Was the "Charedi Day Of Rage" Charedi?
NOTE: My lecture this Tuesday in Teaneck on "Chicken Wars" is cancelled. But the lecture is taking place in Woodmere tomorrow (Monday), at Beis Tefilah at 8pm.
Last Thursday saw the "Charedi Day Of Rage," in which thousands of charedi demonstrators blocked roads across Israel and engaged in mass protests, some of which turned violent. This was in response to the arrest of two yeshivah students who had not registered for an army exemption, and were caught after being pulled over for dangerous driving on their way back from the Dead Sea (no doubt visiting one of the many yeshivos there). It was organized by Rav Shmuel Auerbach's "Peleg Yerushalmi" faction.
This was a very serious event. In the words of one participant, "We’ll fight with every fiber of our being; we’d accept death before transgression on this. We’ll fight to our last drop of blood. We will not give up. We’ll die before joining the army.” They will leave yeshiva and engage in violent warfare rather than leave yeshivah and serve in the Israel Defense Forces! (I saw it reported in the name of one cynical Rosh Yeshivah that halachically, they should not choose to die; instead, they should simply amputate their hands and be exempt from army duty.) On a serious note, though, this was a terrible enterprise, causing problems for countless thousands of people, as was the intention - the official summons to protest announced that וכל הגולה כולה תבער כמדורת אש.
To what extent can this horrible event be called a "charedi" phenomenon? Rabbi Avraham Edelstein argues that it was not a charedi event at all. He states that the Peleg faction is only 5% of the charedi community, and does not represent the values of mainstream charedim. He concludes, "Don't call these people charedim. Don't even call them Orthodox."
It is certainly true that there is a deep division in Israeli charedi society between the mainstream Rav Steinman camp and the Rav Shmuel Auerbach camp. I am also fairly certain that many, perhaps even most, Israeli charedim were disgusted by last Thursday's event. It is therefore misleading and even defamatory to consider it as representing mainstream charedi society.
Still, to completely disavow any charedi aspect of the Day Of Rage is incorrect, for two reasons.
First is that the Peleg group does not exist in a vacuum. As discussed previously in a post on Charedi Extremist Violence, there is a continuous spectrum in the charedi world of opposition to the State and the IDF. There was Rav Steinman and others referring to the government as Amalek. There was the entirety of charedi society turning out for a rally in which they recited Shefoch Chamascha - referring to the government. Yes, the Peleg faction is more extreme than the rest of charedi society, but they are clearly on the same spectrum.
The second reason why it is incorrect to deny any charedi aspect to the Day Of Rage is that the rest of Charedi society is not condemning it (or even mentioning it). There is a report going around that Rav Chaim Kanievsky condemned it, but it's just not true; what he condemned was a protest against his emissary Rav Rosen at a yeshivah in Kiryat Sefer.
Rabbi Edelstein is writing a kiruv piece for non-charedim. Have Yated or HaModia or Ami or Mishpacha condemned Rav Shmuel Auerbach (and have they even reported on the Day of Rage)? The mainstream charedi press has no qualms in calling out the excesses of Open Orthodoxy as demonstrating that they are not Orthodox. But they are not going to do the same here. Because, ultimately, they see Open Orthodoxy (and Modern Orthodoxy, and Religious Zionists) as "other," whereas they see Rav Shmuel Auerbach and the Peleg faction as "us."
Let's be honest about what the societal problem is. That's the first step in trying to solve a conflict that's getting to be almost as severe as the Chicken Wars.