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Jul 9, 2007

having your cake and eating it too

No, this is not another post about the boring topic of the bakers strike from baking bread. Nor is it going to tell you about how the bakers are threatening to never bake basic bread again. It seems that after 5 days of not baking basic bread, they have found that their profits are up tremendously, and sales are not down, but most people are buying more expensive, and more profitable, bread. They see no reason to bake the cheaper, less profitable basic bread, and there is no law forcing them to do so. The poor who rely on the basic bread as a staple and cannot afford the more expensive breads now have Eli Yishai and Ehud Olmert to thank for not finding a solution.

But I will not tell you all that.

This is a post on the topic of the recent brouhaha that took place in RBS, more so in RBS B. You know the one - the one that made the news in a horribly written and factually incorrect article. It was also the subject of a number of blog posts over the past few days.

To summarize briefly for those of you who might not have followed the story:
RBS B is a neighborhood in Bet Shemesh that is almost completely populated by the chareidi public. A very high percentage of the residents of RBS B are not just charedi, but the type that belong to extremist sects such as Toldos Aharon, Satmar, Neturei Karta.
RBS A is a more mixed neighborhood. The charedi population has grown and the NR population has been shrinking, as they move out to "greener pastures". I would estimate that the charedi population in RBS A comprises about 65-70 percent of the population with NR comprising about 30-35%, and throw in a few completely secular people and you have RBS A.
Even the charedi community of RBS A can be broken down further. There are a few "extremists". Many are just people who fall into no other category - anglo immigrants who associate with the charedi society.

The charedim had put up signs in the shopping centers in RBS B and RBS A. These signs were large and very public stating that the neighborhood is charedi and people coming into shop must adhere to the local "dress code" and dress modestly. These signs were up for a long time, after they were initially put up among some fighting between the various groups.

Last week, the city municipality sent in workers to remove the signs, in accordance with the law. In RBS A it was a small amount of work with only a token demonstration against the removal of the signs. A few people got pushed around by the police a bit and the signs were removed.

They went to the more militant RBS B and removed the signs. The locals rioted, throwing bricks into the road and burning garbage and throwing it in the streets. A few people got their heads bashed in after confronting the riot police. This continued for some time, with the road being open and shut sporadically over the next few days as people would continue rioting in the streets. It has gotten so sporadic that before people drive through that neighborhood (it is an arterial road connecting RBS A with Bet Shemesh) they post to the local email list asking if the road is open to traffic or closed to traffic! A business on the edge of RBS B has volunteered to be a local traffic advisory and whenever they see from their windows that traffic is stopped, they would post it to the email list!

Anyways, a lot of the complaints of the charedi public is that the city came in and, unprovoked, removed the signs that had been there for a few years, disturbing nobody while actually, they say, actually influencing people to dress more appropriately when coming to the neighborhood to shop. The city took unilateral action for the sole purpose of provoking a fight, because the mayor, they say, is afraid of the "charedi takeover" of the city, as the charedi population in Bet Shemesh is nearing, or possibly has already even surpassed, the 50% mark. They say, the mayor is trying to remove the signs because it gives an atmosphere of being charedi and chases away the secular public, which is what he does not want.

A local council member posted the following information to theBet Shemesh local email list.:

First, the hanging of any sign in a public place is illegal and subject the "hanger" to a fine. This being said the city is often lenient with regard to a "for sale" sign on an apartment and various election banners not glued to walls. The reasoning being that these are innocuous or as in the case of elections they are part of the atmosphere.

When certain individuals took upon themselves to hang signs in the commercial areas of RBS they were approached by the city inspectors and asked to remove these signs. The owners of the stores had nothing to do with the notices and told the city to take them down. Later the city received a request to discuss the issue.

Rav Yitzchak Alon the Chen representative on the city council called a meeting of all the religious parties in the city to discuss the issue. The result of this meeting was that all parties agreed that the signs must come down as they serve to degrade the quality of the neighbourhood. (I can send this protocol to all who are interested)

In order to placate those who felt a need for the signs, a compromise was achieved. Two signs would be hung with the following text, "Please wear appropriate clothing that does not offend the local residents". In addition a two week stay was given to enable those who hung the signs to remove them without fines.

When the two weeks ended the Iryah came to take down the signs and the fun began. The city inspectors were carrying out policy from a unanimous concensus.

According to this, the move to remove the signs was not unilateral, nor was it spontaneous. The signs are not just a disturbance to some, but are actually illegal. Granted, they have been there for a couple of years already, but the city claims it has all along been receiving requests to remove them. They say that even many charedim are against the presence of the signs, as, they feel, it makes them look bad. Whether they have received such requests or not I do not know. I know many are against the presence of the signs, but only in the case of a fight to put them up. Once they are up, I do not think too many would request taking them down.

