Arrested development

Arrested development

I knew that the members of Neturei Karta do not share most Jews’ views and feelings about Israel (and in fact have made common cause with such Israel-haters as Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), but I took it for granted that they share humanity’s concern for children.

Clearly they do not, given three days of rioting in Jerusalem over the arrest of a woman in the sect on suspicion of abusing her child.

As various news outlets have reported, the 3-year-old was emaciated and suffering from severe malnutrition. (According to JTA, he weighed about 14 pounds – many 3-MONTH-olds weigh more.) A hospital surveillance camera showed the mother repeatedly disconnecting his feeding tubes. In effect, she was trying to starve him to death. That’s child abuse – criminal child abuse, and the police were right to arrest her.

The Neturei Karta community should be assessed the costs – some NIS 1 million, according to Mayor Nir Barkat – of putting the rioting down. (They have also been rioting against the Shabbat opening of a parking lot near the Old City – and rioting, by the way, on Shabbat itself.)

Please don’t tell me that they are asserting their independence from a state whose authority they don’t recognize. I would think that obedience to a higher authority would entail protecting a child and not indulging in violence.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Asher Lopatin posted this “Letter to Our Chareidi Brothers and Sisters” on the Website of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles:


“First I want to congratulate you for your fervor and unity in responding to those who are violating Shabbat by driving to Jerusalem on Shabbat and those who are intervening in family life in the Niturei Karta community by taking children to the hospital when they are emaciated and weighing 7 kg at two years old.

“But, secondly, I want to tell you that from a Torah True perspective your reactions are the very opposite of what you should be doing. Your commitment to Torah and current events gave you an opportunity for a great Kiddush Hashem, and instead you have distanced thousands ““ if not millions ““ from Torah. Didn’t you consider that Chilul Hashem B’farhesia, publicly profaning God’s name, is such a great sin that it outweighed going out on a limb to protect parking lots from cars on Shabbat, or to protect a family that really seems like it was abusing its children? Do you think that there could never be child abuse in your community? And was it not worth bringing an emaciated child ““ even you agree that he was dangerously emaciated ““ to one of the world’s leading hospitals for a check-up? Do you agree that doctors’ have a role in our lives in making some physical and psychological determinations?

“Rather than resorting to violent riots that have turned off even people sympathetic to your love for Shabbat and the integrity of the family, you should have copied God the way we are supposed to: with love and kindness ““ midot hachesed ““ the loving traits of God. Wouldn’t it have been far more effective to have shown up at the parking lot on Shabbat with grape juice and challah rolls and offered people driving into Yerushalayim the ability to celebrate Shabbat just a little? Had you offered them cholent and kugal, don’t you think word would have gotten out that Shabbat is a beautiful thing? After all, these people driving into Jerusalem are choosing to spend Shabbat in the Holy City, not at the beach in Tel Aviv or Ashkelon! We all need to think of how we can reach out to our brothers and sisters even when they are sinning in our eyes, and rather than making them park dangerously all around Jerusalem, endangering pedestrians who are not violating Shabbat, make them realize that you are willing to interrupt your Shabbat to spend some time with them! Maybe the next time some of them would be willing to drive into Jerusalem on Friday night, spend the night in a hotel ““ even an Arab hotel in the Old City! ““ and experience a full Shabbat in Jerusalem. Why didn’t you suggest to the city that parking overnight in Jerusalem ““ from Friday night till Shabbat is over ““ should be made free, to encourage people to drive in before Shabbat? All these moves would have made Jerusalem, Shabbat and the religious way of life something beautiful, not ugly ““ God’s name would be glorified, not sullied by the dirty rubbish that you have been throwing at city workers.

“Rather than rioting against what seems to be saving of a child’s life ““ piku’ach nefesh ““ didn’t you question for a moment what is going on? What are the names of Chareidi organizations that protect children ““ and spouses ““ from abuse? The Chareidi community in America has such organizations which serve the entire Jewish community ““ have you set up yours? I haven’t seen them involved or consulted. No, instead of blaming Hadassah hospital, the doctors and the media of a conspiracy, maybe you should begin a process of coming clean and accepting that domestic abuse occurs in all types of communities ““ from the most religious to the most secular, Jewish and non-Jewish. And that sometimes the police and the authorities have to be brought in to protect children and spouses. That would be the appropriate response, one that would be a Kiddush Hashem, which would win the respect of Jews and non-Jews for Torah and for Judaism.

“My brothers and sisters in the Chareidi community: God’s name is not sanctified by you showing how much political muscle you have to close parking lots, to maintain the ‘status quo’, or to show that you can do whatever you like to your kids without the authorities intervening: that’s not the way to sanctify God’s name, or even your name. The way to Kiddush Hashem is for all of us to place God and God’s kindness above our own agendas, and to show that we are willing to sacrifice even your own serenity on Shabbat, our own control over our families, in order to protect the weak and make God’s name something beautiful and desirable, not something which people cannot run away from fast enough.”