Friday, September 2, 2011

OROT Banot & the Jungle Book

The Orot girls school saga is rather too serious a matter to be addressed in ChadashAssur, but even my satirical self can't keep quiet when seeing it splashed bilingually across the pages of that favorite watchdog of democracy, Chodosh newspaper of Bet Shemesh.

Let’s start with the English coverage, at the back of today's edition.

I liked these passages:

"…surrounded by National Religious neighborhoods… yet close to several charedi buildings"

"the school was originally designated for Orot Banot but extremist charedi elements … began demonstrating two years ago"

"this week the extremists threatened to vandalize the building…" 

Nothing about the National Religious camp (now known, of course, by the moniker ד"לים וריקים) engaging in senseless violence, trespassing on municipal property, nothing about poor charedim paying municipal development costs in "their" area for institutions suitable for their fastidious morals and tastes, and not a word about National Religious insensitivity to the legitimate needs of a community unwilling to see scandalous 11 year-olds in long denim skirts walking down R' Herzog St.

With observations like these, the article could almost have been written for the "We Are All Orot Banot" facebook group.

Far be it from ChadashAsur to draw parallels between Bet Shemesh politics and the Arab world, but followers of al-Jazeera may be familiar with the discrepancies between their main Arabic coverage and the westward looking English news channel. Such shameless tactics surely could not be used effectively here in BS, where almost every Anglo can read Hebrew fairly well...

Now to the considerable Hebrew coverage:

 The cover has a montage of photos from the week's events, and two editorial blurbs pop up among them, entitled "Such Violence" and "The Primordial Sin".

Yisroel Schreiber tells us that "the struggle must be a fundamental one, against the very embezzlement (עושק) of the building from the residents of the neighborhood, and against the 'primordial sin' of robbing the building from the residents of the neighborhood [@Yisroel, you should get a thesaurus and avoid repeating sentence fragments] who paid for the public areas and the public resources with their hard-earned money, as embodied in the taxes they paid when purchasing their apartments [yeah, @Yisroel, but with the ptor they get from the city, since moving in they haven't paid more than 10% of what I pay the city in taxes every two months].

Dovid Rubin opines that the "media have reported 'charedi violence' in the struggle for control of the school' and concealed two facts. One, there is no struggle for ownership of the building, but a request to fulfill a promise not to house girls in the building. Second, there was violence, but not charedi violence, rather from the other side. How do I know? Because I was there. I was in the building and the courtyard for six hours, and none of the charedim raised a hand." Dovid goes on to write (in the full editorial on p.33) that "not one window was smashed, not one chair was damaged…". Well, @Dovid, yesterday I took this picture of two broken windows, and I guess you would say that the da"lim vereikim are vandalizing their own school just to spite you:

But the first paragraph in Dovid's article takes all – let's call it the Jungle Book version of the events. I'm not making this up:

"Once a lamb was trapped in the jungle. It lost its way, wandered anxiously among the grand trees, watched ravenous predators from afar, and sought refuge. Ultimately it found a large clearing, clear of bushes and rocks, and devoid of predators [@Dovid, synonyms please], and there it decided to make its home. Over time, it even developed neighborly relations with the jungle denizens, who learned not to approach [the lamb's] territory and to let it lead its life serenely, and it learned to respect their habits. One day, a goat entered the clearing. The lamb was familiar with the goat, which wandered among the jungle dwellers for many years, and became one of the gang. What do you want, asked the lamb. To live here, said the goat, there is no room left over there, in the thick of the forest. The lamb understood that the goat was sent to further diminish the forest clearing, which was small to begin with, but decided not to confront the strong jungle dwellers. It vacated some room, where the goat and its kids would be able to live."  The article continues to describe how the lamb objects to the smell of the goat's cabbage, because cabbage makes lambs' breathing burdensome, and asks the goat to eat its cabbage outside the clearing. The goat agrees and they coexist happily for years. Then, one day the lamb awakens amid a huge cabbage feast in the clearing, with the goat calling all the jungle animals to partake who arrive and cast threatening glances at the lamb. Predictably, the large land animals start roaring at the little lamb to shut up and let the goat do as it pleases. Welcome to the Jungle....

