And every creeping thing that flieth is unclean unto you: they shall not be eaten Deuteronomy 14:19
“To write again ‘heavens’ destruction,’ ‘annihilation decrees,’ and ‘beware of the unrighteous'”* in black, large, frightening font? Passé.”
Shmulik Abraham The Insects
This colorful and unlikely sentence was written by Shmulik Abraham. Of course, the sentence begins to make sense only after one realizes that he is a Hasid Ultra-Orthodox Jew living in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, and who had served in the IDF. On May 26, 2013, Yediot Ahronot published an article he wrote. It was entitled: “Stop Defamation: I am a proud Haredinsect.”
1. It still makes no sense…
Unless acquainted with the fine-print of the case, the text above remains obscure; shaded not by the absolute blackness of inter-galactic space, but by the consistent shades of Mea Shearim narrow streets.
Founded in the late 19th Century, the name of the neighborhood means “One Hundred Gates,” making reference to its endless narrow passages within the courtyard neighborhood. Still isolated from the city, this enclave is home to a militant population of Ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Most denizens are Haredim, though also a few Hasidim inhabit it. Both are Ultra-Orthodox.** Due to the ration between their respective membership, most Israelis refer to them as Haredim, bundling together vastly different ideologies.
Secular Jews do not care about religion. To them, both Haredim and Hasidim don’t go to the army, and that’s the defining parameter. In 2013, the Haredi-Draft is becoming the main issue endangering Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political future. As shown in Holy Cows, the Haredi-Draft Law being prepared these days may split Israeli society.*** Secular Jews claim that Haredim are parasites while the latter say: “Better to serve in the Nazi Army than in the IDF.”
2. It still makes no sense…
“Now the opening sentence is clear,” a rushing reader may exclaim, “its writer is an Ultra-Orthodox Jew complaining about his draft, that’s why he uses those colorful horror expressions!”
It makes sense, but it is wrong. His colorful expression is protesting the poster reproduced below. The text in red reads: “We keep cleanliness!!! This area is clean of Haredinsects. The pass of Haredinsects through this area is absolutely forbidden.” It shows a caricature of an IDF soldier chasing Haredi children.
“Now it is clear,” a rushing reader exclaims again, “the poster was placed by secular Jews wanting to draft Haredim.” Wrong again?
“This area is clean of Haredinsects” says the poster in Mea Shearim
3. It still makes no sense…
The poster appeared in Mea Shearim. According to Mr. Abraham it was placed there by Haredim against Haredim already serving in the army. The claim looks odd. The word appearing in the poster and that I translated as “Haredinsect” is “Hardak,” a combination between “Haredi” and “Harak.” It is clearly derogatory, but towards all Haredim, not only those going to the army. The chasing soldier is not Haredi. The odd term “Haredinsect,” is a variation on “parasites,” the derogatory term used by secular Jews towards Haredim.
Sadly, even translating the entire text of the article won’t help on this. Even the opening sentence looks wrong. The use of horror exclamations fits; however, a Hasid is unlikely to use the French word “passé.” The entire text, as the poster, looks like written by a secular Jew attempting to pose as an Ultra-Orthodox. Even his claim to have served in the army doesn’t explain the extent of his obvious control of secular language and style. “Hardak” was more likely to have been coined in a hyrax-eaters**** kibbutz than in an Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. Since they serve either in the military rabbinate or in special Haredi units, Ultra-Orthodox Jews can’t gain access to secular figures of speech while serving in the IDF. The same goes while living in a closed courtyard neighborhood.
Finally, the piece was published by a secular newspaper. How did he get access to it? How did he pass the “editors committee?” The committee sets publication rules and willingly-enforces Israel’s censorship laws. The text is clearly slandering Jews, why would it be allowed? It still makes no sense…
Promoting racism and discrimination against is wrong. This affair, the poster and the accompanying article, are doing exactly that. Yet, they appear on the largest Zionist paid-newspaper in Israel. Did they become Nazis?
