Einstein spending Purim in Beitar Illit?

One of the best things about Purim is the idea that you can enjoy the humor, the sass, the tongue-in-cheek quality of opposites. You can turn the world upside-down, you can defy the laws of gravity with a sprinkle of humor and darkness.

So why was I so amused to find, in Beitar Illit, my charedi neighbor-town, a mask resembling no one other than the secular god of science, Albert Einstein himself?

I suppose it could be an angry old man. Or an angry old anti-Semite. Or an angry old Haman, if he had continued living past the pole.

Either way, it made me smile.

Beit Shemesh, united against extremists.

The protest in Beit Shemesh was impressive. We really did have all kinds of people – people with dreads, people with payot, women with head coverings, women with leggings, kids with their parents, charedi guys willing to speak to the news cameras, women holding pamphlets, men holding signs thanking god for making them women.

I do have to say, it was disappointing that, while there were many dynamic male speakers – charedi and non – there were no females on stage except for Na’ama’s mother, who gave a great 2-minute thank you to the crowd. If there were female politicians in the crowd, why didn’t they speak?

Anyway, it was a good kickoff to what I hope becomes a bigger movement for awareness, togetherness and change in our Israeli society and even our Jewish religion. Both entities of our people suffer from misunderstanding and mis-prioritization.

Here’s a bit of what I saw (scroll over photos for captions/translations):

Until next time, reporting live…


Ynet is the authority on Haredi weddings.

Ynet did it again. This isn’t the second time I’ve noticed the blatant anti-religious fervor that an Israeli newspaper is purposely trying to spread. This is the 328975623th time.

I used to actually enjoy reading Ynet. It was one of the central papers; sitting somewhere between JPost and Haaretz (in English, anyway).

Their credibility has completely been shot as in the last few years it has become repeatedly obvious that Ynet can’t control itself regarding its one-sided commentary on religious and haredi life.

Let me include a disclaimer: I’m no haredi, and I don’t look or act dati leumi. It doesn’t matter what I actually am. I’m a former newspaper reporter and I’m angry at this ridiculous, blatant, one-sided hatred pouring from Ynet’s pages.

This isn’t the best example; there are tons of others. I’m just tired. It’s this essay in Ynet about haredi weddings. Yes, it’s tongue-in-cheek. Yes, it ends in a positive light, if you get to the end and haven’t gotten bored and moved on before that. No, it is not indicated anywhere that it is meant to be humorous or satirical. It falls under the often-infuriating ‘Jewish Life’ column. Why not add a tag at the top that it’s meant to be humor? And why do your Jewish Life columns always focus on either a tiny out-of-context detail related to sections of haredi populations or poking fun at them without explaining truth?

Your audience is mostly secular, Ynet. Why fan flames of distrust, dislike and hatred on a weekly basis? Why not promote understanding, reporting the deeper stories about all kinds of demographics, the stories most Israelis on different sides don’t see?

What's been going on.

The past week and a half has been intense, painful, busy, impatient,  energetic, emotional, nerve-wracking and exciting. And it’s not only for the reason you’re probably assuming. I haven’t  been able to get all my thoughts out in an organized manner, so instead I’ll spew them in bullet form.

  • People will ask what gender your baby is and not believe you when you tell them you don’t know.
  • It’s ok to support the mentality of the Gaza incursion while feeling guilty and sad about deaths of innocent.
  • When it rains, it pours… No family visits for almost a year and then everyone comes at once. And then it (actually) rains that whole time.
  • It’s ok to feel like four years is a long time when you’re surrounded by people who have been living here for ten.
  • People will assume everything you are feeling has to do with being pregnant; you’re hungry/tired/energetic because you’re pregnant, not because you’re human.
  • There’s a big difference between charedim in Israel and charedim in the diaspora.
  • There’s a big difference between living on ‘this’ side of Israel and living on the side of Israel that is getting pounded daily.
  • ‘Friendly’ fire… what a strange name for a painful concept.
  • Some people will offer really good perspectives and advice on pregnancy, birth and becoming a parent, no matter what their core beliefs.
  • It’s ok to pick and choose with whom you are willing to discuss the Gaza war. There are certain friends and enemies for whom you are just not willing to convert conversation into debate.
  • Sometimes after you’ve accepted the fundamental differences between you and loved ones, you discover that maybe they are not so fundamental after all.
  • Not feeling festive, even though it’s a holiday time, is perfectly fine when your country is in a state of war. That also goes for Inauguration Day partying.
  • Amidst everything else, you can find a kind of comfort in the movement in your belly, which no one else can give you. You can be intense, impatient, energetic, emotional, and excited about soon meeting someone. You can sorely miss someone you’ve never met. You can confide in them when everything around you is just too complex.

