwing rocks at soldiers and religious Zionists. But these children inevitably have a certain measure of respect for the staff of the museum, even though we are not from their communities. And we have impressed (and perhaps surprised) them with our knowledge of animals and Torah. I'm not sure if anyone outside of their communities has ever made such an impression on them before.

And when we show them how to handle the animals, which is a completely new experience for them, we teach them how to interact respectfully with others. These children, with no previous exposure to animals, often don't realize that animals are living creatures with feelings. When they bang on the cage to make the animal move, I ask them if they would like it someone banged on their house, and you can see how they are grasping the concept. When they ask if the turtle or lizard or snake will bite them, I tell them that if they treat the animal gently and with respect, it will reciprocate. And they understand, and they handle the animal more gently.

I don't know how much this blog impacts charedi society. I don't know how much counter-violence rallies impact charedi society. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps the Biblical Museum of Natural History, in the long run, has the gentlest but greatest impact.


We are currently working on taking the museum to the next level, by moving to a much larger building. If you'd like to support our efforts, you can do so at this link. Thank you and yasher koach!

33 comments:

  1. I bet if R'Slifkin started a public campaign where he advocated stoning, the Gedolim would put a stop to stoning just to spite him.

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  2. How do you stop any criminal behavior? You arrest and punish the perpetrators. This is not rocket science.

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  3. Let me be blunt: you are feeding the problem
    First of all, a look at history. Name me a single time a significant bully was turned into a friend by a display of meekness. Not the After School special trope where the bully is helped in his hour of need by his victim and learns new respect. (Like that ever happens in real life!)
    You will find the opposite: bullies only back down in the face of superior force. Yeah, yeah, we don't want to be like our enemies, we don't want to use their methods and all that. Sure, because being morally pure while one's head is shoved into the toilet is so much better than standing up for oneself and showing strength.
    You don't like Chareidi mobs throwing stones? You get your own mob and throw bigger ones. Believe me, those goons will disperse the first sign of personal danger to themselves.
    And the museum accommodating them? It's just a more subtle form of bullying. Sure, we'll come visit you as long as you acknowledge our "superior" standards. By making the museum a safe space for them you are saying that you and your Judaism are inferior and must accommodate them if you want to interact.
    And ultimately nothing productive will come of these encounters because they will never see the need to try to accommodate you.

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    Replies
    1. Why in blazes would we want to create a counter-mob, when well-funded police already exist? Is there some law against enforcing the law? Or is government too paralyzed by coalition politics to do the right thing? In that case, the government could even opt to go after the counter-mob!

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    2. A law is only as effective as the will to enforce it. The last couple of decades in Ramat Beit Shemesh keep reinforcing the lack of interest of the city officials in keeping order. As crazy as vigilantism sounds, it might be the only solution to restoring sanity.

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    3. This needs a national answer if the locals can't or won't deal with it.

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    4. Chaim the Rov'sJanuary 10, 2018 at 8:16 PM

      Garnel, your simplistic analogy to bullies is wrong, dangerous and viscereal. You may enjoy the idea of fighting fire with fire, but it just ends up in a conflagration. These people are not motivated by the same thing as bullies and the solution is not the same. Your idea is like giving chemotherapy for a heart attack.

      Try and understand them and you will understand what they want and how to stop it.

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  4. "the female members of staff stay out of sight"

    Wow! That means you can even make it safe for the snowflake anti-feminist commenters here who melt at the thought of women with jobs outside the kitchen ;)

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    1. I found it offensive that such aberrant attitudes towards females were accommodated to the point that they would hidden "out of sight". (Substitute Black folks for women and see how that sounds.)

      Ends justify the means?

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    2. zdub: True, but sometimes you just have to tolerate intolerance to make some progress. Of course, I'm not the one hidden away, that's easy for me to say.

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    3. I think David Ohsie meant to say, "...snowflake bigots who cant tolerate people more religious than themselves." The hypocrisy of such self-appointed "guardians of women" is remarkable; in their patronizing condescension, its obvious they think women are too weak to speak for themselves, and thus need people like himself to champion their "cause" whether they want him or not.

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    4. @czl: I think that you are spot on in your comment.

