Haredim in Israel: Fanatic means going too far

Has Swedish TV lost its marbles? Pro-Palestine Swedish TV, has this week broadcast at least two programs about the ultra-orthodox Jews of Israel. (Albeit at a very late hour when most people are asleep. And I am not totally convinced that they are broadcasting these programs for noble reasons?) Well, I guess they do not like to be called that themselves, since to them it sounds like they are fanatics. But sorry, that is really what they are. I don’t say this to be mean. Doesn’t bother me, as long as they do not hurt anyone. On the other hand, the two programs have described a problem which we discussed in detail, during my University studies, when I took a 20 point course in Judaism 1994(Religion History department).  And that is the problem of: by demanding to live in a bubble, apart from the world, they do not “render unto Caesar what is owed to Caesar” (my own interpretation of the Lord’s words). They ARE hurting someone with their fanaticism.

The first program was actually about a Yeshiva and I stayed up till very late, Saturday evening, in order to see how everything worked out for the different young men shown. Not very nice Sunday morning though, when I sat and yawned the entire time. Somehow I did manage to teach my lesson about Abram changing his name to Abraham though, and the Lord performing a miracle, letting 91-year-old Sara give birth to a baby even though she did not “have things the way women have it”  anymore. I have things that way still, so where is my miracle???? Tough lesson to teach when you want that miracle for yourself.

imageI could not get people to watch the program with me, but I guess I am alone in this household to hold a fascination for it all, Isaac Bashevis Singer being one of my very favourite authors! Watching the program was like being in one of his novels. And of course I could not stop thinking about “Yentl” and her arguing with “Avigdor”. (I just love that film so much!!! And to think that it is just a VERY short story by Singer?!) But it also made me think of my teachers at the Judaism course, describing life in Mea Sharim, Jerusalem. How these young men decide to study the Torah full-time, all their life, earning absolutely nothing for their upkeep. Then they choose a wife, whose father is willing to support them, so that they can continue doing “nothing”. Because it really is doing nothing. God told Adam and Eve to go out in to the world and multiply and replenish it, but he also told Adam to work hard. Eve would give birth in pain and Adam would have to work hard for their living, after their celestial holiday existence in the Garden of Eden. He did not tell Adam, sit and study my law all day and let someone else work hard and support you! You go ahead and be a lazy bum was NOT the commandment. Abel took care of animals, Cain of the land, Abraham had animals to take care of, so did Jacob, David was a shepherd, Joseph was a carpenter, even Jesus learned the trade of carpentry before his ministry.

Makes me think of how “Tevje” in “Fiddler on the Roof” sings that he wish he was a rich man who could sit in the synagogue all day long and study the good book, instead he has to milk his cows and sell the milk. The program mainly showed this Azriel, who to me looked a little bit mentally, perhaps not entirely there? I am not going to say autistic, but on the other hand, I have learned now that almost all of the human race is autistic so, … He did have an autistic aura about him. This young man had been to the Yeshiva for 12 years and for some reason, it felt like he was probably not really supposed to be there anymore. I counted out that they must have four-year study cycles and he was very frustrated because he was always loosing his study partners. He was actually hysterical about it. Phoning a hotline for finding study partners, that could perhaps help him find a new one. He had prayed about it too. And going to the “headmaster” of the Yeshiva. His study partner Yitzhak (23 years old) had done the un-pardonable “sin” in Azriel’s eyes, of getting engaged. Let’s say, his study partner seemed to be the level-headed one of the two. Azriel did find a new partner, but someone told the 21-year-old to get married, so he looked at offers and quickly got engaged. I guess “Yente” the match-maker had been busy? So, Azriel, who needed a study partner in order to be able to function, would be alone with his book again. Perhaps he should trust his knowledge after 12 years? That he does not have to argue the Talmud all day and night anymore, but need to get a grip on himself and take charge of his life. Because in the Yeshiva, you put life on hold. He was 28!

The program which kept me awake last night, and has me feeling like a zombie today, was one about the Haredim as well. Like the one last Saturday, I missed the beginning, but the one last night brought up the other side of the coin, of the husband doing nothing, when he studies the Torah all day and night. I really wished I could have seen it from the beginning, because it brought up the other point that my teachers spoke of in the class, of the situation in Mea Sharim, and which brings things a little bit closer to home. The situation of the young women who marry these studying men. According to this midwife interviewed, they give birth to 12-15 children. They live in extreme poverty. The  midwife, travelled around the world, begging for money for these families, because perhaps the father-in-laws no longer can support these families? According to this woman, who had worked among the Haredim for decades, (30 years?), they live off welfare. She is horrified when she sees 28-year-old emaciated young women with ten children. Well, they showed this young mother whose baby walked over to eggs at an outdoor market and the mother stopping the baby last-minute from taking an egg, and then the camera zoomed out showing FIVE kids around the girl who only looked about 20-22! They were hers and it did not look like there was more than 9 months between each child, since they were almost all the same size.

