Jul 2, 2009

Rabbi Horowitz on the Shabbos protest and violence

Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz discusses the recent violent protests in Jerusalem over the opening of the parking lot.

He raises some interesting points. Rabbi Horowitz says:

Maybe it is just me, but throwing stones to prevent the desecration of Shabbos is about as logical as a librarian yelling, “STOP TALKING” into a powerful megaphone at the top of her lungs whenever someone whispers in the library. Or like a group of vegetarians celebrating their accomplishments by hosting a communal barbecue.

The demonstrations were purportedly called by our gedolim shlit’a in Eretz Yisroel. The large and beautiful Friday Night group Kabbolas Shabbos may have been initiated by them. However, the overall campaign to make these hafganos are unquestionably planned, prepared and led by “askanim” not gedolim.

If I may give an analogy, a sefer written by a gadol is just that – 100% the work of the gadol who wrote it. But if I write a sefer and get a haskama (letter of recommendation) from a gadol, that is a very different kettle of fish. All the more so if I were to only show the gadol the first 50 pages, and then add another 150 pages that he never saw.

I don’t for one moment believe that our aged and overburdened gedolei hador shlit’a are being informed by the askonim who plan these demonstrations, what the “last 150 pages” look like – the disgusting images of burning garbage cans and pitched battles with the police that are broadcast worldwide in real time.

Rabbi Horowitz also suggests:

I suggest that all askanim take a hiatus of at least one full generation where we stop protesting about other people’s sins and start looking inward. Maybe Mr. Krause should worry more about the hundreds of our sons and daughters who are in Israeli clubs on Friday night smoking pot, than worrying about secular Jews parking their cars on Shabbos. Maybe Mr. Krause should worry more about the pedophiles in our community who are violating children, more than those outside our community who are violating Shabbos.

Those of us who have any positions of influence in our communities must speak up loud and clear and call this behavior what it is -- a disgraceful Chillul Hashem and a distortion of Torah values -- in the loudest and most unequivocal terms. I am convinced that those of us who don’t, will have to give din v'cheshbon for not having done so.

Rabbi Horowitz also makes reference to the following Jpost article quoting Yoelish Krausz, who is involved in arranging these protests.

"It's a network," he says of the young men who willingly take to the street in protest. "Once the word goes out, it filters through the community quite efficiently."

While he shies from the title, the slender, 36-year-old father of 11 is indeed the man behind the men - the coordinator of the Eda's meticulously coordinated protests and behind-the-scenes deal-brokering that brings leading rabbis into its fold on various issues. He can set the haredi street on fire, often literally, with a telephone call or even a word.

In reality, the job is more complex than that, and Kraus, himself born and raised in Mea She'arim, serves as a facilitator - someone who knows who's who within the community, and makes the appropriate connections between them when something needs to get done.

"Let's say we want to stage a protest," Kraus says. "I contact people and get the word out, while the pashkivlim [wall posters used for announcements] also play an important role."

Rabbinic support only helps, and depending on the perceived severity of the issue, Kraus is able to drum up support and use his connections to mobilize his men on the street, culminating, if he so chooses, in what was seen last Saturday... and may be seen this Saturday too, unless Barkat backs down.

As Rabbi Horowitz points out, you can see that these hafganas are not directed by the gedolim, as people claim they are. Rav Elyashiv told people to protest! The Gerrer Rebbe told people to protest! etc. Krausz says they decide what to protest and how, and then they get the rabbonim to sign on if they feel they need that extra boost. But even then it is only after the askanim have decided everything.


  1. THank you. I always thought maybe I was the crazy one for thinking the obvious - the askonim are the source of much haredi public policy, not the 'gedolim'.

    Now at least there is someone else - a 'big name' out there saying this on public record in no uncertain terms.

    truly the emperor has no clothes; but so long as it is just a little boy pointing this out - nobody is going to do anything about it.

  2. Rafi,
    R Horowitz attached this letter to his article. It is very powerful. I think you may want to post it separately.

