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UPDATE: Y-Love has clarified his position in comments here and here, saying, among other things, “First of all it is an axiom that G-d does not condone actions like this. That goes almost without saying and I apologize for leaving out precisely how strongly I feel against these actions.”

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In response to a YNet article on a recent scourge of attacks on clothing stores that sell allegedly immodest clothing and women who wear it by yeshiva students armed with bleach in Jerusalem’s Charedi neighborhood of Geulah, Chasidic rapper and Jewschool contributor Y-Love has produced what can only be termed as an apologia for for violence against women and the destruction of the property and livelihood of fellow Jews by certain elements of Charedi society in Israel.

I met Y-Love in Jerusalem and was struck by his intelligence and friendliness, not to mention his formidable skills as an MC, so I want to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that I’m misinterpreting his intent and he did not truly mean to imply that attacking Jewish women (or any women, for that matter) with bleach is a valid reaction to the infiltration of Israeli Charedi society by secular attitudes and fashions – surely a position without basis in Jewish law. But if not, what exactly does Y-Love mean to say with statements such as these?

And then [the Charedi] gets to Jerusalem, and realizes, even here, only 30% of the population in charedi. So he moves to the charedi “black belt” of Jerusalem and realizes that his main thoroughfares are still functional on Shabbos and connects secular communities, and has bus stops with advertising similar to what he left. So he moves again to B’nei Brak or to Me’ah Shearim. He builds walls, fences, he puts up signs, he puts up posters, he screams in the streets, only wanting to have some type of halachically proscribed religious environment, some square inch he can go to as a safe haven from an increasingly secular world.

And all the while, all he hears is “religious fanatic” and how his point of view must be done away with. How he has no rights, not even after paying double, triple the price of a comparable dwelling just to live in a place where he might have a chance to live without compromising his religious observance. Where he might be able to keep that law he learned about in yeshiva, the ones his rebbe told him were so important. But no.

And so, with his value system stripped of legitimacy by the “modern world”, and now unable to shut it out, he is subjected to stimuli day in and day out. With no choice, and no options. The Shulchan Aruch told him not be around something he now can’t escape [immodestly attired women]. And the only people’s rights who matter are the people who don’t have his views.

Y-Love may make valid points about the status of Charedim in Israeli society and how they perceive themselves in relation to the state and their secular brethren, but Charedi alienation, some of which is certainly self-inflicted, is hardly justification for the potential injury of those who live outside of Charedi strictures – and I’m confident that most Charedim would agree.

But what Y-Love fails to mention at all in throwing out the red herring of perceived unwanted secular presence in Charedi neighborhoods is that the recent events in Geulah are almost certainly violence whose target is not secular Jews, but in fact other religious Jews. The Charedim mentioned in the YNet article whose actions Y-Love seems to defend are not throwing bleach on women who wear halter tops and stores that sell womens’ pants (not that such actions would be any more permissible) – they are attacking women and stores in Geulah itself, an entirely religious neighborhood, where all women dress according to the laws of tzniut and the stores cater exclusively to the neighborhood’s wholly religious populace.

What we have in Geulah now is a case of certain Charedim persecuting Jews whose standards of modesty, while doubtless in total conformity with Jewish laws of tzniut as stipulated in the Talmud and the Shulchan Arukh’s Orach Chaim and Even Ha-Ezer, are not in keeping with the further stringencies applied by certain Charedi sects. General Orthodox consensus, based on these sources and others, indicates that for women, modesty in clothing includes: shirts that extend far enough to cover the elbow (that Talmud states in Tractate Ketubot that revealing the entire zroa, the upper arm, is grounds for divorce without the protection of the ketubah); skirts (or other non-male clothing) that extend to cover the knee in both standing and sitting position; hair covering for married women and also divorcees and widows; and a general principle of not wearing clothes that attract undue attention, often interpreted as not wearing clothes that are too loud in color. Everything beyond these basic guidelines, as can be well attested-to with only a cursory survey of the vastly different styles of dress within Orthodox communities, is subject to interpretation.

At least according to some sources, the minhag ha-makom (local custom) has the status of halakha – therefore, if the local custom is to dress above and beyond the minimum specified in the codes of Jewish law, then a woman dressing according to the minimum would be immodestly attired within that community. However, as Geulah is a heterodox neighborhood, with Jews encompassing the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy (although leaning heavily towards the more Charedi side), it cannot be argued that the minhag ha-makom in Geulah requires the absolute strictest interpretation of the laws of tzniut. Yet that appears to be the interpretation of the Charedi extremists in Geulah who feel they have the right to destroy property and physically endanger Jews whose adherence to tzniut does not go as far beyond the letter of the law.

Seeking then to refute Y-Love’s insinuation that a pernicious secular influence was behind the attacks in Geulah, and to demonstrate that Geulah’s clothing stores cater solely to a religious clientele who keeps the laws of tzniut, I went there this morning armed with my camera. I focused mainly on three of the major avenues of Geulah: Yechezkel, Malkhei Yisrael and Strauss, all major shopping districts, the economic heart of the neighborhood, and all close (geographically if not ideologically) to “secular Israel.” If the alleged secular infiltration of the neighborhood’s mores and fashion sense truly existed, it would be doubtless be found there.

