By Rabbi Aaron Gol...
January 2, 2012
Our attention this past year has been so grabbed by issues of global significance, that it is sometimes easy to ignore societal trends unless they explode into an act that outrages us. The riots in areas of London and other places in England were such a case in point. They did not occur in a vacuum, it was just that our attention was elsewhere, detuned to kindling that waited for a spark to ignite it.
Such has also been the case with our attention on Israeli society and in particular segregation of women in ultra-orthodox circles and extreme responses to Palestinian and left-leaning NGOs. We have seen the horrific work of the ‘price-tag’ hooligans who committed arson against mosques and terrorised leftish politicians and their supporters. We have lived with the concept of ‘mehadrin,’ gender-segregated buses since 2006 when Miriam Shear was assaulted for refusing to give up her seat to a male passenger and move to the back of the bus.
Maybe it was the lack of other news but the focus on abuse by men from the Sicarii - an extreme charedi, ultra-orthodoxy sect - in Beit Shemesh, of girls as young as 8 attending a state-funded national-religious school – calling them ‘prostitutes’ and being spat on – has awakened Israeli society from its slumber and demands our attention...
...Pappenheim and other charedi reformists, who risk personal attack and ostracisation to speak up, provide an interesting train of thought. They believe that the Sicarii should be clamped down on but that the charedi majority who seek to be engaged in the army, academia and the professions need support from the government and general public. What is called for is a nuanced response not a polarized reaction that demonises all charedim.
In the words of Hagai Segal, “The ultra-Orthodox community suspects that the major campaign against women’s exclusion is not premised on frank concern for women, but rather, on deep hatred for charedim. Hence, instead of developing anger at the violent minority within it, the charedi community is developing a feeling of collective persecution. It feels that there is no point in protesting against the radicals, because in any case the outside world despises the radicals and the moderates equally.”
Our world is crying out for leaders who are able to understand or at least, listen to those who strive to understand, underlying issues in society, and do not respond to situations in ways that are self-serving. This week, F W de Klerk spoke on his role in bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa. What motivates a leader to take action that isn't necessarily in their own political, personal or class interest? He says that it was the recognition that his country was on the brink of disaster, a situation that would bring bloodshed and hurt...
For the full thought see http://www.npls.org.uk/Sermons/New/Vayigash5772.html