On Friday, June 2, 2017 at noontime, in the anti-Zionist Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Meah Shearim, police officers and undercover detectives arrested and wounded 14 Jews, in an operation characterized even by the Israeli secular media as brutal and excessive. Those arrested included several Orthodox men and young boys, as well two journalists, Moshe Blau and Soson Amir Selah, who were attempting to film the police action.
The operation was the latest in a series of actions by the police aimed at squashing public protest against the drafting of religious Jews into the Israeli army. Typically, these operations have been carried out at busy times such as Friday, when the streets of the religious neighborhood are full of people shopping in preparation for the Sabbath. The goal of the police is to arrest those who shout the insult “chardak” at religious soldiers who walk through their neighborhood.
The practice of publicly shaming religious soldiers was begun by community members three years ago in response to the passing of the draft law in the Knesset in 2014, and the subsequent efforts by the government to recruit as many religious soldiers as possible. The draft law will not become mandatory for another 3 years, but the government hopes to make army service for the traditionally Orthodox community socially acceptable by that time. The religious community has always been staunchly opposed to joining the Israeli army, following the fundamental principle of Jewish belief that Jews are in exile and are forbidden to have their own state or army, or to wage wars against any nation. This is in addition to their objection to the ongoing immoral behavior in the Israeli army. From that viewpoint, the Israeli government’s effort to make the draft a “normal” part of Orthodox life is a dangerous threat to basic Judaism.
The community’s response was to make anyone wearing a soldier’s uniform together with Orthodox trappings such as beards, sidelocks and yarmulkes as unwelcome as possible among religious Jews. Any such person venturing into the Orthodox neighborhood is likely to be hear people chanting after him and calling him the epithet “chardak” (a contraction of the words “chareidi kal daas”, meaning a religious person who has abandoned Torah principles, and similar in sound to the Hebrew word “chaidak”, meaning an insect). It is important to note that the campaign against the religious soldiers is strictly non-violent.
This campaign produced immediate results. Those religious soldiers who wished to enter traditional neighborhoods like Meah Shearim were careful to change into civilian clothes, or at least covered their uniforms with a long coat. They were even encouraged to do so by the military authorities.
However, in recent months the military and the police decided to launch a counteroffensive, and put a stop to this successful campaign of verbal intimidation, using the only method they know: violence and oppression. The tactic is simple: one or more police detectives disguise themselves as religious soldiers and enter a neighborhood such as Meah Shearim, Beis Shemesh or Bnei Brak. The “religious soldiers” pretend to be lost, as if they entered the religious neighborhood accidentally. Meanwhile, several more detectives, dressed as civilians, some in religious garb to make them inconspicuous, walk nearby, while several more undercover officers in parked civilian cars wait for the action to begin. As soon as someone yells an insult at the “soldiers”, the undercover police spring out of hiding to attack and arrest the insulter (in many cases a young child) who dared to speak against the mighty Israeli army. Of course, since speech alone is not a crime, the police usually claim that the suspect physically attacked the soldier.
At first, these police operations were carried approximately once in three weeks, but when they realized that the community was not intimidated, they stepped up the frequency to once every few days, usually at busy times like Thursday afternoons, Fridays and the days preceding holidays. Their calculation is that with the streets full of shoppers, even if they can’t catch the person who did the yelling, they will easily find another victim to arrest and charge with attacking the “soldier.”
Earlier last week, on May 30, the eve of the Shavuos holiday, seven boys and men were arrested in the Meah Shearim neighborhood, despite the fact that most of those arrested had no connection with the insulting of the soldier, but, unfortunately for them, happened to be passing by when the operation was carried out. A judge quickly realized that all were innocent, and the seven were released before the holiday began.
The police department’s appetite, however, only grows with time, and instead of being satisfied that they had shown their power, their unbridled brutality increases with every attack. On Friday, June 2 at approximately 12 PM, as hundreds of religious shoppers filled the streets of Meah Shearim – coming home from their studies and preparing for the Sabbath, the police struck again. This time their “religious soldier” was surrounded by a group of dozens of detectives, men and women, some of them disguised as ordinary religious Jews. As people began to shout “chardak,” the detectives put their yarmulkes in their pockets, donned police caps and began to arrest and beat murderously anyone in the area on whom they could lay hands.
Several bystanders fled into the courtyard of the main Toldos Aharon synagogue. The police barged into the courtyard and arrested several men, among them Rabbi Nochum Moshe Heimlich, head of the Satmar institute for advanced Torah study, as well as Rabbi Shmuel Schischa, a prominent member of Toldos Aharon, who together with Rabbi Shmuel Jacobovitz tried to plead with the police not to arrest innocent worshippers in the synagogue.
Rabbi Meir Dov Steinberger was also arrested, and Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Steinberger, the principal of Toldos Aharon elementary school, was cruelly beaten and wounded, as was Rabbi Dovid Eliyahu Weiss.
The panic and terror that fell upon all the residents of the area was indescribable. The screams of the mothers watching the violence from their balconies echoed in the narrow streets and alleys, mixing with the sounds of police charging through the streets and blaring sirens of ambulances coming to take away the bloody victims. One victim, a young boy, was filmed by a reporter as he was dragged by the collar, beaten and pinned to the ground, blood running from his head and face. In the process, several teeth were knocked out of the boy’s mouth.
A journalist caught filming the incident was also among those arrested. His arguments that he should be granted journalistic immunity to publicize the truth did not help him.
The police subsequently announced to the media that a “religious soldier” was injured and that he was carried out from the scene on the soldiers of a fellow officer, but it was later revealed that this was a act, intentionally done to discredit the non-violent protesters.
Furthermore, 10 people had already been arrested for nothing more than speech, before the point in time when the “soldier” was supposedly injured.
All of the 14 were released by the police on a judge’s order shortly before the Sabbath. The judge determined that the police had no evidence whatsoever that these people had committed any crime. Even the secular Israeli media reported the operation as a shocking incidence of blind hatred and police violence against innocent people.
Meanwhile, Orthodox community leaders in other countries reacted to the news with great distress. “This must be a wake-up call for us to stand by our brethren in the Holy Land in their hour of distress,” wrote one journalist for an Orthodox newspaper. “We say to them: don’t lose hope! Keep standing up for your beliefs, and in the name of G-d you will be successful.”
It is commonly believed that the State of Israel commits violations of human rights only against its non-Jewish neighbors, under the pretense of bringing greater security for Jews. The truth, however, is that they oppose authentic religious Jews who refuse to follow their ideology just as much as they oppose Arabs. To achieve their goal of make us into Zionists, they are oppressing us, expecting us to break down, give up and join them.
These operations are yet another proof that the state, its spokesmen and actions do not represent the Jewish people. The State of Israel is not a Jewish state, it is a Zionist state.