What does a group of young haredim
frustrated with the recent outpouring of hatred
against their sector do when they feel it has all gone out of proportion? Launch a website and fight back.
A month ago a new haredi website called "Dossim" (a derogatory term for someone religious) decided to handle burning haredi-secular issues in its own way. They put all the cards on the table, and with parodies and irony present their side of the story.
Yet there is still room for debate. Site founder Shmuel Drilman welcomes secular writers. "I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it," he says, quoting Voltaire adding, as long as it is mutual.
A random review of the website reveals a letter written by a haredi yeshiva student to the "suckers" camp,
under that a long list of harsh statements against the haredim which were published in the media, and a variety of columns written by men and women explaining the sector's stance on the latest issues.
"For many years now, every haredi who uses the internet on a daily basis feels that there is a very biased discussion, explains Drilman, 27, from Beitar Illit, he believes: "It's no longer a matter of right or wrong, the discussion is tendentious to begin with. I fear is that my children won't be able to walk in Tel Aviv
and eat ice cream without some passerby screaming 'parasite' or 'draft dodger' or both at them.
"These days there are social networks and well heeled organizations with the sole purpose of delegitimizing the haredim."
The new website: Dossim
Drilman, an entrepreneur who completed his civil service claims that the less a secular person knows about haredim, the more he is likely to use slogans when talking about them. And that is exactly what he is trying to do through the website.
According to Drilman, even when the media tries to present a balanced report, it does not do so properly. "If you present seven minutes of haredi rioting
in Mea Shearim and at the end you have one spokesman who condemns (the riots) – and he represents the majority, it isn't exactly proportional."
"The context in which haredim usually come up in the media is negative or disturbed. A journalist would never copy that article and change the words haredi to Ethiopian, Arab or Russian immigrant. Only when it's haredim is it allowed.
"Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan ruled that violent or offensive statements towards haredim are not eligible to be defined as incitement or racism as they are not a homogonous ethnic group. Thus it became open season on the haredim," Drilman added.
Drilman believes "It begins by being a platform for a variety of haredi writers; a platform for stories that the general media doesn't expose, like observant soldiers in military prison who were forced to desecrate the Sabbath.
"Or a haredi soldier who went on a bus and was screamed at by the driver who called him a free loader – while he was in uniform. Stories of secular draft dodging, facts hidden from the public and more.
"A famous American professor once presented research on the process that leads to genocide. What's happening here today should scare any sane person in Israel because this is how it starts. First you delegitimize haredim, then you demonize and the next stage is discriminatory laws and we are definitely on our way there."
Columns and opinion pieces
The highlight of the website is the "Correspondent on secular affairs" a parody of the media's correspondent on haredi affairs. Yair, one of the writers, does to the secular population what he believes is being done to the haredi sector. Meaning, an anthropological overview seasoned with a great deal of ignorance.
"I as a haredi have a great deal of criticism towards my society, but I want to hear about it not from a place of ignorance and lack of knowledge of the Torah and haredi lifestyle, I want relevance… I heard a commentator on the radio say that all haredi protests stem from boredom, if it wasn't so sad it would be funny."
So what does he have to say to the average angry secular man whose sons are dying for their country while he sits in the yeshiva and studies?
"That argument is one of the most insubstantial in this story. You don't say that to someone who served in Military Intelligence in the Kirya (in Tel Aviv). Does a mother whose son is a combat soldier say that to the mother of a son serving as a trumpeter in the military orchestra?
"Or a son serving in the military radio station killing himself for the next scoop and building a future career at the expense of the State that feeds him, dresses him and provides him with qualifications for three years."
"Maybe this is the place to stop this travesty and create a professional military. You're scared there won't be people who enlist? If they offer benefits there will be plenty, haredim included, who will go willingly.
"I'm a yeshiva student and I get NIS 800 ($200) from the State. I can work like my wife in the high tech industry and make NIS 15,000 ($3,790). I choose not to as I believe in what I'm doing and in my contribution to the spiritual existence of this nation. And those that don't study; they should go and volunteer where they can."
Does Yair see a time when a haredi will say he wants to be an air force pilot without the sky falling?
"Yes, if he isn't forced into it (which would) bring the extremists out to the streets. Because if that happens, even those willing to enlist will follow as they will not accept coercion."