    The following letter was submitted to YWN, and was written by a Chasidish woman who resides next to Kikar Shabbos. This unedited letter (posted in its entirety) should be an eye-opener to all parents who have Bochrim learning in Eretz Yisroel. NOTE: Quite a few “innocent” American Bochrim have been arrested in recent days for “innocently” standing by a Hafganah.
    Dear YWN,
    I write this with pain, not with any political agenda.
    Some of you may know about the protests that are going on in Yerushalayim about the parking lot that is open on shabbos. What you may not know, and what you must know if your son is learning in the Holy Land, is what is happening on the streets.
    On Shabbos the Eidah Chareidis had a kabbolas shabbos on Bar Ilan to protest the chillul shabbos.
    On the Thursday before that, the garbage bin outside my house was torched at about 7:30. The bochrim who set it on fire, and a crowd of close to 100, sang ‘bar yochai’ for a few minutes, and then left, the fun was over. While this clearly had nothing to do with shabbos, after all, the mayor does not live on my street, and was an act of destruction, I had to live with the smoke for the next several hours. The bochrim had their fun, but we, who live on the block were inhaling black smoke, and couldn’t call the fire dept. because it is a ‘chillul hashem’. I saw a man of about 60 going back and forth with his little girl, carrying pails of water to extinguish the flames. (He had to walk half a block and go up steps, refill water, come back…) He did this, at least for two hours. There are those that burn, and those that are left to put out the flames.
    We did our best to help, but when we thought the fire was out, 3 hours after it started, a spark caught again and the whole bin was in flames again. I called my rebbitzin and got permission to call the fire department. I woke up the next morning with pain in my heart and a scratchy throat, that is all. My rebbitzin told me of men and women who had to be hospitalized because they’re allergic to smoke or because of excessive smoke inhalation. I got off lucky.
    On Sunday, I was walking to my sister who lives on a quiet street. Two garbage bins were burning on her street, and a group of about 15 bochrim stood around, some threw in garbage, the other just laughed and cheered. Again, the rabbonim organized a mechoa on Shabbos, not on Sunday. And they said, even when they asked people to come to the protests, that one shouldn’t burn garbage.
    Last night, Monday, I heard screaming and yelling from the street. I washed my dishes. At one point, at about 10:30, I heard something heavy being dragged. I looked out and saw a group of bochrim rolling out the garbage bin from our street, to the kikar a block away. Smoke was already rising at the kikar, from other garbage bins apparently. Other bochrim were rolling more garbage bins from other blocks, some of them metal, some plastic. It stabbed my heart, I was just standing there and shaking. I watched two bochrim carrying cardboard to kindle the flames. Like many of the rest, they were wearing hats and jackets and like a very large percentage, they were speaking English. My husband yelled down to one of them, ‘what are you doing here?’ They laughed. A bochur that lives next door to us pleaded with the ones that were pulling out our garbage. They ignored him.

  3. Part two

    For the next few hours, we kept hearing animalistic screaming from the street. We decided, my husband and I, that we couldn’t do anything anyways so we would just remain inside. We went to bed with difficulty. Just as the sounds would peter out, we heard inhuman screaming again. We heard things being thrown, and metal clattering against the street. I would later see that these brave warriors were pulling barricades that protect pedestrians on the narrow sidewalks, out of the cement.
    At about 1:30, I was still unable to fall asleep. Suddenly our air-conditioner, which was on to block out the noise of the street, not to keep us cool, went off and our apartment went dark. It turns out that the electricity of the entire area, including even the street lamps, was blown, perhaps because of the fire. The screaming on the street increased. I got dressed and went out to the porch.
    On the kikar a block away, the bochrim were very proud that they blew the electricity of all the families living in what I believe was a two to three block radius. After a few minutes of triumphant screaming, they began singing to the tune of Carlebach, ‘Ani avdecha ben amasecha…’
    The irony was so painful, I cried loudly, on the porch. My husband, satmar geshtimt, chassid of the Eidah, didn’t try to stop me.
    I could go on. There were horrible sights and sounds that night, finally petering out at 2:30.
    The reason I am posting, my questions are:
    1)What were these bochrim thinking??
    2)Where was the tzelem elokim when I heard words and sounds that should not come out of any human being’s vocal chords, especially not that of yeshivaleit? Where was the basic compassion / thought for the neighbors? Where was any sort of restraint when barricades, which are extremely important by our narrow sidewalks for safety, were wrenched out with a lot of effort? How did they have the heart to watch a small old man carrying his garbage three blocks away because that was the first place the bin was still there?
    3)R’ Avraham Yehoshua of Brisk said this week when one of his bochrim were arrested, “vos tut a bochur bei a mechoa?” - what is a bochur doing by a protest? (He was talking about a real mechoa, organized by the gedolim, and he is no Zionist.) What indeed? Even if he is ‘just’ watching, why risk arrest, make a great chillul hashem, be mechazek those that are being mazik, if he doesn’t have to ? If he cares about shabbos, how about being mekabel shabbos early, as we have began doing, for Yerusahalayim? None of the rabbonim said bochrim should go, and in general, all men should not go unless told to do so by their morah d’asra. There is too much of your own humanity at risk.