Operation Ezra and Nehemiah was conducted by the State of Israel between 1950 and 1952. During it, over 120,000 Jews from Iraq were brought to Israel. The trigger to the event was a series of bombings of Jewish targets in Baghdad. Iraqi Jewish anti-Zionist author Naeim Giladi claims that the bombings were “perpetrated by Zionist agents in order to cause fear amongst the Jews, and so promote their exodus to Israel.” This is supported by Wilbur Crane Eveland, former senior officer in the Central Intelligence Agency, in his book Ropes of Sand, America’s Failure in the Middle East. The State of Israel has never been able to convincingly deny the claim.
In his book, Eveland wrote: “In an attempt to portray the Iraqis as anti-American and to terrorize the Jews, the Zionists planted bombs in the U.S. Information Service library and in the synagogues. Soon leaflets began to appear urging Jews to flee to Israel… most of the world believed reports that Arab terrorism had motivated the flight of the Iraqi Jews whom the Zionists had ‘rescued’ really just in order to increase Israel’s Jewish population.” Shortly afterwards, Israel used a similar slandering technique in Egypt, in what became known as “Esek Bish” (“Shameful Business”). Mossad agents were caught after attempting to sabotage installations and blame Islamists for that. Israel acknowledged the event.
Netanyahu is trapped between the rock of social protests and the hard place of Haredi-Draft. Supported mainly by secular Jews who forced him in 2013 into an extremist anti-religious coalition, he must solve the problem. Scaring Haredim into obedience, as the State had scared Iraqi Jews, is a cheap solution. Isn’t that so, Mr. “Mossad” Abraham? Now it makes sense!
* Three Hebrew horror statements that cannot be fully translated into English. The originals: “shumu shamayim,” “gzerot shemed,” and “yizaharu mivnei ha’avla.”
** For unknown reasons, both Haredim and Hasidim favor clothes that were fashionable in the 17th Century Eastern Europe. Even their Mizrahi and Sephardic members dress in such a way. Not only does that make little sense in the hot summers of the Holy Land, but it also makes differentiating between these two groups a Herculean task (please forgive my Greek digression). Yet, they differ in their interpretation of Judaism more than Catholic and Evangelic groups do in Christianity.
“Haredim” owe their name to Prophet Isaiah: “Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word” (Isaiah 66:5). The Hebrew word “harada” means “fearful,” “anxious.” Thus Haredim are those who fear the word of God and thus are the more legalistic followers of the Jewish religion. Yet, they do not base themselves on the Bible for their observance of the law, but mainly on interpretations appearing in the Talmud and related literature. They are also known as Ultra-Orthodox Jews. Within this large group, there is an important subdivision. There are “Haredim” and “Lithuanian Haredim,” the last belong to groups linked to the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
“Hasidim” owe their name to the Hebrew word “hesed,” which means “kindness,” or “charity.” They separated from the Haredim in the 18th Century, when Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov began preaching for a less legalistic interpretation of the Pentateuch, for a Judaism based on spirituality and joy. Instead, he created a branch that is characterized by the veneration of leadership as intercessors of God. In the past, some Haredim defined them as a sect. The ultra-mystical Kabbalist Jews may be found in Hasidic and Haredi-bound yeshivot (colleges).
*** Jewish Orthodoxy and the Army. On August 22, 1999, the then Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak appointed the Tal Committee, which dealt with the special exemption from mandatory military service in the IDF given to ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredim and Hasidim). It was headed by retired Justice Tzvi Tal; thus it was named after him. On July 23, 2002, the Tal Law, based on the committee results, was passed in the Knesset. It enabled the continuation of the IDF service-exempt given to yeshiva members (“yeshiva” means “sitting” in Hebrew; it is the name of Jewish religious colleges). At the age of 22, yeshiva members would receive a year of decision in which they would need to choose to continue their studies or to go to work. Those who choose to go out of the yeshiva and work would need to choose between a minimalist army service of four months, and then reserve duties according to the army’s needs, or a civilian service of one year. The service would be done in special IDF units organized according to religious needs, like Nahal Battalion 97 (the IDF has several ethnic units, see Explosion in Sinai).