What did I find in more than an hour of wandering? All the signs of a thriving and entirely religious neighborhood. Every single clothing store, if the products of a clothing store can be judged by its window display (seemingly a safe assumption) sold only the most modest of clothes. In my time there during one of the neighborhood’s busiest times, Friday morning, I saw two immodestly-attired women: one was a uniformed security guard at a preschool and the other a woman who got off a bus at Kikkar Shabbat and quickly began to head towards downtown. Every single one of the hundreds of women and girls I passed by, save those two, was modestly attired, and the vast majority far beyond the minimum standard. This is not a neighborhood being invaded by secular people. This is not even a neighborhood where secular people enter other than to pass through, because it contains very little that caters to their desires. Its streets are closed on Shabbat, its bus stops (contrary to Y-Love’s claim) contain no immodest advertising, its restaurants are kosher – it is a veritable bastion of the kind of insular religious environment that Y-Love states the average Charedi is seeking. I took pictures of many of the stores I came across (I did not take pictures of people, even if they may have illustrated my points, because I did not want to interfere with anybody’s sense of modesty by photographing them).

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Whorish.


Slutty.


Frankly indecent.


Licentious.


Wholly secular.

Does this look like a neighborhood under assault by secular values to you?

I want to stress, I’m not trying to attack Charedim or the Charedi way of life. I’ve passed through Geulah countless times without incident, and I am very obviously not Charedi. Nobody even bothered me when I was walking around taking pictures of womens’ clothing stores, certainly a somewhat odd activity when considered objectively. I’m sure the vast majority of Geulah’s Charedim would never even think to potentially injure their fellow Jews for dressing immodestly, or not modestly enough. What is happening now is probably the work of the same relatively small population young Charedi males who, due to their inability to succeed in the traditional Charedi pursuits of study and learning, harass Israeli storeowners who don’t close early enough before Shabbat, or burn trash bins, or stone Shabbat drivers. But it’s still not in any way acceptable, no matter what level of secular influence penetrates their lives.

Let’s save the apologia for situations that truly demand them, shall we? Things that are objectively wrong should be condemned out of hand, because there is no way to defend them while retaining one’s integrity.

About the author

michael

23 Comments

  • if I see Michael in any thong even I will attack him. He doesn’t have to go to Geulah for that. And for the record, there’s nothing untzniusdic about a thong. As long as you’re wearing something on top of it.

  • I will quote, as I often do, ha-Rav Andre 3000 in his sefer “Stankonia”: “And no, I don’t wanna see your thongs, I kinda dig them old school, cute, re-gu-lar drawers…”

  • I was also a bit confused when I read Y-Love’s post. It reads like he wrote it after one hell of a late-night Kool-Aid bender. A little misogyny in the name of theology is one thing- advocating violence against women and the burning of businesses is another entirely. Loved your photo captions.
    Sincerely,
    Another kosher harlot

  • Rav Andre three gurr is near wisest of the charedi as it was quoted in sefer ha-ATaliens:

    Even if you just hate my fuckin guts go ‘head and dap me
    Cause I’m gon’ dap you anyway and then go home and pray for yo’ ass later

    He never uses the bleach. Ever.

  • Y-Love is well known as a kind and tolerant person, and chill. But Bostoner chassidim have a bit of a repuation generally for apologia for the worst intolerance of the chassidim, even if they would never do anything of that sort themselves.

  • Muffti isn’t sure, Michael….that white top in the ‘frankly indecent’ picture looks to be a little tight…and throw some liquid on it and you have a virtual wet t-shirt contest going on! You clearly just want to turn charedi neighbourhoods into a version of Mardi Gras!

    As for Y-Love, this article is a beautiful Q.E.D. against the particulars of his discussion. But we could perhaps all take a minute to appreciate that at least Y-love was trying for a few minutes to take the perspective of someone else and imagine what might be frustrating them/motivating them rather than doing what most (including me) are inclined to do and point a finger at what loooks like gross irrationality and intolerance. What Michael demonstrates, Muffti thinks, is just how hard it is to undertake that activity without knowing an awful lot about your target.

  • trying for a few minutes to take the perspective of someone else and imagine what might be frustrating them/motivating them
    GM-
    Some people also said that about the Unabomber.

  • I’m not fashion expert, but I think that clothing pictured above is hideous. If the women who were bleached were wearing the above items perhaps the bleach throwers were doing them a favor!

  • cross posted from Jewschool:

    In all due respect to Y-Love, his attempt to have the reader enter the mindset of the violent vigilante tznius patrol is misguided and wrong.

    It is always inexcusable, wrong, to harm another in the name of God, greed, or good intentions.

    I also fiercely disagree with his depiction of the mindset of the attackers. I think that they feel they are fully justified. Far from feeling their back is up against the wall, as portrayed by this piece, they are on the offensive.

    And as far as their sticking to the shulchan aruch, Dear Y-Love, we both know that it cannot be justified in any way shape or form such activity. They have completely missed the entire meaning of guarding our eyes, they have completely perverted the meaning of the torah laws of modesty.