The parable is explained about as predictably as you would expect. No need to restate the  charedi version of the events -  too familiar and tiresome to be worth any more typing tonight.

But most importantly, and rather frightening, is the short shrift Chodosh gives the threats by the "extremists". This clearly unimportant facet of the story merits but a few short lines quoted from the municipality's statement and from other "media" (p.34). The Hebrew article says not a word about the mayor's initial communication to the Orot parents committee, in which he based his order to close the school (less than a week before the beginning of the school year) on the threats. This reasoning is even mentioned in the English-language section of Chodosh!

In the same article that condemns the da"lim vereikim for purportedly engaging in violence, the mention of the extremist threats is taken as a fait accompli, without any critical or other comment by the reporter. ChadashAsur has long mocked the charedi establishment's routine renunciation of extremist violence, usually claiming that they are the real victims, while lobbying to prevent the arrest of even the most rabid rabble-rousers that happen to have a black felt kippa and some shiny shoes. Even when they have been ditching kollel so long that they can't name more than two sedarim of mishna.

Chas veshalom that one should draw parallels between the charedi "extremists" dynamic on one hand, and the comfortable yet vehemently denied relationships of Sinn Fein with IRA, and of the political Muslim Brotherhood with the Izz-a-din al-Qassam Brigades…..but sentiments aside, you get the point. Let’s face it – the kanoim, sikrikim, or what have you, are proxy warriors doing someone's dirty work. My charedi brethren, don't forget what happened to the USA after financing the Taliban to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the eighties.
מהרסייך ומחריבייך ממך ייצאו.

To close on a positive note, I was rather surprised to see a response by R' Nechemia Margalit, a prominent member of the neighborhood and the Ohel Yona synagogue, at the end of the article. Nechemia presents a fine position and ably takes issue with our new title, ד"לים. Don't miss it.

See kinda hi-res images of the entire Hebrew editorials and article below (click to enlarge):


Thanks to R.S.E. shlit"a for generously (if reluctantly) giving me his copy of Chodosh tonight. At some point during the life of this blog, delivery to my Sheinfeld street was suspiciously halted…


Anonymous said...

Wow, I had no idea the Hebrew and English versions were so different! Thanks for translating.

The Big Lebowski said...

Please, we all know those so-called "threats" are nothing more than dal"im propaganda - no haredi guy is going to hit a girl, because that would involve touching her, and we *know* he's shomer negiah, right? And that's a d'rabbanan, which in the haredi velt makes it infinitely more important than a d'oraita like not hitting someone else. Or stealing their money via the tax system. So clearly those threats were made up.

Baruch Gitlin said...

Nice job translating. I took a quick look at the English version, and was impressed by how unbiased it seemed to be. I thought to myself that maybe the Hebrew version is more in line with what I expect of a haredi paper, but then I thought "no, religious Jews couldn't be that dishonest, could they?", and through a combination of that naive assumption and sheer laziness, I put the paper down and went on my way. Oh well, life is full of disappointments.

Anonymous said...

You left out the description in the lead editorial in Hebrew of where the school is located.

As noted, in English, the building is described as "in an area which is surrounded by National Religious neighborhoods on one side (Ramat Neriya, Nofei Aviv, Sheinfeld), yet is close to several Chredi buildings on Rechov Herzog". In addition the Charedi opposition is described as "extremist Charedi elements".

On the other hand, the lead editorial in Hebrew paints a completely different picture. The location of the school is described as follows:

כידוע מבנה בית הספר שוכן במרכזה של שכונה חרדית בעלת 100% תושבים חרדיים

My translation: As is well known the school building is in the middle of the Charedi neighborhood which has a 100% population of Charedim.

Of course in Hebrew the protesters are not called extremists but righteous protesters.

Anonymous said...

Is there a rabbi behind these hooligans that is encouraging this? Why is this still happening?
Why do so many people advertise in Chadash? We need to make it clear to them that they will not get advertisers! And we need to tell advertisers that if they put ads in Chadash we will NOT patronize their business. Any newspaper can only run for so long without advertising income. Spread the word! There are way too many weeklies in this town anyway. No one would miss this one if it disappeared.

Anonymous said...

But if there was no chadosh, what would the author of this blog have to write about?