Not only is it not fair on the woman to have to give birth that often. Her body will wear out in no time and who will look after the children then? The female body is not meant to give birth that often. It has to recover and all the systems go back to normal setting. That is what I was told, after I gave birth to my oldest son. Otherwise she will have to pay. And the children. It is not fair for them to not get to be the baby for a while. Nor is it fair for them to be brought to the world to starve. Nor is it fair to have to have a constantly tired, pregnant mother who is always unwell. What are they thinking of? (Something like it is actually happening in my own church as well! The girls are competing who can have children the quickest. Their husbands are still in school, they live off student loans and having babies every 18 months or less. They are not even following one of the prophet’s advice, from back in the 1800s: 9 months pregnant, 9 months nursing, 9 months rest. All these girls ought to know better, especially since they can see the results around them, in my generation of women. We are ALL ill with something.) But this woman who is training women to be social workers among the Haredim, and who had invited this midwife, has an uphill work in front of her. One of the girls sitting in her class, sat there hysterical and fanatically saying, almost screaming and spitting at the same time, that it is right for the man to sit and study the Torah, all day and night. I guess she finds it all right for a girl to get a prolapsed uterus at age 28, hypothyroidism, MS … you name it. Or dying from anemia or something else. A social worker that finds it all right for women to be treated like breeding horses and for families to live off the state. Very interesting! I felt a sudden urge to strangle the girl since she knew nothing of life and screamed so much that the midwife, who has seen the worse scenarios possible, could not talk to the students. The girl knew better than a middle-aged  woman who has worked with these problems for over 30 years if not more, and has seen everything! The gall!

T. has refused to watch the programs because of the latest news that have reached us here in Sweden. That these “parasites” now on top of everything, refuse to protect the country that feeds them and keeps them safe, gives them the right to freely worship in the manner they want. THAT is terrible. I had not heard that it is really getting to be a problem now. How can one sit and justify that “my neighbour can send his son to die, but I am not sending mine”. Especially when one lives in a country which is constantly “at war”, attacked from all sides, by its muslim neighbours. Neighbours who want to take the country over and no doubt would kill all Jews, if they were able to conquer it. Israel lives with a constant death threat over their heads, which is why they have the obligatory military service in the first place! To not be willing to defend one’s right to exist, live in the first place? Does not make sense. Surely they do understand that the missiles will not only fall on secular Jews. Surely they do understand that if they are invaded, the Muslims will not make a difference between their prisoners. ALL will be killed. And these Haredim who claim to be the only proper Jews, would they have said to Abraham when he came and ordered them to drop everything and chase after the kings who had taken Lot as a POW, that he must go on his own, because they need to argue the Talmud instead? And what would they have said to David when he demanded they go to the front? When your country is at war, you do your duty! You forget your differences as a people, and become one! You fight united, that is the only way to win a war. Sweden never had to defend itself during WWII, but we were as ready as one can be with an old-fashioned small army. And the different political parties put aside their agendas and went together as one big party, doing their best to stay out of the war and trying to keep Sweden safe with a coalition government.

When I looked up the spelling of Haredim on google, this link below came up. I am glad I went in and read it. Because the young man who wrote it, obviously feel the same way as I do. That it is not right for one group to expect others to do all the fighting and sacrifices. He must be a remarkable young man, volunteering his life, for a country where he does not regularly reside, because he feels so strongly about keeping it safe from enemies. Like the people of the program said yesterday, “some men might be such exceptional scholars that they ought to study all day and night. But the rabbis should decide this. Not the men themselves, since they are not good judges about this and that there no more is an excuse for being lazy when your family is starving.” The young screaming girl did not feel it was the husband’s problem, but whose problem is it then? He is the one who has decided to get married even though he has no money to support a wife with, and he is the one who is not leaving his wife in peace but putting her through too frequent pregnancies because of HIS DESIRE! The rabbi at the Yeshiva last Saturday said, “all sin stems out of desire”. Our church says all sin stems out of selfishness. Same thing really?! The too frequent births are a sin, because it kills the young women or will cripple their bodies for the rest of their lives, so that they will not be able to raise their children in the best way. A mother needs to be healthy, to be able to cope. And NO woman wants to be constantly pregnant!

A must read article:




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2 responses to “Haredim in Israel: Fanatic means going too far

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