I imagine Bloggers have spent the past few nights bent over a thesaurus trying to find synonyms for "outrageous", "offensive" "despicable" and "over the line" plus a hundred other ways to say horrible, to describe last Saturday night's Haredi demonstration. Men and even children dressed in Holocaust-image striped pajamas and yellow stars gathered to protest what they perceive to be anti-Haredi actions by the Israeli government—the same government which has continually bent over backwards to placate Haredi insistence on not only strict gender separation but also a new fanaticism about seeing any woman at all in public advertising (even Hilary Clinton, who to some might be a "babe" but is, after all, a state politician. The White House justifiably protested Haredi tampering when they cut her photo out of an official White House news release.)
Never mind that Israel's first prime minister Ben Gurion made concessions to a small minority years ago. He'd be rolling over in his grave to see where it led. He was convinced the surviving ultra-Orthodox relic would be extinct soon. They are now ten percent and demographics suggest they will soon be a quarter of the Israeli population. They have become radicalized and politicized to a point of no return. They are angry that the Jerusalem municipality refused their request for gender-separated sidewalks during Sukkot. (Note: the gender separated buses have become a public outcry at last. In a weak compromise the government made them "voluntary" but that is now being challenged even by Haredi women and by various groups of women riding the front of such buses in protest. Thank the goddess.) They are angry that there are photos of real, live women in advertisements on public buses and bus shelters. (Note: In Jerusalem you will not see any women in lingerie, underwear, or immodestly posed in any of those ads.) They are angry that there are any restaurants open on Shabbat in Jerusalem at all. But most of all, they are angry at the success and strength of a modern Zionist country that, in their opinion, doesn't have the right to be at all until the Messiah comes. As long as a strong Zionist, Jewish Israel exists, their belief in the Messiah coming is called into question.
This last Holocaust-mimicry protest finally made the general Israeli public angry, too. Very angry. Angry that their city of Jerusalem is being turned into a poor, welfare city where many of its residents live in 18th century Poland and demand that they do, too. And really angry that demands on the state are being made by groups who do not support the state or its army. And it's about time Israelis who live as good, tax-paying, army-going citizens get really, really angry about this. Instead of garnering sympathy for themselves, this group of Haredim have exposed themselves for what they really are: a marginal, fringe, radical group who distort the good name of Jews and Judaism everywhere. The group who dressed in Holocaust garments last week should be excommunicated—by their own Rabbis, not ours— as a real statement of repentance for their disrespect for the dead. No more platitudes coming from their official spokesmen. No more excuses.
It's also about time we liberal Jews got mad, too. It's about time we stopped romanticizing the Chasidim as if they were all Tevyes singing To Life, L'Chayim. It's about time we liberal Jews stopped financially supporting such groups no matter how much "good" they also do. It's about time we liberal Jews took ourselves seriously and stopped claiming "they" are authentic, "they" will keep Judaism alive. Is this the Judaism you want kept alive?
If not, it's time to get mad. Here are my suggestions:
1. The Knesset should pass a bill—as soon as possible—making it illegal to misuse Holocaust imagery as an insult to the memory of the dead and of the survivors still alive. Throw those who do so into jail immediately, or better yet, deport them. Let them protest in Holocaust garments in Williamsburg or Monsey, or Gaza, under Hamas.
2. Offer an attractive financial subsidy to any anti-Zionist Haredi group who will move themselves as a group out of Israel, so they no longer have to suffer living under a Zionist regime. Any Jewish philanthropist willing to do so will be strengthening Zionism.
3. All Jews should, as of today, monitor their financial contributions to communal chests and ask if one cent goes to any anti-Zionist Haredi school, yeshiva or institution anywhere in the world, even in your own town. If it does, stop your contribution and be sure you can direct it elsewhere.
4. Start giving generously to liberal Jewish causes in Israel, all of whom are fighting the good fight to keep Israel in the 21st century and to stop it from being "Talibanized." Example: make a donation to IRAC, Israel Religious Action Centre, which is doing amazing work on religious pluralism and democracy, and tell them it is specifically to be used for their work in fighting for religious rights.
It is simply unthinkable that a society as strong as Israel should be cow-towed anymore by a fringe group of quasi-citizens who use bullying, spiritual threats, and misappropriation of their own people's most painful memories to gain power and control over a country whose legally elected government they don't even recognize.