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(illustration) Photo: Yoav Friedman
(illustration) Photo: Yoav Friedman
 
 

Stones and stereotypes

Op-ed: Yeshiva boys attacked lesbian teen despite haredi education, not because of it

Ricki Sitton
Published: 01.09.13, 18:28 / Israel Opinion

Last week some stones were thrown at me. Luckily, these were virtual stones, which hit me as I was reading an article about a teenage girl who was attacked by yeshiva boys only because of her sexual inclination. The incident was presented as an example of the failure of the entire haredi education system. I could identify with the girl's pain - because stones, in any dimension, always hurt - but let me ask this: How does a factual article about a girl who was pelted with stones become a tool to protest against the entire ultra-Orthodox education system? Why is it that when secular teenagers hurt their friends no one says that "secular education has gone bankrupt?"

 

One cannot draw conclusions about an entire public based on one incident. Just because a few seculars are alcoholics, drug addicts, murderers and rapists does not mean the entire secular public is violent.

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People should not make generalizations about any segment of our society, regardless of the worldview and values it represents, or pass judgment based on unusual and infrequent incidents.

 

I have no idea if the stone-throwers from last week could be defined as haredim, but their behavior proves that they do not act according to the laws of the Torah. The teenagers acted they way they did despite the education they received, not because of it.

 

An ultra-Orthodox teen is not even supposed to look at a woman or teenage girl - haredi or secular. A haredi teenager is not supposed to know what a lesbian looks like or hurt anyone, for any reason. This is not a mitzvah, it is an offense. If there is one place in the world where children are still taught to honor and care for the other – it is the ultra-Orthodox education system.

 

We are accused of offering "closed, purist education," but any mother would want the level of violence in public schools to be as low as the level of violence in the ultra-Orthodox schools and that the use of drugs and alcohol consumption would also drop (drugs use and drinking are nonexistent in haredi schools).

 

I have the privilege of heading a project that is about loving all Jews, regardless of their politics or personal inclinations. In this framework, a direct connection has been formed between haredi and secular women, who talk on the phone to learn about each other and discuss Jewish cultural texts. These phone conversations will hopefully bring about the realization that despite the disputes, we are all connected in a courageous, deep-rooted and natural bond.

 

In my building in Bnei Brak live yeshiva students, secular students, new olim and a man with various inclinations, and yet we all get along great. Not one stone has been thrown at a passing car on Shabbat. There is mutual respect between everyone, and we live, more or less, according to the divine edict v'ahavta l'reacha kamocha ("love your fellow as you do yourself"), which is one of the Torah's basic principles.

 

Ricki Sitton is the director of the Havruta Project, which aims to bring Jews from all segments of society closer together

 

 

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