“Shabbos, Shabbos”

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protest-shabbosBy Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Before there were religious newspapers, the Jewish media world was owned by the maskilim. It took some time before religious Jewry realized the awesome power these papers wielded over the Jewish masses, in particular, the youth. They hastened the alienation from Torah and the embrace of non-Jewish culture that was rampant at the time. It was to stem that awful tide and to fight the wholesale distortion of truth that gedolim established newspapers and fought to obtain subscribers and financing.

 To those who are skeptical of the manipulative power of the press 100 years ago, a close look at the skewed reporting that prevails in our own day regarding recent events in Yerushalayim provides a cogent reality check. In many ways we are still fighting the same battle. 

 Thanks to the power of persistent “drip-drip” journalism, the common perception of Chareidi Jews as a mass of vulgar rabble-rousers has taken deep root. 

 Demonizing the Chillul Shabbos Protesters 

 Let’s take a look at the demonstrations going on against the increased chillul Shabbos in Yerushalayim. Based on media reports, many of you are probably under the impression that mobs of fanatically religious Jews converged near City Hall to burn garbage pails and stone policemen. You’ve either read this fallacious reporting yourself in the media, or got it second or third hand from others who did. 

 This is not to deny or condone the actions of a handful of miscreants who carried out these reprehensible actions. But the fact is, they are lone exceptions, certainly not the rule. Their actions are being exploited by irresponsible editors who seek to tar the entire Chareidi community with one brush. 

 Students of history can cite dozens of hafganos which were called to stop autopsies, disturbing of ancient cemeteries, chillul Shabbos, giyus banos, yaldei teheran and the like. They can show you pictures of police beating religious Jews; of police shooting water cannons at women. They can give you the facts about the times choshuveh people such as Rav Yisroel Grossman were locked up in jail for participating in protests.

I can offer my own personal testimony as well. Many years ago, I lived in the Ezras Torah section of Yerushalayim, where it was alleged at the time that the parents of today’s Shabbos rock-throwers would gather to stone policemen and cars traveling on K’vish Ramot. What actually happened was that some weeks, a few people would walk in from Meah Shearim to scream “Shabbos!” alongside the recently opened highway. Other weeks, no one showed up.

 From my porch, I had a bird’s eye view of the action-or more often, the lack of it. I never saw anyone do anything other than holler “Shabbos.” A single police car was stationed there to maintain order lest the multitudes arrive. Yet, every Motzoei Shabbos after Havdalah, turning on the radio to catch  the headlines, I would hear how once again, the chareidim converged at K’vish Ramot, throwing stones and assaulting police!

 This was a blatant, deliberately fabricated urban legend. Not surprisingly, the masses in Israel bought it. Religious people became synonymous with crazed fundamentalists who embraced terror tactics on what was supposed to be a holy day of rest. 

 Police Brutality Has A Long History

 Back then, the battle over Shabbos already had a sordid, decades-old history, with pious Jews being beaten and persecuted for their efforts to preserve kedushas Shabbos in Yerushalayim, Bnei Brak and many other cities in Eretz Yisroel.

 I vividly remember passing by hafganos during the time I learned in Yerushalayim, witnessing the police brutally charging after people as they fled for their lives. Those hapless souls who were caught were mercilessly beaten.

 There were times when police barged into botei medrash and grabbed hold of anyone not fast enough to escape. The police beat those poor souls to a pulp, then arrested them for assaulting police. Far from being isolated incidents of police brutality, these outrages were common occurrences. Anyone who has ever witnessed a hafgana demonstration can attest to that.

 Just two weeks ago, the ugly pattern repeated itself. Following a Shabbos protest, police charged into the dormitory of Yeshiva Kol Torah in Bayit Vegan. They dragged sleeping boys out of bed and identified them as rock throwers who had participated in an unruly demonstration hours earlier. It was only after the Roshei yeshiva vouched for the integrity and innocence of the boys that they were released from jail. Police captains later apologized to the Roshei Yeshiva and promised to take disciplinary action against the patrolmen who invaded the dormitory.

 In another incident, an American boy who happened to be in the area of a recent demonstration at Kikar Shabbos was arrested and locked up in the Migrash Harussim jail. Police accused him of throwing stones at them. After being held in jail without bail for two weeks, witnesses who had been walking with him came forth and testified that he neither threw stones nor engaged in any anti-social behavior.

