Tali Farkash

Godfather, the Hadrei Haredim version

The Hadrei Haredim affair led to a sad conclusion: You can take the haredim out of the sector's press prison, but you can't free them of the defective norms that have become part of their journalistic DNA

In my line of work, I've learned that getting disappointed by people you trust is a matter of routine. And still, after the ugly explosion of the Hadrei Haredim extortion affair, I couldn't help but feel deep sadness. The case, as complex and extensive as may be – is nothing more than a representation of an oh-so-familiar pattern.


Haredi newspapers and radio stations tend to turn a blind eye or refrain from publishing negative stories relating to high profile figures in the sector. Fat advertising budgets, arranged positions and personal or business interests prosper in these places, often on the expense of less important principles such as, for example, "the public's right to know."


Just another haredi tabloid

The Hadrei Haredim portal pretended to be above all this. In 2007 – after a decade of operating as a live and kicking forum that floated above the murky, secretive swamp that is also known as the "haredi press" – the news site was established, claiming to put an end to this gossip industry.


Businessmen and public figures who have lied and cheated their way around the sector for years became hysterical: At last there was a platform that would make them pay the price. Finally, a platform that would deal with important issues that were intentionally swept under the carpet and present them to the haredi sector and the world for what they really are: Pathetic, hypocritical and sanctimonious. Let them judge for themselves.


As it turns out, this platform was nothing but a cheap British tabloid in its haredi version. A platform contingent on "pay and you'll be protected – don't pay and you can bid farewell to your public life as you know it."


Many of these "poor" victims of extortion had allegedly (at least according to the publications) hidden some serious skeletons in their closets. They also boasted their respectful façades, which concealed a morally and religiously problematic lifestyle, to put it very mildly.


The problem began when the last sanctuary that was entrusted with protecting the haredi public and exposing its true face latently betrayed its mission – and all this for mere financial gain.


The boss as a modern feudal lord

Still, there are many unanswered questions: How did all this happen without anyone in the system, which is full of young, inquisitive people, blowing the cover? And why didn't any of these people, who allegedly knew what was going on, say anything? Moreover, what leads esteemed journalists with the highest code of ethics to keep silent when the boss decides to turn the system where they operate into a Godfather-style protection dumpster?


No need to guess. The answer is clear: This is the professional norm on which they were raised. The boss is like a modern feudal lord and they are his vassals.


So Hadrei Haredim, as it seems, was unable to free itself from the tribal behavior patterns of the haredi sector after all. Unfortunately for those who were extorted, they belonged to the opposite camp, and therefore were regarded as fair game. The "protection money" and "exemptions" made it all criminal.


The writing, as painful as it may be, has long been written on the wall: You can take the haredim out of the sector's press prison, but you (still) can't free them of the defective norms that have become part of their journalistic DNA.


Meanwhile, behind the innocent reader's back, dubious alliances continue to form and bribes continue to exchange hands – all so that those who are supposed to answer for their acts can continue to enjoy life undisturbed.


The founders of the website didn’t invent the wheel; they only imported the familiar and well-known slime from print to online format. And if one is to judge by publications, they did it with utmost success.





פרסום ראשון: 04.12.12, 15:05
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