Sunday, July 7, 2013

Chariedim now use Nazi tactics against fellow Chariedim that joined the IDF

By ISABEL KERSHNERJERUSALEM — They have been labeled “Hardakim,” a derogatory term that combines Haredim, the name commonly used here to denote ultra-Orthodox Jews, with the Hebrew words for insects and germs.
As the Israeli government presses ahead with plans to enlist young Haredi men and phase out their wholesale exemption from the country’s mandatory military service, hard-line elements in the ultra-Orthodox community are fighting back by ostracizing the few thousand community members already in the armed forces.
Crude, comics-style posters have appeared in recent weeks on billboards across ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods nationwide portraying those soldiers, who volunteered under programs meant to attract Haredim, as fat, bearded, gun-toting caricatures in uniform snatching terrified Haredi children off the streets.
The strictest Haredim, who insist on the right of all ultra-Orthodox men to engage in full-time Torah study and worry about exposure to a more secular life, denounce the soldiers as “traitors” and liken them to a pestilence.
Brig. Gen. Gadi Agmon, from the Israeli military’s human resources branch, told a parliamentary committee here last week that the well-orchestrated campaign was no less vicious in style than that of Der Stürmer, the Nazi-era propaganda organ notorious for its anti-Semitic caricatures. The remark was widely reported in the secular news media and on Haredi Web sites.
Haredi soldiers have been verbally abused, spit on and humiliated while walking through their neighborhoods all over Israel. Some have been attacked with stones, or their car tires have been slashed. The children of others have been rejected by local educational institutions, and there are growing fears that enlisting could harm the marriage prospects of their siblings.
The integration of Haredim, or “those who fear God,” into the military — and providing them a path into the work force — is viewed as essential by many Israelis, not only to uphold the principle of social equality but also to ensure the economic survival of the country. More than a quarter of Jewish first graders in Israeli schools belong to the fast-growing ultra-Orthodox minority.
In recent years, hundreds have served in Nahal Haredi, a combat battalion established in the late 1990s for ultra-Orthodox 18-year-olds. About 3,000 more have served in Shahar, an army program set up in late 2007 to train young married ultra-Orthodox men as technical staff members for the air force, navy, intelligence and other branches of the military.
To attract recruits, Shahar allows soldiers to go home every night during their two-year army stint and provides a government salary.
But with Parliament working on legislation that would eventually lead to the conscription of ultra-Orthodox men, and the subsequent backlash among the Haredim, things now appear to be moving in the opposite direction.
In past years, the ultra-Orthodox community was more tolerant toward members who chose military service; some rabbis even gave their quiet blessing to recruits who were deemed unsuitable for full-time Torah study. But Haredi attitudes have hardened in response to the broad public pressure and government efforts to work toward equal service for all, barring a small quota of Orthodox youths considered Torah prodigies.
In May, up to 30,000 Haredi men flooded the streets around the recruitment office in Jerusalem to protest conscription, exposing for the first time the depth of anger. The Haredi reaction already appears to have dampened volunteer enlistment.
Elchanan Fromer, 29, who is from a small ultra-Orthodox settlement in the West Bank and works as a coordinator for the Shahar program, said the year had begun very well, with more than twice as many volunteers as in the first half of 2012. In recent weeks, however, there have been signs of a drop-off, he said.
Mr. Fromer joined Shahar in 2010 and served for 18 months. But service has become much harder for Haredi soldiers, he said, because of the potential consequences for their families now that passions on the subject have been inflamed.
“Hundreds of soldiers are facing daily problems,” he said. “Personally, if I was supposed to enlist today, I wouldn’t do it.”
On billboards in the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim quarter of Jerusalem last week, black-and-white posters warned the public against the “licentious military” coming to tempt innocent Haredi youths into “the whorehouses of Nahal and Shahar.”
On central thoroughfares, the posters of children being snatched had mostly been ripped off the walls. But in the back alleys, where one hostile resident threw water from a balcony onto reporters, the posters remained untouched. Since most Haredim do not watch television, billboards and fliers are a traditional means of communication.
The comics-style campaign against Haredi soldiers has been primarily aimed at children to counter what opponents of the draft said was the military’s attempt to legitimize the young men by sending them into ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in uniform.
As part of the outreach to children, the anonymous organizers of the “Hardakim” campaign announced a children’s poster competition this summer via a Gmail account, soliciting entries showing how best to shun the soldiers.
Pini Rozenberg, a spokesman for the Haredi community in Jerusalem, said the campaign was “an internal Haredi matter meant to explain to the Haredi youth why the army institutions are not, and will never be, legitimate.”
He added: “It is not personally directed against any particular soldier. It is purely educational.”
Mr. Rozenberg also insisted that the rabbis who supported the campaign behind the scenes opposed any form of violence.
Haredi critics of the campaign point out that the rabbis, like most ultra-Orthodox Jews, have remained silent, allowing more extreme community members to set the tone.
As the backlash has worsened, the military set up a 24-hour help line for Haredi soldiers to report verbal or physical violence against them and says it has received more than 80 complaints.
One 24-year-old Haredi soldier, who asked not to be identified because he feared the consequences of further exposure, explained the path he had taken to the army. Although he grew up in a strictly ultra-Orthodox area of Jerusalem and boarded at an elite yeshiva, he secretly studied for the secular high school matriculation exams. He went on to begin law studies in a special Haredi program at a private college, then joined the military through the Shahar program.
“I wanted to contribute and to be an equal citizen, to advance and to integrate,” he said.
His wife’s family still does not know he is in the military because the couple was unsure how the family would react. His parents know, but keep it quiet.
He lives in Bayit Vegan, once a mixed religious-secular neighborhood of Jerusalem that was considered relatively moderate, and said he had suffered daily abuse in recent months, being spit at and chased by children and teenagers calling out “Germ!” and “Traitor!”
He now carries tear gas for self-defense and a special permit allowing him to leave his base in civilian clothes and still benefit from free bus travel for soldiers.
Some fellow Haredi soldiers have moved from their neighborhoods, but he refuses to do so.
“For me, to move is to hand them a victory,” he said. “They want to banish us from Haredi soci

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