 Charges were reduced to illegal assembly, impeding the flow of traffic and other less serious charges. The youth was freed from jail but banished for Yerushalayim for two months until his upcoming trial.

 How can one understand the flood of false arrests and the habitual police brutality in a democratic state where citizens supposedly enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of assembly? How can the government get away with tactics associated with tyrannical dictatorships or totalitarian states?

 Guilty Until Proven Innocent

 First of all, it might come as a surprise to many that in Israel, unlike America, it is illegal for more than three people to congregate without permission. Thus, every protester is regarded as a lawbreaker. Additionally, unlike in America, one is not assumed innocent until proven guilty. There it is just the opposite; you are guilty until proven innocent and treated that way. Religious people are automatically singled out for special treatment.

 What generally happens is that ehrliche people who are bothered by some injustice or new breach in the holiness of the city gather to protest. The police arrive and begin taunting and baiting them. Other police then arrive in riot gear and on horseback and charge into the crowd, seeking maximum damage and injury. When the people fight back, they are arrested and thrown in jail. Innocent bystanders, often times Americans, who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time are rounded up and jailed as well.

 After the crowd disperses and everyone goes home, miscreants seize the opportunity to “throw the last punch.” They set fire to garbage pails which they roll into the street to create maximum mayhem.

 Jews Brutalizing Jews

 Anyone who has witnessed a hafgana and the police reaction is traumatized by the sight of Jews brutalizing fellow Jews. And this in the Jewish state, in the twenty-first century! How frightful that this has been going on ever since the founding of the State of Israel. The peaceful Shabbos atmosphere that reigns over religious neighborhoods on Shabbos came at a high price. It was achieved only after years of struggle and countless demonstrations similar to those taking place now.

 Yet, the news trickles down to us the way the secular media presents it, so when we think of hafganos, we conjure up images of wild lunatics burning garbage pails, of stones flying, and of crime-fighting heroes being spat upon. We don’t think of ehrliche people crying out for Shabbos. We don’t feel the pain of Shabbos being trampled upon by cheap politicians. We don’t feel the pain of dignified Jews with long beards being stomped on by horses. We don’t feel the pain of Jews in the Holy Land protesting the desecration of the most basic tenets of the Torah, which grants the people of Israel the right to their land.   

 We don’t realize how far we have sunk as a people that the sight of Jews beating other Jews has become the norm. We forget the cruel irony that most of the grandparents of those baton-wielding policemen wore beards and payos themselves. Just one generation later, their children are being used by a corrupt government to stamp out the kedushas Shabbos that the grandparents would have sacrificed their lives to protect!

 We let the secular media skew our perception of the facts. We permit then to demonize  kind, law-abiding, peaceful, charitable people as a pack of Neanderthal wild men. In an outrageous reversal, pious people who are exquisitely careful in how they treat others, are painted as wild-eyed, ruthless lowlifes.

 Religious Apologists 

 The problem is compounded when religious people who ought to know better get swept up in the propaganda.  People who have never witnessed a protest over the desecration of Shabbos allow themselves to be manipulated by media hype. They encourage other frum Jews to write letters to the secular media decrying the objectionable behavior of their fellow chareidim. They rush to express sympathy for secular Israelis who are lobbying for a new parking lot-right opposite the walls of Yerushalayim.

 Rabbis who ought to know better feed the media one-liners against the violent extremists, as if they constitute a sizeable camp. They issue sharp indictments which reinforce the stereotype of Orthodox Jews as an archaic, intolerant bunch of people.

 Should Jews be engaging in violence? Of course not. Do we believe that burning garbage pails is the way to return Jews to their heritage? Of course not. But think of the media coverage splashed over these few incidents compared with the manner in which public protests in, let’s say, Iran, are treated by the world press.

 How many articles have you read condemning freedom-lovers for beating Tehran police?  How many newspapers have featured pictures of Iranians setting fire to trash  in their coverage of the election protests?  Not one.

 Why is it that burning garbage pails in Iran are ignored and those in Yerushalayim are blown up and highlighted? Is it because only the former captures world sympathy? Is it because the media seeks to glorify the Iranian protesters while reserving its disgust for Jews who want only to protect what is sacred to them?

 Most disturbing, why is it that the religious media falls into the trap of accepting wholesale misrepresentation of the truth?

