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Friday, July 08, 2022 

Haredi extremists who interrupted bar/bat mitzvahs at Western Wall's egalitarian section damaged Israel's reputation

A most repulsive incident took place the other week at the Western Wall during 2 bar mitzvahs and one bat mitzvah managed by Conservative congregationists, where at least a few dozen Haredis - quite a few youthful ones too at that - harrassed attendants and the police did little or nothing to prevent the nasty attitude:
Dozens of Orthodox boys and young men descended on the egalitarian section of the Western Wall, just south of the main plaza, last Thursday morning, to disrupt three bar and bat mitzvah services that were taking place there. They blew whistles, hurled epithets at the attendees, and ripped up prayer books.

They didn’t succeed in preventing the prayers — the ceremonies were held to completion, with full readings of the Torah and the recitation of the Hallel prayer service — but they did cause those in attendance to question, however slightly, their connection to Israel and to their fellow Jews, specifically Orthodox Jews.
This is easily one of the worst takeaways: what if the attendants became anti-Zionist, something the bullies, ironically enough, could be themselves? What if they vote for left-wing parties as a result? And the worst part of that is that there's no doubt the hoodlums couldn't give a crap; for all we know, they could be the product of Soros-funded indoctrination. Indeed, who knows where the cults they come from get the dough for their brainwashing? And of course, no matter the content of the books vandalized, the whole notion of destroying them is also offensive, since it's little different from how the Nazis burned books during WW2.
The two bar mitzvah boys and one bat mitzvah girl had come to Israel from the United States to mark their coming of age in the Jewish tradition. One of the boys and the girl are dual US-Israeli citizens and their guests were a mix of American tourists and native Israelis. The other bar mitzvah boy, Seth Mann, came with a large group of friends and family from the US, some of them visiting Israel for the first time.

Mann’s bar mitzvah speech, which was broadcast live on YouTube, demonstrated his idyllic view of what the Western Wall meant, which was then shattered by a far more challenging reality.

“I can’t think of a better place than this to understand what it means to be part of a community and part of a people,” Mann read from his prepared speech, before stopping and laughing at the irony, looking up at the scores of Orthodox men and boys a few yards away who were furiously trying to convince him that he was not part of that people, or at least not a valued member.

For the adults at the ceremonies, the experience left them with a dim view of Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jewry.

“I, personally, was completely surprised by how disruptive they were and how bad it was. How can you disrupt a Jewish boy’s bar mitzvah at the Kotel? It’s supposed to be a mitzvah!” said the father of the other bar mitzvah boy, who asked not to be named, using the Hebrew term for the Western Wall.

“This is what the Nazis would do — and they called us Nazis!” he added.

Liz Goodman, the wife of the rabbi who officiated Mann’s bar mitzvah, was similarly appalled.

“Orthodoxy is not okay if they can’t control these kids. I understand that they hate us but they shouldn’t be able to do what they did,” she said.
And this is why anybody who believes Orthodox Judaism itself is a positive influence should be worried, especially right-wingers, because now, the folks who organized these Bar/Bat Mitzvahs could think Orthodoxy as a whole is comprised of monsters.
The mostly but not exclusively ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, demonstrators had not necessarily arrived at the Western Wall that day just to disrupt these three services.

It is far more likely that they were there to protest against the Women of the Wall, a feminist group that holds female-led services at the Western Wall at the start of every Hebrew month, a holiday known as Rosh Hodesh. Last Thursday was one of these, the start of the month of Tammuz, and as occurs every month, busloads of ultra-Orthodox boys and girls, men and women, mostly from religious seminaries, were sent to the Western Wall to confront them. These sometimes violent protests are often organized by an extremely conservative Orthodox group known as the Liba Center. The young demonstrators arrive with signs and whistles, along with coaching about what activities will and won’t lead to their detention or arrest by police.
So in other words, the stunningly inappropriate behavior is an extension of what was displayed against WotW over past years. And which the police, clearly under leftist influence, ironically enough, otherwise allowed with almost no consequence, if at all. I hesitate to think what would happen if my Conservative-leaning grandmother were there. That even non-Haredi attendants may have participated in this is, of course, horrific. ToI interviewed a Liba director named Oren Henig, and his response was unshockingly backhanded:
The group comprised roughly 50 teenage boys and young men, many of them Haredi but some Haredi-Leumi, or Hardal. One of the main instigators, indeed one of those who tore up a prayer book, was the son of a Knesset member, who has himself boasted of organizing protests against Women of the Wall. The Knesset member’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Henig said he did not support the violence that took place in the egalitarian section, but added that he entirely understood the protesters’ motivations. He also acknowledged that sometimes his group does demonstrate there, referring to these protests as “prayer services.”

To Henig — and to the protesters and their supporters — mixed-gender services represent a major affront to the sanctity of the Western Wall and they are therefore justified in doing everything possible to prevent them. “The southern section is part of the Western Wall. There should not be mixed-gender services there. It harms the holiness of the place,” Henig said.

[...] Henig’s beliefs are not universally held among Orthodox Jews — indeed some leading rabbis have explicitly called for the egalitarian section to be respected or at least ignored — but fierce opposition to Reform and Conservative Jews and Judaism is not entirely unheard of among large swaths of Israel’s Orthodox and Haredi population.
Anybody who believes - without any proper proof or evidence from the Torah itself - that egalitarian prayer is the most absolute worst thing that could happen is not a serious person. What if it turns out such a man has lenient views of Islamofascism? And whoever the Haredi Knesset member was whose son committed such a gross act should be condemned and ostracized for the embarrassment he caused.
Videos from the egalitarian section that morning show the mostly teenage extremists calling the worshipers “Nazis,” “Christians,” “animals,” “shiksas” (a derogatory slur for non-Jewish women), and — to the great confusion of those present — “Reform Jews.”

