Jan 19, 2012

We Are The 99%

The Connections magazine, a local monthly magazine, was preparing the current edition and the main theme was going to be article regarding the recent escalation of tension between communities in Bet Shemesh. I was asked to write an article. The following is what I wrote and has been published in the magazine. Let me know what you think.


A terrible crime was recently perpetrated against the OROT school, the children that attend it, the parent body, and perhaps by extension the Sheinfeld community and the Dati Leumi community in general. That crime is the crime of indifference.

While the children of OROT Banot were being harassed daily for months, even with some brief periods of respite, most people were indifferent to the situation. Many people, very many people, got involved, both from the immediate community and from other parts of Bet Shemesh, but most people remained indifferent, perhaps watching curiously from the sidelines.

It hurts when Jews fight with each other. Everybody loses. In the portions of the Torah we have been reading recently, the brothers of Yosef fought with him, and that led to Yosef being sold, and eventually the slavery. Before that we saw Yaakov fighting with his brother Eisav. Before that it was Yishmael being thrown out of Avraham’s house because of his poor behavior towards Yitzchak. Going back further, even Cain and Abel fought, and there were just the two of them and their parents at the time! Sibling rivalry, and quarrels and fights, are clearly nothing new.

I believe that the Torah relates to us these incidents for many reasons; to teach us many lessons. One lesson is to teach us how bad it is to fight with each other. How it leads to division and strife and all sorts of bad outcomes.

Another lesson I think we must learn from these portions is that sometimes we must fight, despite the horror of fighting with a brother and a sister. Sometimes we must take a stand, we must reject evil, we must reject the bad.

Clearly we must work to mend rifts. It is a horrible thing when brothers are fighting, and we must do what we can to rectify the problem, and learn to respect each other despite, and possible even because of, our differences. At the same time we must reject the evil and intolerance.

My 5 year old son was having a “chazak chazak” party in gan the other day for sefer Breishis. He needed to bring a short dvar torah to say at the party. I suggested he say that there were 12 sons of Yaakov that were made into 12 Tribes. Why 12 Tribes – why not have them all under one big Tribe? I told my son (in different words) that we are 12 Tribes because each person is unique and has his way of serving Hashem. There is room under the umbrella of Judaism for everybody, and for everybody’s style.

Indifference is not an option. Too many have been indifferent for too long. It is time to step up and do whatever can be done to chase away the evil from our midst. The thugs who have perpetrated the violence and harassment of little girls and their families need to be banished, the way Yishmael was banished from Avraham’s home.

The mayor and the city council need to no longer coddle them and let them continue their ways in the name of dialog. The Haredi community needs to reject them and push them out, and no longer tolerate what they do in the name of Haredim and in the name of Hashem. The Dati Leumi community needs to keep up the pressure. The police especially need to do their job of arresting these criminals and not standing down to communal pressure.

We all need to realize that 99% of the people in Bet Shemesh are wonderful people who can live together peacefully, side by side. We are the 99%. In our situation the 1% is not the elite, upper-crust of society that is indifferent to our plight. In our situation, the 1% is evil, and needs to finally be dealt with.

We are the 99%.


  1. Nice Rafi and very much in spirit of your personal beliefs.

    I strongly disagree about the 99% part.

    Sadly the number of people who are tolerant, accepting and respectful falls way below 99%.

    You know well how many of the schools (and their hanhala) view other schools.

    You know well that many (even moderate/anglo) charedim look down at others not like them.

    You know certain rabbonim here are not open and tolerant of other (even religious) Jews who are not like them hence their flocks follow suit.

    So perhaps you yourself are a decent, tolerant person. Perhaps there are even many of your friends who feel the same way.

    It's not 99% and we've got a long way to go.

  2. Excellent article but sadly
    Shlomo does have a point. There is a "machala" in the hareidi world to think that anyone who is not the same is bad. We need to fight to become 99%, then perhaps we can become a whole.

  3. I'm not so sure they look on us as bad. They look on us as dispicable people, as goyim, as as somethingto be vomitted out. It is interesting that I read in another article, that they view us as eirev rav. In a report, it stated that they threw human feces at the school, and it reminded me on idol worshippers in the days of the Tanach, that offered up human feces to their gods.