      One of the reasons to keep the women out of site is the very right wing groups can't tolerate that others could be just as or more religious than them and not keep the women out of sight. They would have much less trouble visiting an secular museum in the US with female employees than a religious institution with the same employees. It punctures their worldview that very observant people can also let women have a role.

      I also agree that the defense the usual right-wing defense for the hiding of women is absurd. They usually say something like "we treat women like queens". So it is OK that that are not allowed to drive a car, because we men will drive them.

      I agree that this is absurdly condescending to women, who might rather be treated like people and to be given their freedom to act as adults rather than being treated like immature princesses.

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  5. Chayalim should be allowed to treat RBS-B the same as any other enemy territory. Live ammo and permission to use it.

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    Replies
    1. i don't know when you served in the IDF, but every time that i serve in the miluim (which is frequently) it is made very clear that there are virtually no circumstances under which it is permitted to use live ammunition against arab stone throwers.

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    2. I never served. The places where Arabs throw stones are not enemy territory, even if there are enemies there. The areas where Chayalim are found are in Israeli control. I wrote "enemy territory" and I meant it. When Israel invades Gaza, those soldiers are not using rubber bullets.

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    3. And rbs - b is more enemy territory than the west bank?

      At least be self consistent.

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    4. Avi, do you think things through even marginally before posting them?

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    5. I am being consistent. I didn't compare it to the WB, and I see no reason to. I want it compared to enemy territory because I want Chayalim to be legally permitted to defend themselves. I don't place any value on the lives of Charedi stone throwers in RBSB.

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    6. "Chayalim should be allowed to treat RBS-B the same as any other enemy territory."

      Given the west bank is certainly more enemy territory than RBS-B, this statement is incorrect.

      You should have said "the same as enemy territory".

      But that is just being pedantic.

      However the idea that we should kill stone throwers is immature.
      Hopefully with a bit of life experience and common sense behind you, you will not see the world in black and white, but in shades of grey.

      Do you really think shooting and killing their own citizens, will further the cause of the army, or will it damage them irreparably?

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    7. Yavoy, these people have no positions of responsibility and have never thought through any policy details. You have to think of them like the football fans who second guess the players' and coaches's move while never having played the game themselves. It's just a hobby.

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  6. In other words, how do you get people to reexamine their core belief ??

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  7. If only more extreme hareidim would put down their stones for a bit and get stoned.

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  8. Let's do a thought experiment and replace the words haredi in Beit Shemesh with Palestinian in Ramallah. If the stone thrower was Palestinian there would be curfews and house to house starches for the perpetrator. The fact that the stone was thrown by a Jew should not elicit a lesser response. Thrown stones don't care about the religion of their throwers and neither should we.

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    Replies
    1. You do know that Ramallah is entirely within Arab control, right? Israeli police have no jurisdiction there.

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    2. The fact that one group would cut out the intestines of every Jew if they could isn't relevant to you?

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    3. I am not sure how this is relevant to a comment about Ramallah. There are no (admitted) Jews in Ramallah, thus the violence would be Arab-on-Arab, not Arab-on-Jew, and the Israeli government would not be involved.

      How Arabs feel about Jews has nothing to do with this.

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    4. It is relevant regarding rocks thrown at soldiers. Replace Ramallah with Hebron if that makes the example sharper. Either way we should treat incidences of rocks thrown at soldiers equally, regardless of who is doing the rock throwing.

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  9. 'These are children from communities that don't visit zoos'

    Is this true? Satmarers and Toldos Aaron enjoy zoos as much as the next guy, probably rather more so. What are the communities that don't?

    In answer to the broad question. The Israeli police simply don't enforce the law: against strikers, against demonstrators, against people playing music at 1 in the morning, against people who litter, against people who walk around with pitbulls without a muzzle, against against mob bosses acting in the open etc. It's a general problem. They seem to think their job consists of asking people to show their ID for no reason.

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  10. When they ask if the turtle or lizard or snake will bite them, I tell them that if they treat the animal gently and with respect, it will reciprocate.

    Really? You endangered these kids because they could take this literally. I treated my daughter's red eared slider very gently, but he bit me when I held it.

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    Replies
    1. We're not amateurs. We don't give red-eared sliders to kids to hold.

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  11. "How do you stop JEWS"? 21st century Haredim are Jews the way second century Christians were Jews: NOT!

    ReplyDelete

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