 Are there better ways to fight the battle for kedushas Shabbos?  Most certainly. There is no excuse for violence and vandalism. But let’s consider the protests themselves, that are cleverly manipulated by authorities into turning violent. With politicians, the courts and public opinion all stacked against the religious community, what choice do those who anguish over chilul Shabbos have?

 In fact, it is only thanks to the ranks of idealistic protesters, who knowingly risked life and limb, that forced autopsies in Israel were halted, that giyus banos was dropped, and that there is no Shabbos traffic on Kikar Shabbos.

 Throw Lifelines, Not Stones

 It is indeed tragic that so many of our brethren remain ignorant about Shabbos observance. Due to the present global financial crunch, organizations in Israel that have succeeded in returning so many thousands to the religion of their forefathers are forced to cut back on their activities. It costs money to run effective kiruv organizations and the latter are millions of dollars in debt.

 Without good people digging into their pockets to help fight the battle bedarchei noam, the soldiers of Lev L’Achim, Shuvu, Chinuch Atzmai and all the rest can’t accomplish as much as they have in the past. They need our financial assistance in order to educate more Jews and to turn the tide of public opinion in favor of appreciating and safeguarding kedushas Shabbos.

 Let us all resolve to increase the honor of Shabbos in our personal lives and support those who open a window for their fellow Jews to the beauty and richness of Shabbos. Let us  support those organizations that have demonstrated the ability to reach out to Jews from all walks of life who have been robbed of their birthright. Let us display more Ahavas Yisroel. Let us cast lifelines, not stones.  

 And let’s not jump to conclusions about our heartbroken brothers who cry out, “Shabbos, Shabbos!” They are not only following the dictates of their conscience with their protests; they are also doing our job-yours and mine.

  {Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. The Yated would serve the Torah Community much better if/when it opens its eyes to problems.

    It took R. Pinny almost 5 years till he wrote an editorial about ‘child abuse’. It is likely to be year 2020 before you hear the two sides of the story regarding ‘Violence, Riots, Property Damage, Injuries, Rock throwing, etc’ expressed by R. Pinny (maybe after he marries off the rest of his kids).

  2. So, assuming that there will always be a few crazies who get media attention, why not impose strict controls on the Hafganot? I mean, we try to control kashrus and several other things without having crazies ruin things, right?

    Why not make a kiddush Hashem by having a PEACEFUL, meaningful Hafgana? It seems that by burning dumpsters and throwing rocks, these idiots ruin everything. If we know that in advance, why let the rock-throwers ruinn things?

  3. R’ Pinny should call our “heartbroken brothers” what they are.

    These “heartbroken brothers” are not protesting for the honor of Shabbos, nor for the honor of Hashem, rather it’s for their own bravado to show who’s boss.

    The violence witnessed now in Meah Shearim is another proof of their true intentions. Our poor “heartbroken brothers” create different Aigel Hazahavs each week to rally around, in order to create hoililus and mayhem. Knowing full well that the apologists will discuss how “heartbroken” they are.

    After watching our “heartbroken brothers” go wild, our brothers who are ignorant of Judaism’s core values learn a valuable lesson. Whatever is written the books these “heartbroken brothers” follow, is not for them.

  4. Rabbi Lipschutz, with all due respect you are mistaken. It is more than a handfull of rabble rousers that are making trouble. This is a huge chillul hashem and they are desecrating the Streets of our holy city in the name of “shabbos” protests. These people are not protecting shabbos but desecrating it. Let them open their homes to the non-frum and be mekarev them rather than throw rocks at them. For some reason many charedim in Yerushalayim and Ramat Beit Shamesh (pardon my generalization) have been resorting to violence lately to try and prove their point. Please do not blame the police for trying to calm down these thugs, the police should take action against these people. They are making a huge chilul hashem with their actions and they should be put down and sent to jail. Rav Shternbuch said the Hospital was right for calling the authorities on this woman (in the second case of violence) who are these people who claim to hold so true to daas torah to argue with him? Where is the rest of the leadership of the Eidah? Why have they not spoke out agianst these violent thugs reaking havok on the holy streets of Yerushalayim?

  5. Nice try, R’ Pinny. You are committing the usual Yated’s false logic – since you personally observed that no one was at the Kvish Ramot “hafganot” and Israel Radio exaggerated then, the secular media must be exaggerating now about the hafganot now, of course.