So, the religious parties, including the charedi parties, participated in the meeting to decide what to do about the signs. They all, including the charedi parties, agreed to remove the signs in two weeks and to allow a compromise sign with different, less militant, wording.

Many of the rioters will not care about the above fact. Many of them are from the extremist groups. These people are anti-State and many of them do not vote nor do they accept the authority of the Zionist regime. The charedi parties, in essence, do not represent them just as no other party does.

What is disturbing is the trend of accepting what these extremists say as the true definition of charedi belief. Nobody wants to look less religious, so if they fight against what they deem to be immodesty, no charedi can fight against them because they will be perceived as supporting immodesty. De facto you have the average charedi people adopting the extremist stance, unwittingly.

So, not only do the extremists fight the city in this decision, but one can see the charedi politicians themselves also on the street arguing with the city workers who are removing signs and with the police. They go out on the street and protest against the city decision which they were part of. Your average citizen does not know that his representative voted in favor of the municvipal decision to remove the signs, so we have a situation in which they vote in favor bcause they feel it is the right decision, but then they protest because they sense the people on the street want to see protest.

So either:
1. the charedi reps in municipal government do not know what they are doing and vote blindly without thinking what their position should be on any given issue. or
2. they intentionally play both sides of the court - they vote for what they want but then give the people what they think they want and nobody knows any better.

Either way, the charedi public needs better leadership and direction. It would be nice to see the public not accept the stance of the extremists as basic charedi opinion, but actually form their own opinions of what the correct path should be on any given issue.

12 comments:

  1. Interesting about the bread, good the profits didn't go down but not good that they don't feel the need to bake the cheap bread. You should do something about the charedi leadership, I am sure you have it in you:)

    ReplyDelete
  2. One note -- the signs in RBS A were put back after only a few days after. Do you know why / by whom?

    Also, many of those protesting in RBS B are now protesting the arrests of those who protested the signs... if it continues, this will only end when every single person is in jail ;)

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  3. Re: the bread: Sadly, this is often the result of well-intentioned legislation that is too restrictive of the free market.

    And as for the signs...on the bright side, I suppose it's a good day when this is the biggest issue people have to worry about.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mom says the poor should bake their own bread--your wife told Mom it's a bracha for parnasah! I say, let them eat cake, but then, I'm a yekke and believe the businesses should make as much profit as they can.
    Your analysis of how those who agrred to the compromise but collaborate with the rioters is correct; that's why extremists have taken over in Gaza, Iran,the Pakastani Red Mosque, etc.--and I don't say l'havdal in making my analogy.

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  5. Atleast some of your facts are wrong - the cops took down the signs first in Bet, then in aleph.

    All signs are illegal, and its not right to take down only signs that dont fit with your own desire for the city not to become chareidi.

    The chareidi leadership wants the signs. This includes all the rabbanim in RBS A that associate themselves with the chareidim.

    The mayor changed his mind and the signs will be back in full effect within coming days / weeks

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dearest Anonymous,

    You know your claims of insider knowledge without any identification are completely worthless, right?

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  7. it happens to be that anonymous is sort of right. I am told that after the charedi representatives signed the agreement, one of the local rabbonim called him (I am referring to one specific charedi rep)up and "threatened him" (I do not know with what) that he must change his vote to be against removing the signs. The rep called Rav Alon (the guy who ran the meeting in the irya) and informed him of his wish to change the vote. Rav Alon told him that he is only willing to allow him to change his vote if they reconvene the meeting. not just by changing the protocol. The rep did not want to reconvene the meeting. I guess he would have gotten more heat for doing that and openly changing his vote.

    Whether the irya has changed its mind or not we will know in time.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Who are "all the rabbanim in RBS A that associate themselves with the chareidim" that support these signs? Is there a list?

    OTOH, has one "charedi" Rabbi taken a public stand against this? Unfortunately I haven't heard about it.

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  9. just a question:
    what is the purpose of the signs? have you ever actually seen a short-sleaved lady going into the makolet in bet and when seeing the graffiti on the wall, saying to herself "gee, the sign says to dress tzanuah, so i'll just run home and put on "sleavies' before i go in shopping here".

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  10. anon - the one charedi Rabbi (that I know about) who has taken a public stance on this (and is the one I mentioned earlier) is Rabbi Goldstein. I do not know any other names who have officially been involved.

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  11. y - no idea. they say they have seen general improvement over time. I do not think there is a way to actually collect evidence to such a thing...

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  12. rafi,
    the reason there is a "general improvement" is because all the non-religious and modern orth. families are moving out of ramat bet shemesh because of their aversion to the hareidi population.
    (also, if your wife was ever accosted, spit at or have garbage thrown at her when walking through bet, she would also stop shopping there)
    no one changes their dress code because of signs or grafiti.

    ReplyDelete

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