Thursday, October 25, 2007

Where are the Bans?

Following a brutal attack on a woman by five Charedi men for failing to move to the back of the bus (JPost, JTA, Haaretz), R. Yaakov Horowitz published a column (link) in which he called for, among other things, the issuance of halakhic rulings that:

  • Violence is forbidden by our Torah under any circumstances
  • Those who commit violence constitute a real and present danger to the safety of the public and one is halachicly obligated to report them to the police, and
  • If one finds himself in the presence of a violent act perpetrated by criminals, he is halachicly obligated to defend the victim as the Torah says, “Lo sa’amod al dam re’echa”
  • More recently, he published an article by Miriam Shear, a victim of similar violence a year ago (link), in which she proclaimed:
    As for all charedi Jews worldwide; it is high time that we collectively say in a loud and clear voice, “Enough is Enough!”
    I'm not Charedi so my declaration that this is unacceptable is worth little. But I'm glad to add my voice. The real question, though, is why great Torah scholars are willing to sign statements denouncing all sorts of things as halakhically problematic, which are posted on walls throughout religious communities and published in newspapers, but -- to my knowledge -- have not done similarly for this issue. Why the silence? It seems like a no-brainer to condemn this.

    Here are three possibilities that I've come up with. Feel free to add your own, provided that they are respectful:
    1. Perhaps it is so obvious that it does not require pronouncements. However, even obvious things are sometimes announced in this fashion. Even moreso if they are not observed in a very public manner.

    2. Maybe there are unintended consequences that I'm overlooking. Israeli society is so different from American society that I might just not get the subtle socio-political nuances of this issue. For example, maybe such a pronouncement will only encourage this type of violence.

    3. Maybe anyone who signs a proclamation like this will be subject to violence himself.

    4. Maybe, pronouncements are almost always signed when someone with the right connections is sufficiently energized to have it presented to the right people through the right channels, and this issue simply does not have the right advocate.

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