    What you conveniently ignore is the proliferate video and photography demonstrating the crazed, out-of-control “charedim” (or “people dressed as charedim”, because we all now that real charedim would never act this way). You constantly proclaim your allegiance to da’as torah – so where is the da’as torah on this? Why haven’t we seen a single kol koreh or even mention of R’ Elyashiv shlit”a in the past few weeks? If the gadol hador can have a binding da’as about what’s going on halfway around the world, why hasn’t he spoken out on the churban in his own daled amos?

    I know that the commenters will now focus on my last statement as evidence that I am a kofer and a mo’es b’dvar chachomim, and berate me for not having emunas chachomim and claim that R’ Elyashiv is being po’el b’seser. That’s fine, but at least answer the question – where is the statement, or even the words of his spokespeople? Where are R’ Efrati and R’ Nochum Eisenstein?

    Finally, if it’s only the “miscreants” who set garbage cans on fire but the “hamon am” is not engaging in the hooliganism, go take a video camera to Kikar Shabbos, Geula, Meah Shearim, etc. and record for us how after the hafgana is over the miscreants suddenly materialize to torch the neighborhood.
    You really insult your readers by treating us as ignoramuses and stupid sheep looking to you, our wise and intelligent shepherd, for guidance.

  6. Great, the newspapers are biased and hate frum Jews. I just got off a bus in Bet Shemesh, a group of Toldos Aron chasidim – mostly grown men – were walking in the street chanting (we kept the windows closed, we think they were saying longliveahmanidinijad, but it was hard to hear) and forcing the bus to slow down. they weren’t violent, but please explain why they couldn’t march on THE EMPTY SIDEWALK. Just to bother people on the bus?

  7. My father was a boy in Yerushalyim from a Chsidishe family when the first Shabbos protests were held after Independence. He participated in them. Thanks to the efforts of the people of that generation, the anti-religious people did not prevail.

    He thinks these protesters are a bunch of animals.


  8. FINALLY someone presenting some of the facts. people who are not here to see things 1st hand dont realize how badly things can get twisted in the media,or how brutal the law enforcement can get

  9. I was a young man in Yerushalaim and grew up and lived there for many years. I moved to the us as a teen and went back to E.Y. to both learn and live.

    I have witnessed first-hand many of these Kikar Shabbos Hafganot. What you have primarily are bored teens and young adults forced into a life with no means for finanial support, incentive and personal aspiration who are just beside themselves with complete depression, lack of motivation, suicidal thoughts (that are not actionable because of the communal consequences to the immediate family/sisters brothers etc. would face because of the brutality of the shidduch meat market) who are looking for a thrill. That’s all it is. While the initial protests by pious members of the religious neighborhoods back in the old days were in reality the thoughts motivated leshem shomayim. that is far from the case by the current generation of young thrill seekers. I hate to even bring the bais hillel shamai analogy to bear, because these hooligans are lehavdil completely acting on Maasai Avothehim biydayhem.

    It would be fair to say that the methods of their forfathers who dealt with their own children who were going off the derech by pushing them away further and by excommunication, invented these protests as well. It would behoove Real members of Daas Torah to try attracting these bees with honey and not trying to mess with their batons and sticks.

    Stop being Mekosheshei Eitzim and focus on observing shabbos with beauty and peace. That is how you are mekadesh shabbos and shomyim.

  10. 1) If R. Lipschutz holds that the reports can’t be trusted, why does he concede that there are indeed garbage can burnings going on? Maybe that is also fabricated?

    2) He says that years ago he didn’t see rocks thrown from his porch when he was learning in EY. However, is it not possible that the ‘action’ took place when he was away, perhaps davening or l;earning elsewhere?

    The bottom line is that he shouldn’t have such a knee-jerk denial to such reports. Evidently there are serious problems there now, even R. Sternbuch acknowledged that. Does R. Lipschutz in Monsey know the situation better than R. Sternbuch in EY???

    It seems that R. Lipschutz is a Satmar wannabee in various things, rather than the Litvak he actually is.

  11. This article is a joke. The chareidi news is always , but always, filtered , manipulated, kashered, and filtered again to present a specific political point of view. Objectivity in reporting for them is an oxymoron and everyone with half a brain knows it. So to accuse non chareidi news as being skewed is laughable. Whom are you kidding?