Priorities, people.

I was passed an article about a Charedi wedding that took place after being protested by the bride’s parents and the “most prominent Orthodox rabbis.” The daughter of multimillionaires was sent to Israel to seminary and fell in love with a Charedi “yeshiva dropout.” They managed to get married yesterday after getting through protests from all sides (even picketers at the wedding).

I will defer my own original wording and frustration to the talkback of this article I just read, and it’s not about the actual story.

First, excerpts of the article reflecting the prominent Orthodox rabbis’ actions, then the talkback:

West Side Story, Meah Shearim style

The bride’s parents objected, rabbis protested and the public took to the streets – but the young couple refused to give up. Against all odds and despite violent demonstrations outside the wedding hall, a young ultra-Orthodox woman from overseas and her Jerusalemite fiancé were married in the capital Tuesday evening…

The family also appealed to the most prominent Orthodox rabbis, asking that they exert efforts in a bid to cancel the planned wedding. The rabbis even issued a manifest against the engagement, but to no avail…

At the beginning of the week, the family discovered that the wedding would take place Tuesday evening. Claiming that the young man’s family had exploited wealthy families  in the past, the woman’s family managed to convince prominent rabbis to issue another manifest against the wedding…

Leaflets slamming the marriage were hung in haredi neighborhoods, carrying the signatures of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, Rabbi Nissim Karelitz and Rabbi Michal Yehuda Levkovitch…”Who can tolerate such a marriage with such great sorrow on the part of the daughter’s mother and father? It is a defamation of God to marry a person from the street considered problematic like the groom.”

Addressing the groom’s father, the rabbis wrote, “After hearing from important scholars that your son is about to marry a girl as opposed to the Torah’s wishes, we demand that you prevent this marriage which will not be held according to our dedicated Jewish law… (ynet)

For the whole story, definitely click and enjoy. It gets more ridiculous by the paragraph.

However, my focus in this story is the following… Thank you, שרה, for highlighting this in your talkback, which everyone else seems to be missing:

Does anyone else find it totally disturbing that all the rabbis come out of the woodwork to speak out against this marriage but none of them are speaking out against the horrible stories of child abuse we’ve been seeing in this country lately!? They’re busy protecting this young woman from a marriage to another religious Jew when down the road, there are mothers/monsters in prison for beating their children…and the rabbis haven’t banded together to say anything about that?!

Today's word: שנאת חינם

Here’s a backup to my last post in case it wasn’t enough to get my point across.

I proudly observe my own brand of Jewishness – and consider it great, holy and everything else – if my alternative for spiritual ‘climbing’ is this:

U.S. immigrant beaten up in ‘pogrom’ by ultra-Orthodox gang

“An American immigrant was attacked and beaten Sunday night in Beit Shemesh by a gang of ultra-Orthodox zealots, in what appears to be an escalation of tension between religious groups in the city.

T., who is himself ultra-Orthodox, was kicked, beaten and threatened with further violence in an attack that landed him in the hospital. T.’s car windows were also smashed. T., who asked to go unnamed, has been active in trying to stem the recent tide of Haredi violence in the city.”

Ah! Of course! Extreme modesty, extreme Shabbat-keeping, extreme Judaism are waaay more important than keeping a shrinking nation bound together by love for fellow Jew! I must not have studied that gemora in high school. It’s a wonder they’d skip such an important part.

This is completely sickening. Perhaps this is what it feels like to an ultra-Orthodox charedi who sees a gay couple.

But is a person’s sexuality – hidden under layers of skin and human organs – really worse than a Jew with payot beating up another Jew with payot in the middle of the street for not being religious enough?

Is homosexual sex really worse than שנאת חינם? Is it as damaging to the Jewish people than hatred of your neighbors? Did homosexuality single-handedly bring down the Temples?

I didn’t think so.