“They kept yelling at us, ‘Reformim.’ I didn’t understand why they were calling us that. We’re Conservative!” Goodman, whose husband officiated the Mann bar mitzvah, told The Times of Israel.
It was reported there was a Holocaust survivor at the site, which makes the "nazi" slur all the more horrific. And of course, that the authorities would take such a weak approach worsened the matter:
The police did nothing. They didn’t just not remove them; they didn’t even protect the people who were there. We were lucky that we were reserved enough that we didn’t start hitting these guys, but it could have escalated very quickly,” the father said.

Netter, an Israel-based rabbi who officiated the bat mitzvah, was also struck by the inaction of the police.

“There was maybe a handful of police officers, a few border guards. There was not enough security, and they didn’t touch [the protesters] unless they got violent, and when they did, they just pushed them down the ramp and left them there to come back again,”
Netter told The Times of Israel.
Considering police in Beit Shemesh initially refused to take any proper action against extremists who terrorized the Bnot Orot girls school over a decade ago before finally taking proper action, that's why this is no surprise. Such jaw-dropping lenience is exactly what's led to such violence over past years, and is also why Haredi sex offenders were able to get away with their crimes for a long time too. In some ways, what occurred is similar to the lenience leftists have in dealing with Islamofascism.

Maybe one of the most aggravating things about what was doubtless arranged by anti-Israeli advocates is that it could be weaponized by Yair Lapid, who addressed the incident, albeit only superficially:
Lapid on Tuesday spoke out against the incident in response to a question from a journalist.

“I am against all violence at the Western Wall against people who want to pray as their faith allows them. This cannot continue,” Lapid said, speaking to reporters in Paris following a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.

In the letter, the heads of the four organizations said denunciations were not a sufficient response to this type of behavior.

“Words of support are not enough, and concrete actions should be taken so that Jews of all streams feel at home, safe and welcome at the Kotel and in Israel,”
they wrote.
So far, it doesn't look like he's willing to take any concrete steps or demand the authorities do the same, any more than Naftali Bennett ever did. And then, the Haredi rabbi in charge of the Western Wall center unshockingly issued a backhanded statement relying on moral equivalence:
The rabbi of the Western Wall spoke out on Thursday against violence at the holy site but appeared to blame “all sides” for the issue, a week after ultra-Orthodox extremists overran the egalitarian plaza of the site, disrupting services.

In his statement, which was issued in English, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch denounced the youths who disrupted prayer services in the egalitarian section but also appeared to criticize the Women of the Wall, a feminist group that holds female-led prayer services at the Western Wall.
Using disagreement with another's religious customs, regardless of whether they're intended as political provocation or not, as an excuse to deflect from the seriousness of the incident at hand is disgusting, and waters down the seriousness. Rabinovich has long proven he's unsuitable for running the Western Wall complex, and this is reason enough for calling for his own dismissal, just like any police officials who refused to take action.

Thankfully, however, there is a rabbi who's ready to teach pluralism after this terrible incident:
The head of a large network of Modern Orthodox institutions railed against the Orthodox youths who disrupted three bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies at the Western Wall’s egalitarian section last week, calling them hoodlums and likening their mentality to that which was responsible for the destruction of the second Jewish temple. [...]

“When I see things like that, it’s just adding another log to the fire of 70 CE,” Rabbi Kenneth Brander, who runs the Ohr Torah Stone organization, told The Times of Israel on Monday, referring to the year the Romans destroyed the Second Temple.

“And the beit hamikdash will never be rebuilt if we don’t get that message,”
he said, using the Hebrew term for the temple.

Brander said the incident inspired him to require the schools and programs in his organization, including high schools in Jerusalem and the West Bank and the Midreshet Lindenbaum seminary, to discuss religious pluralism.

“Thanks to those hoodlums, 5,000 students will all learn about the importance of respecting Reform and Conservative Jews,” he said. “They are going to learn that they are Jews who contribute to the Jewish community, even if I don’t always agree with what they believe.”

Brander lamented the damage that these protests will have on the kids who were celebrating their bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies and on their families.

“Here are boys and girls coming to read Torah, which they prepared for, and all of a sudden a group of hoodlums comes in. What’s their relationship with God after this? What’s the relationship to the State of Israel?” he said.

Speaking to The Times of Israel, Brander maintained that his view is fully in line with mainstream Orthodoxy and that it is those youths who are violating Jewish law, or halacha.

“You’re not a halachic Jew if you do things like that,”
Brander said. “Any Jew who is going to do that is not an Orthodox Jew. I think the silent majority agrees with that.”
Well that's why the silent majority is going to have to become more firmly vocal in denouncing these incidents, shunning any groups or individuals who stoop to these atrocities, and make clear that anybody who's got such a problem with Reforms, for example, without even specifying what exactly they find wrong with their customs, should not even pay a microbe of attention in any way, shape or form. In addition, the police must apologize and clearly explain the failure to act against the hoodlums. This is something that should've been brought up long ago, and it's tragic the ignorance continues. The way they take issue with Christianity is also embarrassing. Especially since the Haredis seem to have borrowed in some ways from Catholicism.

Maybe the biggest irony is that the hoodlums may not have any genuine issues with Islam, and they sure don't seem particularly interested in freeing the Temple Mount from the Religion of Peace's grip any more than the Reform do. In fact, something tells me that, if an Islamic group were running prayers there, no alarming incidents would've been recorded. Which makes the actions of the extremist Haredis a form of "cowardly predation". That's surely one of the worst parts of this whole incident.

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