After all, the ultra-Orthodox community – which as opposed to the common stereotype is wholly heterogenic – comprises many groups. One of them, and possibly the smallest one, is the Orthodox sect in Jerusalem. This branch, which is so small compared to the others, would have been considered irrelevant among the haredi public had it not been for its powerful and consensual adherence to Jewish law. Yet this small group manages to draw most headlines and turn all haredim into members of the “Orthodox sect.”
The regular haredim, who are members of the sane mainstream, never belonged to this radical clique. Hundreds of thousands of haredim never saw equivalence between Israeli security officers and those responsible for the gas chambers in Nazi Germany. They do not hurl stones at cars traveling on Shabbat and don’t beat up teenagers in the framework of the “modesty squad.”
Indeed, regular haredim also do not want to see the Shabbat trampled upon. The sane haredim are also hurting in the face of driving and other forms of public Shabbat desecration. However, it is clear to the normal haredim that the way of the “diaper-throwing mob” is not their way. Protests on behalf of the Shabbat were always held, but the objectives were different, and the way was different, and mostly saner.
However, aside from the unequivocal statement that members of the “sect” don’t represent me, do I represent the ultra-Orthodox street? I don’t know. Yet for the time being, no well-known Sephardic or Lithuanian rabbi such as Rabbi Yosef and Rabbi Elyashiv endorsed the recent events.
Segregated bus fiasco
At the same time, we must admit that the Shabbat protests are an example of how a small group that leads the ultra-Orthodox trend has been able to overwhelm the healthy Orthodox street as of late.
For a long time, more than 50 years, haredim traveled in buses where men and women sat at the same section of the bus. The only strict rule, which did not need to be explicitly uttered, was the tendency of a man not to sit next to a woman. This sane arrangement was maintained for years. During those long years, distinguished religious students and today’s leading religious figures traveled by public transportation, yet none of them ever thought that being in the same radius as members of the opposite sex could undermine their sanctity or purity.
Yet in recent months, all of us, the haredim, have become a bunch of lustful people who are unable to see a woman sitting at the front of the bus, as though only complete separation may save us from hell.
How did that happen? The radical zealots sweep the moderate rabbis with their zealotry, as well as the solid individuals who do not always find the strength to object to that seeming “holy flame,” thereby amalgamating the entire Orthodox community into one radical organism.
However, we the haredim were never an integral part of the ultra-Orthodox sect and we never belonged to it. God willing, we will not become part of the new ultra-Orthodox radicalism. Just so you know.