  12. as someone who live in eretz yisroel I can attest that what you wrote is 100 percent true. and to all the leitzanim out there we’ve got you in every generation. starting with avrohom ovinu.

  13. I live in Ramat Bet Shemesh. I can tell you that in my city, it is not “lone individuals” who participate in ugly violence, but many, many dozens of people, with hundreds more giving tacit approval.

  14. I am sick and tired of being told half truths by the Yated. Do you think the tired old comments of Israeli biased media are enough of an answer?

    I am chareidi but can’t stand the way we tell ourselves all’s fine in our camp. the yated is very guilty of this and I’ve had enough.

    Rav Yisroel Salanter would have said otherwise Rabbi Lipschutz. Of this I have no doubt!

  15. With all due respect for your courageous written stands on injustices:
    I think you are under the wrong banner here; you should be upholding the banner against child abuse in this case!

    If you delve a bit further, you will find honest, sincere doctors who are actually helping, protecting and nourishing the child (that was near death); the mother was seen on video pulling the tube from her own child, and i don’t think it was because of kashrus.

  16. Things don’t always stay the same.

    If R. Lipschutz saw things one way years ago, it doesn’t mean things are exactly the same today.

    It is not a good idea to approach contemporary events with a knee-jerk response that you used when you were in Eretz Yisroel thirty years ago. It can make you sound like a broken record.

  17. Nice try R’ Pinnie, but I for one won’t take it anymore. Why not try to be straight with us. The Eidah types are going wild. We should condemn them as behemos. You are a Litvak. This is now our war. None of our people are doing the violence. It is all the Edah and Neturei Karta. These are the people who constantly attack us. So why are you defending them?

  18. Not only is ex-yated reader a big dope but he doesnt know his jewish hisotry. If he would, then he would know that rav yisroel salantar was one of the first to see the need to have a chareidi press to fight the type of press that influences people like mr ex-yated reader. And he would know that he turned to pinny’s great grandfather to undertake to publish the first frum newspaper. I think they would both be proud of pinny’s article and asheamed of you!

  19. This is so embarrassing. Why do professional apologists always recite the 100-year-old litany of crimes and insults suffered by charediism when the issue at hand is charedisher extremism taking place this morning?

    Charedishe society can’t seem to get over the fact that Europe IS OVER and that the Cossacks really AREN’T coming.

  20. “There is no excuse for violence and vandalism. But…”

    When I read this piece, it strikes me a bit like saying around September 11: “Of course the 9/11 attacks were wrong, BUT on the other hand look at all the unjustified attacks on Muslims over the centuries: See exhibit A, B, C, etc.”

    The point is 2-fold: 1) When condemnation is qualified with a “but” it is diluted, either because the acts are subsequently justified in the following sentence or by virtue of the fact that the reader’s attention is immediately diverted elsewhere. 2) There is a time to focus our protests on police brutality — when it happens. And at a time when we see brutality coming from religious Jews, it is appropriate to express unequivocal, undiluted condemnation for that.

    A third point: There is something especially vital about a group condemning the actions of its own. It points to a self-reflectiveness and desire to do teshuva — as opposed to focusing one’s blame primarily on others, identifying as a victim, and justifying wrongful acts on this basis. To this end, I have posted a petition: “Religious Jews Against Religious Jewish Violence.” See: http://www.petitiononline.com/jewsvox/

    With wishes for a good Chodesh & Shalom Al Yisrael… David

  21. I can’t believe that you can justify these Hafganos. I was in Yerushalayim, came across the demonstration as I returned from Mincha at the Kosel. There were hundres of Chareidi dressed men, yelling Nazi at Jewish police officers (many of whom were wearing Kippas) and “shikse” at the policewomen. Chareidi men threww themselves in front wheels of moving cars (how can someone not get hurt) and the Jewish policemne were forced to pull them away from these cars. The non frum bystanders (most of whom were simple tourists to the old city) looked on in amazement at this spectacle. The Chilul Hashem was overwhelming. There was no semblence of Kedushas Shabbos at this demonstration. It was embarassing to have to watch chareidi kids (little pishers) yelling and cursing at police officers.
    The Chareidi world that blindly supports this action has no idea of the irrepearable damage it is doing to the general Jewish perception of frum Jews.


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