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Why do I have to be scared to publish this?

I am taking a risk in writing what I want to write. I don’t know who I’m writing for. Charedim who read this might get upset at me. Non-Charedim can’t do anything about it anyways.

The past few days in Israel have seen cases of extremist violence on the part of the Charedi community.

Most of it has been in response to police enforcement of Covid restrictions, although there have also been other causes.

Today, several Charedi MKs gave speeches at the Knesset condemning the violence, and also emphasizing that the violence is coming from the fringes of the community. There is a movement to get a letter signed by prominent rabbis condemning the violence and instructing people to keep away from the demonstrations.

And I ask, who are we fooling? Yes, of course, the average Charedi on the street probably isn’t participating in the demonstrations. I would imagine that many of them aren’t the greatest supporters of them. But is it really a fringe phenomenon?

Is Vizhnitz-Merkaz, where undercover officers and an unmarked police car were attacked, a fringe group?

When it comes to elections, will UTJ care less about campaigning there than any other Chassidus? Are the rabbis who signed against taking the Covid vaccine fringe rabbis? Was the responsa pamphlet full of conspiracy theories that we all found distributed last week in our shuls written by a fringe Halachic authority? Does the average person in our community really believe that there is such a thing as Covid, as much as they believe that it’s a secret government plot to close the Charedi school system and cause our children to stray? Or that the vaccine might be a population-control device being pushed by Bill Gates?

How many people have been convinced that the Light Rail train down Bar-Ilan is a secret government plan to secularize Charedim by forcing them to be exposed to secular Jews every day with a train going down their street? Enough to gather just the fringe to violent protests on Bar-Ilan, complete with destroying tractors and other equipment.

When so many of us live in a siege mentality, as much as our Palestinian neighbors, of course the only way to respond to our tormentors is with violence.

Not all of us, but too many of us have been told day after day how the Zionists are trying to destroy us and our way of life, that everything they do is only for the purpose of destroying Torah, and that we can’t trust anything that the Zionists say or do.

It’s not uncommon to hear the sentiment that the Zionists never mean our good, and that they all hate us and are plotting against us. And the only way to fight back is with violence.

Even if you claim that all of those teens don’t really believe all of that nonsense, that they’re just bored fringe, why do we have so many bored teens that find an outlet in violence? Why are the teens in Ramat Gan who don’t have secret schools operating, why are they not so bored as our teens?

Why do our kids think that they are modern-day Maccabees, learning Torah under the noses of the Zionist Hellenists out to destroy the Torah, ready to take to arms to defend the Torah with violence if necessary? Why do so many adults who don’t participate directly in the demonstrations still identify with the cause?

Why do I have to be scared to publish this? Why do I have to be scared to say the truth that all of us know anyways?

Source: Ephraim Portnoy – TOI