  4. Meir,

    Who is the "they"?

    Why does everyone concentrate on the handful of thugs at rot while ignoring the real problem?

    Do you really think Rabbis Perlstein, Kornfeld, etc. like you any more than the thugs?

    If Orot was in RBS rather than Bet Shemesh they would also be trying to intimidate..just with different tactics.

    They did behind the scenes lobbying to convince Abutbol to give the Dolev mikva to them.

    They sign their names on Kol Korei about tzinus and newspapers.

    They ban organizations that they don't like from collecting in their shuls.

    They rule over schools with Nuremburgesque takanonnim.

    Their doe eyed followers don't realize their true agendas and follow along creating confusion for their children.

    So besides the spit what's the difference in regard to their attitude about fellow Jews?

  5. An excellent piece but the 99 part is wrong.
    Maybe out of the total religious community the hard core fanatics are 1% but their enablers are another 10%, those who aren't pleased with their methods but agree with their goals are another 10% and those who are too afraid to say anything and therefore will publicly support them when presured are another 20%.

  6. Meir that's what the 1% extremists think. Shlomo's extra percentage of slightly-negative-and-not-purely-indifferent (chiloni and charedi) think of us (religious and moderate) as a dangerous influence to avoid and hope to see kept at arm's length.

    I'd like to think the open-mindedness is mostly persistence. It might be a 75% that overtakes the rest, but it can. Just like customer service is making its way in Israel - but it takes a long time, both to prove itself and to assure that 75% that they won't lose from the change.

  7. I will read the rest of the article later, but I just found the idea of a Jew writing about the 99% beyond hilarious.

    Jews are by all counts, less than 1% of the population. Even in Israel, they are less than 80%.

    Charedim, are then only about 10% of that.

    percentages are a funny thing.

    Jews should not be using "we are the 99%" as a means of any form of validity, it raises very strong questions about our own identity and existence.

  8. MiriamS,

    I will ask you again...who is "moderate"?

    I live in RBSA, am very much a part of the "anglo Charedi" community and know first hand what our rabbonim (and hence many in the community) feel about DL/MO/etc.

    The rav of my shul (I won't call him my rav) was behind the attempt to take over the mikva. His insinuation was that going to "other side" was akin to not toiveling at all.

    The schools that many of us send to are delivering a message to our kids to look down at other frum kids just because they attend a different school.

    People in my kehilla know the good work of Lema'an Achai and know they help anyone and yet don't give because they aren't "as Charedi" as the others.

    Many of us came from chul to be able to live in Eretz Yisroel (and yes even believe a little in the Zionist dream) and yet would never be caught with an Israeli flag or singing Hatikva lest our rabbis, friends and kid's principals found out.

    So those who feel that the majority are open,accepting and tolerant I believe that at least here in RBSA the time has come for a reality check.

  9. nice article rafi


    it's a nice idea, I wish your percentages were accurate.

  10. Shlomo,

    I don't mean to be personal, but if you feel that way, why do you send your kids to those schools and attend those shuls?

  11. Mike,

    Excellent (and fair) question.

    It's a social thing..not social pressure but social contacts.

    Kids and wife have friends and are doing well so why upset the apple cart.

    However in the home heavy doses of loving ALL Jews and understanding that there are different ways in Avodas HaShem.

    Perhaps I also have a dream of changing things from within.

  12. Shlomo,

    given how much time they spend at school compared to at home, and given how every study shows that kids are not influenced by their schools and friends, than that should all work out fine for you...

    oh wait a sec...

    oh well, at least they're all doing fine.

  13. Open minded thinkerJanuary 22, 2012 2:21 AM

    I think that the point of this article is to show that the leaders of the Haredim do have respect and care for those who might not abide by typical Haredi standards. This is in contrast to what the typical media has been saying recently about the Haredim. Being that these are the Haredi leaders, this article would imply that TRUE Haredim (the true followers of their leaders) also are respectful to others who are not their kind. Which would therefore imply that the Sirkim do not represent TRUE Haredim.


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