Monday, October 17, 2011


Crazy Israeli Societal Conflicts

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

It’s Yom Simchasaynu, the time of our rejoicing.  One of the unusual aspects of this time in Israel is that much of the country is on internal vacation for the week.  This means you run into yeshiva bochrim and Tel Aviv businessmen hiking and visiting attractions with their families – together, in the same place at the same time.

One of the most interesting examples of this is in Meah Shearim.  Meah Shearim is the most strongly cloistered ultra-orthodox Jewish community in the world.  While it’s physically part of Jerusalem, crossing it’s boundary is literally crossing into another world.  One of yeshivas and shuls, chassidic rebbes and their courts, charity organizations and individualized services (tailors, clothing makers.

During Chol HaMoed Succos, each large synagogue, yeshiva, and chassidic court holds a big party in honor of the ancient water drawing festival (which cannot be held without the Holy Temple).  They have live bands, free food and drink, and massive dancing.  These are not “open to their members” or “open to their community”, rather they’re open to the public – to every Jew (and any other tourist of Israel who may be wandering by).

This leads to massive crowds as people, mostly religious Jews of all variety but also numbers of all types just interested in checking it out or joining the fun, stream into a very cramped and narrow neighborhood.  (How cramped and narrow?  Many streets are walking-only alleyways.  The biggest streets in the neighborhood are 1-way and have room for a compact car.  When a bus comes down the street people have to duck into stores to make room for it to get by.)

Now this is, as mentioned, the ultimate ultra-orthodox community in the world.  They’ve happily invited the world to join their celebration in honor of the Torah.  But as crowds have grown and more varieties of people have been coming and partying (in all aspects of that word), things are getting a little out of control in the streets.

So to try to keep the situation under control and prevent inappropriate activities, they attempted to segregate the street into male and female walkways (with actual fences or tarps spread down the street.  It’s been a bit of a mess, the areas are narrow and access to stores and stuff – as well as the different shul or yeshiva entrances, make it rather problematic.

They’ve adjusted the system over a few years to try to make it somewhat workable and meet their goal of preventing face to face gender mixing in the street – and it’s gotten a bit better.  And hey, it’s their neighborhood and their party, so if that’s the way they want to run it – if I don’t like it I won’t go.

So naturally someone from Tel Aviv got upset at this.  They wanted to walk through the narrow street in the ultra-orthodox community in the midst of a religious festival hand in hand.  In response to not being able to do what they wanted to do…they filed a court case with the Israeli Supreme Court.

And the court ruled…no gender segregation on a public street. 

We’ve actually covered this before on Mystical Paths, the topic seems to come up year after year.  And that’s primarily because the police really don’t want to enforce a nonsensical order that places them (the police) against a whole community which is well organized and not above responding, strongly.  Further, the whole discussion is over a 4 day evening event (in other words, just ignore it or delay for a few days and the problem is gone, the street segregation is only during the evening celebration period).

Once again it’s come up and the court is yelling at the police to go do something (so this one Tel Aviv couple can stroll through the middle of an ultra-orthodox neighborhood during a religious festival hand-in-hand).

I wrote this response to the newspaper article and Tel Avians who insist on their rights

Guess what, the court can't simply rule by fiat!  They open their neighborhood for a festival – their private and privately funded celebration, where they are happy for EVERY Jew to join them in celebration of the Torah.

But it's their neighborhood and they have a few simple rules if you're going to join them.  If you don't like the rules, fine, don't come. 

If you think you're going to sit like a priestess on a pedestal and tell them how to run it...fine, they’ll just close the doors to the yeshiva's and synagogue's (where it's all held) and you can just go away.

NOTE – THEY gain NOTHING from you being there.  THEY”RE giving away FREE FOOD, FREE DRINK, providing LIVE MUSIC.  No donations are taken, no payment expected.  They’re sharing their joy out of their kindness to their fellow Jew.

Would you force them to close their doors to you?  (And then turn around and scream about their closed doors and separation from Israeli society?)  Hashem Yerachem (G-d have mercy), apparently so.


  1. According to the article you linked to, the person who filed the suit is not from Tel Aviv, but from Jerusalem, where she is a member of the city council.

    I also want to know if you think that the same right of a neighborhood to enforce its standards on visitors should be available to all neighborhoods. If there is too much traffic in the street when parents bring their children to gan in the morning, could we put up our own traffic signs?

  2. The should Jews not be allowed in arab neighborhoods?

  3. P,

    Your example is poor as if your children are at risk and you're waiting on the city to do something - in Israel you better do something as your children will be in high school, if they survive the street, before the city will act.


    There are plenty of Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem where it is clearly unsafe for Jews to travel. The police are not busily rushing to enforce the right of that city councilperson to travel there either. In the past the city withdrew city services from those neighborhoods because it became unsafe for municipal workers to travel there - and the police didn't rush to provide escorts or remedy that either.

    And further, no one would expect 2 Jews to be able to put on a public display of relationship or affection in an Arab neighborhood and come out unscathed.

    Meah Shearim has no through streets. Non-residents enter to visit, shop, or as tourists. They expect such visitors to RESPECT them and take some minimal steps to not act in ways that the community finds offensive - or please don't visit.

    What's so ridiculous about that?

  4. I am frum and dress modestly, and I find this issue of separate sides of the street to be completely ridiculous. At some point men, Yes, men have to take some responsibility for themselves and their behaviour. Furthermore, when was this ever done in a Jewish community in our history. It is a ridiculous innovation.

