The 11th Floor

A Perpsective Overlooking Jerusalem, Israeli Life, and Talmud Torah

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Felafel with a side of Pulsa D'nura

Hey! Have you heard about Pulsa D’nura? No, its not a new skin cream, and its not a waterpark here in Israel- it’s a death curse. I didn’t know that you needed anything special in Aramaic; “I hope you die” seems to be enough of a curse. But there are people who claim to be representatives of Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox community who may have cast it against A.G. Shaul Mofaz for ordering the Jerusalem Police to allow the Gay Pride parade to go on. In addition, an interview with Israeli Army Radio quoted one Rabbi Samuel Papenheim who stated “The Rabbinical Court has held a special session and discussed placing a ‘pulsa denura’ on those who have had a hand in organizing the march.” But more about that in a second.

The lack of fresh blogs is from the “six week slump.” This is long stretch where winter begins, daylight vanishes, and routine goes from being a comfort to, well, a pain in the ass. There is a monotony to the days, even for those of us learning Torah. In Talmud, Sugya follows Sugya, page follows page, and other classes are no different from one day to the next, or so it feels. It is great to be making progress in the book of the Bible you are studying, or to move ahead in a book of midrash, but with nothing on the schedule until Hannukah, it’s a bit gloomy. You can get to feel like you just do the same thing each day, and not much is going on. Some schools have long trips schedualed to break up these grey weeks- mine does not.

Of course, this is just inside school. Inside the Bet Midrash, and in most parts of Jerusalem, you would never know about the vandalism and riot police. It is all to easy to ignore that portion of the ultra-Orthodox community that is bursting with violence due to the “Mitzad Ga’avah,” the gay pride parade. It should be known that the route does not enter any Charedi neighborhoods. For those of you who need stereotypes, that means hundreds of gay men will not be invading the small shops of Gilulah asking if there are talitot “in something besides black on white,” nor will, as far as I can tell, there be a wave of lesbians shopping for phylacteries .

In all seriousness, the parade route has been moved far from the ultra-Orthodox areas to the governmental district. But last year’s parade was marred when Yishai Schlissel, stabbed three parade participants (he is now serving 12 years), and the attack is still on everyone’s mind. The nights of rioting do not lead anyone here to think that things will be more calm this year. And there will be no discussion or encounters between these two groups aside from the parade, which is all the more sad when each night we see how the violence has escalated. Dialogue is what is needed here; when there is no dialogue, zealots gain control. And the zealots are the ones who murdered the citizens of Jerusalem and set fire to the food stores in Roman days; we can expect similar behavior from their spiritual inheritors.

Far too many Charedi Yeshiva and Kollel students between the ages of 18 and 25 are not immersed in Torah study at night, and instead they are acting as if they are on spring break, overturning cars and setting fires, hurling all manner of dangerous debris at police. The ultra-Orthodox leaders of these communities say they have no power over the rioters; this is of course untrue. The teachers of these young men are neglecting their duty. They could take attendance at Yeshiva and cut off stipends to those who are not in shiur each night, or they could place people in cherem (yes, excommunication would send a clear message). There are tools that can be used to clear the streets that are far more effective than the water cannon of the riot police.

Sadly, the reaction of these communities has been a long time in the making; when the street signs in Mea Shearim proclaim “Don’t let Jerusalem become an Ir Hanidachat!” three weeks before the parade, religious leaders are letting hatred ferment into violence when they remain silence. This is because the Ir Hanidachat is a town that must be destroyed- along with every living soul in it- because all the residents have turned to idolatry. It is never to be rebuilt. Using such a concept in a street poster is rhetoric of the worst kind, set to drive a pious Jew on edge. The posters are based on the fact that most of the citizens who see this will be so upset they will forget that:

  • Whatever the Torah may say about homosexuality, Idolatry is a different issue;
  • The Talmud says that there never was such a city, and there never will be (Sanhedrin 71a), as the law exists only to be studied for the sake of Torah Study;
  • The Talmud (Bavli Baba Kama82b) cites that the commandment to wipe out a city turned to Idolatry is only applicable to “your cities.” Jerusalem can never become an Ir Hanidachat, for Jerusalem is the property of God and not of any of the tribes of Israel.
  • That Gay and Lesbian Jews can be spoken to, that they are human beings who have fears and joys, dreams and needs, that they are people who study Torah and work for the betterment of their fellow Jew.

When all these things are forgotten from weeks of propaganda in Yiddish and Hebrew, there can be no doubt as to the effect. So how is encouraging Jew to hate Jew any different than the Arab governments’ anti-Semitism, which is used to distract those without power from the actions of those with it? Someone is putting these posters up, and it is not the pride parade organizers. Three weeks ago, most Charedim had never even thought about homosexual Jews. Now, hated of homosexuals is consuming their community. There are so many more serious threats to Israel and the Charedi community, yet this is now their sole focus, to the point of setting their own streets on fire.

I think of the generous and Torah-true souls I have met in the Charedi world who have shown me courtesy far beyond what I merit- I apologize to them for even the remote possibility that I could be seen as including them alongside those who have let hatred rob them of their Torah. Alas that these fine souls who have taught me so much are not leaders of the charedi communities here.

Friday will bring what I fear will be a day of Yei’ush (despair) for Jerusalem- cruelty, violence, and (God forbid) bloodshed will mark the day. I hope to be proved wrong, but I fear for this city, which once again has become a battleground.

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