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Jun 20, 2013

opening of secular yeshiva in Kiryat Yovel upsets Haredi residents

The neighborhood of Kiryat Yovel in Jerusalem has been a regular headline in the local news over the past few years. Kiryat Yovel is a secular neighborhood to which haredim started moving, started with a trickle and then picked up a bit, a few years ago. As more and more haredim were buying homes in the neighborhood, Kiryat Yovel residents (original? long-term? secular? I am not sure what type of residents to call them) started to feel threatened, as if there is a planned takeover of the neighborhood by the haredi community.

What is a haredi takeover of a neighborhood, also known as hitchardut? I doubt we will ever really know the truth, but some say it is a fiction, as no such takeovers are organized on a communal level, while others say that such takeovers are quietly organized and are fairly methodical. The method of a takeover (according to those who think they are organized) is that haredim do not like to live alone - they need a community so they can have schools for their kids and shuls and yeshivas and kollels and the like. So, one haredi family is not going to move to a secular neighborhood in the hope that one day maybe a few more will join him.

So what they do, the theory goes, is that a few come in and offer very good prices to a number of homeowners. When they sell out, because how can you reject such an offer above market value, the neighbors start to become afraid and are suddenly starting to consider selling. Then a few more are bought, still at prices above market value. After a bit of this, plenty more want to move, as they do not want to end up in the middle of a haredi neighborhood, and it reaches a critical mass with more and more apartments being bought/sold at market value or at even less than market value.

Sometimes it is even more organized than that. A group will get together and make the initial purchases through a non-haredi third party, so that the trend will not be identified and opposed before it succeeds in the critical first few stages.

It is all very conspiratorial. However, I have seen in Haredi ad media advertisements from buying groups advertising to people who might be interested in buying in such a group in a "mitchared" neighborhood in the early stages. It had warnings not to buy from outside the group as it could harm the groups chance of success. The fact that I have seen a couple such ads does not mean it is a common situation and happens like that in every "mitchared" neighborhood, but it does happen in at least some places like that.

Now back to Kiryat Yovel.

At some pint the secular residents of Kiryat Yovwl woke up and noticed that they have a small but growing community of haredim in their neighborhood and their own friends have been moving out. Surely some did not care and continued on with their lives, while others went ahead and put their own homes up for sale, while others decided to fight back and fight for their homes and neighborhood. In the past few years, Kiryat Yovel has been a prime location for fights between haredi and secular residents. The secular residents protested against kindergartens being opened in apartments, something that is common but illegal due to zoning issues, and had some of them closed. The same with shuls and other religious services. Haredim had people saying tehillim in the streets to scare away more secular residents. Haredim would scream about cars in the streets on Shabbos, while secular would arrange intentional drives on Shabbos and late night parties to annoy the haredi.

and on and on and on...

Most recently, as was reported in the news, with the advent of the warm summer month, the secular residents have begun to arrange parties (a.k.a. cultural events) at night in the neighborhood streets, and in some of them they include belly dancers and other immodestly clad dancers that they know will make the haredim uncomfortable to be around.

And now they have decided to open a "secular yeshiva" in Kiryat Yovel.

Now, personally, I do not know why a secular yeshiva would bother anyone. Some might protest such a thing because of an ideal of learning torah only "properly" while saying that because they cannot in such a setting so it is damaging to the Torah to have such a setting. I would think that even if they are learning the Torah in their way and not ours, they are still developing a love for the Torah, which they will surely also transfer to their kids, and who knows how it will turn out. Maybe they will be more sympathetic to religious Jews and therefore more accepting of them, maybe they or their kids will eventually become more connected to the Torah, and all in all there is little wrong with it, at least in the sense of it disturbing my life. And, nobody, even people who take great offense at such a thing, needs to actually see it - pass the building and walk on. If you do not walk in, you won't know what is going on inside. So I don't see why anybody should take such  great offense at it, even if they don't particularly like or approve of it.

According to Bechadrei, though, the Haredi reaction has been to consider it another point in the fight over the neighborhood. The group filed all their requests and the city has approved the formation of the secular yeshiva. The haredim consider it an attempt to chase them out of the neighborhood.

Again, I do not see why. Let them have their yeshiva, and it should bother nobody. The haredim can have their yeshivas, and the secular can have theirs and one need not bother the other. But they don't see it that way.

Eran Broch, head, rosh yeshiva, of the secular yeshiva in Tel Aviv, justifies the establishment of the new secular yeshiva in Kiryat Yovel and denies it should bother anybody. Broch said that just like I do not oppose a dati yeshiva n Kiryat Moshe, nor do I oppose a haredi yeshiva in Bucharim neighborhood, so there shouldn't be any opposition to a secular yeshiva in Kiryat Yovel either".

And I agree. Not just because of "live and let live", but because it is not like belly dancers in the streets - they will be indoors doing whatever they do. Why should that bother me and make me want to leave?

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