    They should be doing teshuva, fasting, and praying and asking God for forgiveness for the evil chillul hashem they have created. They should issue public apologies, offer compensation for the victims and counseling. The Rabbonim should be assigned to publicly apologize on the behalf of the entire kahal to those that were harmed and direct their followers in the proper path of teshuva and healing.

  • I can understand where Y-Love got caught up in his own reasoning. Yes, these guys are frustrated, and we should feel for them, but once they start acting like religious fanatics, they deserve the term, regardless of what may have come before.

  • One would be remiss to not note the duly provided update to the post, in comment number 28. I took it as axiomatic that G-d does not desire deeds like this. What I attempted to do was give a scenario for what type of background could produce a mind traumatized enough to incite people to this.

    Yes, this is a chillul Hashem of horrible proportions. However, as I note on my comment, attempts to examine why things like this take place in charedi communities are too few and far between.

    In addition, I was incensed at the writer Neta Sela’s blunt dismissal of these people as “religious fanatics”. Neta Sela is the byline I see quite often on very anti-charedi articles on YNet. Far more analysis went into many stories that I have seen about suicide bombing or other unconscienable activities; I think it behooves Jews, especially when it comes to intra-Jewish issues, to put forth the utmost effort into understand precisely what it is that divides us, rather than celebrating the division lishmah.

  • Y do you say that, Y Love? Usually our traffic takes a big hit on the weekends because people are at home instead of work and…because of shabbat.

  • I want to confess. I am charedi anonymus and I wanted once attack Michael with a bleach but i forgot to bring it. And btw please dont believe Michael when he says he is not chareidi- I have always seen him with his hair covered in a way adhering to the charediest way of life.

  • Now having done chazara on this article enough times to make the average yeshiva bochur envious, I see that a lot of what you wrote hinges on a misinterpretation of what I said.

    The hypothetical charedi oleh in my piece moved from America to the “charedi black belt” which spans from (yesh omrim Har Nof) Mattersdort/Unsdorf to its border with more “mixed” neighborhoods. Rechov Bar-Ilan, wasn’t that the site of hafganot in the late 90s regarding Sabbath desecration?

    Moving from there, Mr. Oleh moves to Geulah/Meah Shearim and “puts up signs” and hears himself berated.

    And again, not “acceptable”, but at least something which one can examine the causes of.

  • Just for the record (despite whatever moral judgement you may pass on the bleach-throwers), I live in m’kor bracha, right up the street from malchei yisroel and ge’ulah, and I definitely see women wearing pants or shorts or whatever in that area pretty much every single time I go out. I mean, lately I haven’t seen shorts because it’s been too cold. But I was just there a couple hours ago, at like 10pm (when there weren’t so many people out), and I for sure saw at least one woman in pants. Which is her prerogative, for sure.

    Now, I don’t know about a secular invasion or anything, but if I was charedi, I might think it was a pretty sucky situation.

    And I definitely passed that “Frankly indecent” window, because I remember thinking how that bright pink blouse or whatever definitely looks a bit weird, as does the brown bag below it on the left.

  • Judi said:

    Some people also said that about the Unabomber.

    But that’s just it, don’t you see?

    Everyone agrees that the Unabomber’s actions were evil and wrong, yet nobody shies away from attempting to enter and understand his mindset.

    For some reason, this attitude does not carry over to charedim. We are quick to dismiss their every foolishness as “ignorance and rabid fundamentalism,” when similar or equal actions by their secular counterparts are immediately held under the microscope to analyze what could have led to this behavior.

    Y-Love’s post was clearly focused on this very unbalance, and I applaud him for pointing it out.

    As caring Jews, it is our responsibility to try as hard as we can to understand our brothers even when their actions are clearly and halachically wrong.

    And I reiterate, for those who need it underscored: I do not support the actions of these charedim in any way, but I DO acknowledge the need for Jews to refrain from blithely dismissing one another.

    That is a precept of our faith just as much as “Wicked one, why do you strike your fellow.”

    Let us not forget that.

  • David–
    I think Michael’s article is a perfect example of how such a situation should be addressed. At no point does Michael “blithely dismiss” the actions of those who are throwing bleach. What he does instead is acknowledge that there is something wrong with these individuals that their community may not be addressing. Justifying incorrect behavior just allows for excuses and repetition of the said incorrect behavior instead of finding a way to solve these problems. Furthermore, in this article, Michael doesn’t make this a fault of “the Charedi” community, but independent actions of independent individuals (which makes the situation a lot easier to amend). As a matter of fact, he says it straight out: “What is happening now is probably the work of the same relatively small population young Charedi males who, due to their inability to succeed in the traditional Charedi pursuits of study and learning, harass Israeli storeowners who don’t close early enough before Shabbat, or burn trash bins, or stone Shabbat drivers.” It’s nice that Y-Love tried pointing out possible reasons for why a community might feel a certain way, but it is not the community who is bleaching women. It’s individuals who need to be stopped.

  • YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN IN THE US BECA– USE WE DON’T TOLERATE THAT AT ALL MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS POEPLE GIVE ME A BREAK

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