A haredi soldier was recently attacked on the streets of Jerusalem; not by lawbreakers from east Jerusalem or the outskirts of Ramallah, but by our own lawbreakers, supposed "haredim" – in the middle of a haredi neighborhood.
This incident aroused in me the feelings of frustration, hatred, pain and anger I've had for a long time towards what is happening in my own personal backyard. I wish to take this opportunity to turn to my friends and brothers in the haredi sector and tell them: Gentlemen, it is time to stop and think. Someone or something is going down the wrong path.
As an ultra-Orthodox, a hasidic from birth who was raised on the tenets of the Torah, I am very concerned. The public which produces the angels who collect the fragments of bodies at the scenes of terror attacks, the system which produces hundreds of charities that feed the hungry and nurse people with terminal diseases, the group which safeguards the purity of the camp and protects the education of its children from the filth of the wild street, is falling like ripe fruit into the hands of extremism.
It is terrifying to think that haredi Judaism as I know it, which is supposed to represent authentic Judaism that is free of all violence, is becoming vastly different from what our forefathers envisioned. Unfortunately, in a certain part of our sector people are looking to devour one another, slander and mock to the point of physical violence – as we witnessed in Mea Shearim.
Soldier rescued from mob in Mea Shearim
I walk along our streets and see how some in our sector want to be holier than God himself, while the exterior replaces the interior and that which is secondary becomes primary. Some people are trying to terrorize all of us: Signs against people who use smart devices or the Internet – even for work purposes – have been placed at the entrances to homes in haredi neighborhoods. Our soldiers, who did not find a place in the yeshivas and chose to enlist rather than deteriorate on the streets out of boredom, have become a target for some us, and no one says a word.
Sometimes I wonder if –God forbid – there is no difference between a Muslim from Hamas and a Jew of our own. Both worship a religion in an extremist manner which lets the blood of others. Both sides have jihadists who operate out of the same motives in the name of religion, while all means are legitimate for the sake of the sacred goal.
True, on our side it is an extremist minority which does not represent us all, but this minority is not so marginal or negligible anymore. It is important to let the general public know that we are sick and tired of these extremists and hope to uproot them from our midst, but the balance of power is not in our favor. By remaining silent the community leaders - the rabbis, yeshiva heads and the admors - are allowing this horrific violence, which contradicts the foundations of the Torah – tolerance and the love of Israel.
Seculars are not the only ones who suffer from religious coercion. You'd be surprised to learn that sane haredim also suffer from extremist religious coercion. As a practicing Jew, I strive to worship my god peacefully, without being threatened or told what to do. We have no connection to those who pretend to be haredim and make us all look like thugs. We are against violence. This is not the face of the authentic, pure Judaism which has been passed down through tradition from generation to generation.
Shalom Freund is an ultra-Orthodox journalist and a senior writer at Yom LeYom