    It is also illegal and as such it should not be allowed. I believe in respecting local sensibilities, but there comes a point when they are so far fetched, it becomes impossible to accommodate them.

    Furthermore, you seem to be threatening the police, or at least suggesting that the locals will. ("ready to respond strongly").

    Everyone in this story needs to behave with a bit more sechel.

  5. I live on a dead end street, so no one is passing through. And no children are at risk. We just want to hang up signs in front of the gan limiting non-resident parking to five minutes during the time that parents bring their children. And if the police tear it down, we plan to "respond strongly".

    Am we justified, because it's our neighborhood, and if gan parents don't like our rules, there are other ganim, or do we have to obey the law?

  6. P,

    There is no law against you placing a sign saying parking is limited. Similarly there is no law against me placing a sign saying "this sidewalk for women only, men on the other side please".

    And if I place such a sign and most people follow the directive and self organize that way - perfectly legal EVEN IF SOME PEOPLE DON'T LIKE IT.

    Now Israel is a place of laws, interpretations and whatever the heck the court decides it wants to do. So the court decides my sign is sexist - which may be illegal in hiring or public provided services but doesn't legally prevent me from expressing my opinion or posting signs about it...but they stretch to mean any sign I put up that bothers people.

    So who's right? Well, they are because they decided so. Funny how they always decide the liberal way, never take into account neighborhood or religious concerns, and always empower officialdom and disempower the people.

    Funny that.

  7. I recall a few years ago my wife and I where walking in meah shearim holding hands. One of the goons came to me telling me the 'rules' the game on the public Jerusalem street. We exchanged a few words and we went on our way. A bit later we came out of a store to cross the street and another of the goon squad drove his blue gmc van at a very high rate of speed at my wife and myself to scare us. I was not phased by this chillul haShem.

    If you want to have a getto mentality, then go indoors with it. Have a fenced off area (not the invented wire hanging in the air then claiming it's no longer public) and sell tickets to the event. The Ultra Orthodox in Meah Shearim do not represent Jews, nor do they represent derech haShem. They represent the control of the Erev Rav who has plagued the Jewish people for the last roughly 3500 years now. They are the ones completely responsible, Akiva, for our exile and continuation of the exile.

    You deleted my response to daat Torah because I see what the gedolim have become. If we corrected the mess these men have created you would see even secular Jews wanting to return to Torah. It is these Jews dressed in garb of the polish aristocrats that are completely responsible for driving Jews away. A Jew is one who does their utmost to follow the Torah of Moshe, ones who actually contradict it and change it are actually Jewish by default, not those secular who throw out the baby with the bathwater. When the Mashiach is reavealled, maybe when the Erev Rav repent, they can then convert back to Torah and become Jewish again.

  8. It doesn't say in the article that they just hung signs, they also built fences and stationed ushers. So I amend my plan, we won't only post signs, we'll build a gate at the entrance to our dead end street, and someone will be stationed there to open it for people who live there to pass, or who agree to follow our rules.

  9. P,

    Sounds like the entrance to almost EVERY moshav, kibbutz, and yishuv. Which are public streets and policed, yet follow the rules set by the community (and you can't even move in without community council approval!)

    So you and Meah Shearim have a strong precedent in Israel.

  10. When in Rome behave like a Roman which these days is to riot and to destroy ATM machines. When in Meah She'arim, don't hold hands with your wife or other, especially if you are going to a party that they are hosting. Seems reasonable. My wife and I can hold hands almost everywhere else in the world. We can resist the temptation to do so in Meah She'arim. Peace with respect.

  11. Dov, of course. So attempting to kill my wife and myself with a van (some 8 years ago now) for not obeying a rabbinical fence is derech haShem? This is what 'religion' has become, completely so far away from the Torah of Moshe and these are the ones to claim to be the gate keepers. And you follow theír 'truth' by intimidation and force. When in someones house or neighborhood I do respect their insanity, but when they cross lines all bets are off.

    When they begin to respect Jews who know their game is a farce and not from God, and throw out the baby with the bathwater based on their corrupted interpretation of the Torah, then maybe things might change and people will respect the ignorant fences of the rabbi's which drive the majority of Jews away from the Torah of Moshe.

    It's proof that the endless array of fences prove futile and never enough. The need for more is endless. Burka's, segregated streets, when will you guy's wake up and see the idolotry? When will the Jewish people be set free from the spiritual prison they now live in?

    Torah will unite us, religion is killing us Dov. Religion of the Erev Rav has never corrected the big picture. It's driven us apart. It's caused the invention of other world religions (this you know studying the kabbalah) in order to get the idea of God out. It caused our exile, it causes our delay in the geulah. The easy geulah could take place if Jews world wide would reject these people and begin to correct the errors of our derech. Since this is impossible today, (Thanks Moshe for allowing them to join the Jewish people) we all know now it's going the hard route, unless haShem saves us in order to save His Great Name. That's our only hope now.

  12. OK, so we're declaring the dead end street to be a moshav. Do you think we could get away with that?

  13. Giving the spotlight to the fools does not help. Ignore them and find someone normal. They should have a refuah shleimah through a good psychiatrist.

    Speaking of medical problems and warped "religiosity", do I remember wrong, or a few years ago someone on this website, a baal teshuva sure enough, posted about how their boy broke his wrist on shabbat and they did not bring the child to ER/hospital and left him to suffer, risking long-term damage as well?


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