Secular Jews opposed the law, claiming that it discriminated against them by being forcing them (by default because they don’t get a similar exemption) to serve at least three years in the IDF. Yet, using half-hidden laws, secular Jews can also get service exemptions. In 2005, the State admitted in a response to a bagatz+ petition, that the Tal Law had failed to change enlistment practices of Orthodox Jews. Back then, only a few dozen ultra-Orthodox Jews enlisted in the army as a result of the law; by the beginning of 2012, the number was still below 900. In 1974, only 2.4% of high school graduates about to enroll in the IDF were exempt because they were yeshiva members. In 1999, they were 9.2%; it was 15% in 2012. These numbers are a clear sign of a very benevolent discrimination by the State of Israel towards Haredim and Hasidim. Yet, the same secular Jews who petitioned the High Court on their own behalf, do not oppose other types of discrimination enforced by the IDF towards other minorities.
On February 21, 2012, the Supreme Court of Israel annulled the “Tal Law,” with a majority of 6 justices against 3. Dorit Beinisch, then President of the Court supported the decision: “we can help to bring a gradual change,” she said. Asher Dan Grunis, who later replaced her, opposed the decision. He said that the thought the court would bring Haredim to serve in the IDF is “an illusion.” “It doesn’t help the status of the court, we won’t bring change,” he added. In August, the law expired and became one of the main reasons that forced Netanyahu to call for early elections. The main argument of the Orthodox leaders is that they care about their youth, who want nothing but to study Torah. In the West, politicians are expected “to lead” their people. It is never clear what that means. “Lead” to where? “Lead” to what? Don’t expect practical answers in their speeches; don’t expect to find any practical way of measuring their performance. Their system is defined to facilitate lies. In contrast, Asian leaders are expected “to take care” of their electorate. There is no clearer evidence that Christianity is an Asian religion, it couldn’t have appeared anywhere else; Jesus is portrayed in the Bible as the Good Shepherd who takes care of the people. Jewish Orthodoxy behaves to some extent in this fashion while Jewish secularism is busy “leading the people” to perdition. This behavior wrongly sounds manipulative to the secular crowd.
However, this is not the entire picture. An important part of the religious Jews is made up by the abovementioned Religious-Zionists, who go to the army as seculars do. For the sake of American readers, I must emphasize that all of them practice Orthodox Judaism; Reform and Conservative Jews are not part of this. Following the elections, Naftali Bennet, their leader, is in a tough situation. He has a long history with Netanyahu; it began with love and ended with hatred and a wild attack on him by Netanyahu in the last days of the campaign. Contacts, between Bennet and Lapid in an attempt to form an alliance against Netanyahu were announced publicly. Yet, this is not something Bennett can sell to his electorate. The Bible is above the secular state, allying a heretic “rabbit eater” is absolutely non-kosher. On the same day, leading rabbis belonging to Religious-Zionism caused a major earthquake, signalling a realignment of Israeli politics. The donkey of the Messiah is about to be dismissed.
**** Hebrew idiom for “pagan;” hyrax is a non-kosher animal.
+Israel’s Supreme Court of Justice usually operates as the highest appellate court in the country, but it features also a special operational mode as a court of first instance, called in Hebrew bagatz (acronym for High Court for Justice, not to be confounded with the formal name of the court: The High Court). In this instance, everybody under the jurisdiction of the Court can initiate a process against the State of Israel if he feels one of his rights has been legitimately oppressed by the State; this is the result of Israel lacking a Constitution and formal recognition of Human Rights.
Roi Tov is a graduate—among others—of Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition to his memoir, Tov is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Physics and other scientific journals. He won various travel writing and photography awards.
In his writings, he tries to reveal life in Israel as a Christian Israel Defense Force (IDF) officer—from human rights violations to the use of an extensive network of underground agents. He was recognized first as a refugee and subsequently as political prisoner of Bolivia.