  4. Part three,

    4)Where are you parents? Let me ask that again. Where are you parents? Do you realize the implication of no supervision in your son’s yeshiva? A choshuve bochur next door, the one who tried to stop the garbage bin from being rolled out, told my husband this morning, “Who’s in charge that I make it to shachris on time? I slept late because of what happened here, who’s worrying that I daven?” Do you realize your sons could be mazik tens of people and no one will do anything? Do you realize that if your sons drink or smoke or watch inappropriate videos, or meet with the other gender, (we have bochrim over for shabbos seudos and there are a lot of bochrim diros in our neighborhood - believe me, I’ve seen too much…) no one is stopping them? This is a much broader issue than just what happened last night. Do you know what your sons are doing? I know he is the best boy in the universe, but who’s to say he doesn’t have unfiltered Internet in his dirah? Who is to say he didn’t get caught up with a crowd and that he didn’t scream like a maniac in middle of a city, in middle of the night? Who is to say that he didn’t join a group of likewise English speakers, to do the holy act of pulling out barricades from the sidewalk? Who is to say that he makes it on time for shachris? Who is accountable for him? He himself? - “Al taamin b’atzmecha” these bochrim need higher supervision.
    We decided we’re going to do something. My husband is coming home late for lunch because he is meeting with the mashgiach of Mir and Chevron. I am calling the Gaved of the Eidah, with the blessings of my Rebbe, and going to post what I saw wherever I can.
    I didn’t take pictures last night, because I was so disgusted. It’s like an embarrassing episode that you’d rather erase from your mind. Now I regret it, I would have shown the pictures to the mashgichim of these yeshivos, shown them what their bochrim were doing. If five bochrim were kicked out of yeshiva, I bet all of these shenanigans would stop immediately.
    Please don’t respond with stories about shabbos and pride marches and the gedolim of previous generations. This has got nothing to do with it.
    If you’re a mother, know where your son is. If you’re a friend, make sure you never justify the unjustifiable. If you’re a fellow Jew, daven for these bochrim, but never commend their actions. Daven for peace in Yerushalayim, and never stand up for those who value fun (Midnight Mir party! I heard one of the bochrim scream last night) over self respect, over basic mentschlichkeit, over Kiddush HaShem.
    Sha’alu Shalom Yerushalayim.

  5. yes. The problem is clearly the american yeshiva bochurim.

  6. I did not post the letter, because I neither like it nor beluieve it to be authentic.
    1. a satmar woman living in Meah she'arim has internet access and email a letter to YWN? What are the chances?
    2. while american bochurim definitely get involved because it is excitement and entertainement for them, they cannot be blamed for the majority of what goes on there. they learned that type of hafgana from the locals. they did not make it up. also, the locals have been doing it for much longer than the american boys. so to blame the boys as if they were the only ones doing this is kind of disingenuous.

  7. I don't fully understand the anti-askanites.
    Can George Bush blame problems in Iraq on his askanim?
    If gedolai yisrael are really menat to lead klal yisrael on non-halachik matters, the onus of the consequences is on them.
    Rabbi Horowitz either sees the trees but not the forest, or is afraid to say what he knows is the truth, that daas torah as practiced in Litvish Charedi circles is irrelevant at best.

  8. I think that is pretty much precisely what he is saying. The askanim speak in the name of the gedolim and say things that clearly the gedolim would never say or support. Is it so hard to get the gedolim to sign off on something? we all saw the video of how the askanim led the discussion with rav elyashiv until they directed him to say what they were digging for. Everythign else he said, or thought, on the subject is irrelevant because they then put out a statement saying Rav Elyashiv paskened this or that.


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