An Ideology of Extremism and its Consequences

To absolutely no one’s surprise – least of all mine – an Israeli soldier was attacked by an extremist living in Ramat Bet Shemesh (Bet). One may recall that ‘Bet’ is populated in large measure by the more extreme type of Charedim that one finds in Meah Shearim. Many of its residents are originally from there.

In this case an IDF soldier was driving his car through their main thoroughfare. One of their residents pelted it with rocks, one of which went through the windshield causing him to lose control and crash into a pillar. He was taken to the hospital and thankfully sustained only minor injuries.

I am beyond condemning this act – which of course still I do. I am even beyond blaming the ideological education of the person that committed it. Which of course I also still do. This has not changed.

Obviously the ultimate blame is on the rock thrower himself – personal responsibility always taking top billing.  But there is no  getting away from the fact that the extremists that attack Israeli soldiers  do so because of the hatred instilled in them against the State and its institutions. Of which the army is one of the most prominent. An attitude of hate can easily translate into seeing every soldier as the enemy. And just because most of  Bet’s extremists wouldn’t throw rocks at anyone, doesn’t mean that a there aren’t some that would – based on the same hatred they all have.

As I have said many times, people that commit crimes like this need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I’m glad to see that Bet Shemesh Mayor Abutbul (who is Charedi and presides over all of Bet Shemesh and its suburbs) has condemned this act. From the Jerusalem Post, here are his words:

For those extremists to get out and leave the city,” adding that they were not conducive for unity in the city.


“I condemn this [incident] in the name of the law and in the name of Jewish law,” said Abutbul, and called on the police to find and punish the perpetrators.

But the repeated condemnations are not enough. It keeps happening. We can say all day long that the people that commit these kinds of crimes are hoodlums no different than the hoodlums that exists in the slums of New York and Chicago. Having long Peyos and wearing the traditional garb specific to the Chasidic world makes them no less hoodlums than an inner city gang member. It is only a matter of degree. That is how they should be seen. But it doesn’t make any difference.

One cannot overlook the targets of their aggression and why they choose those targets. This is what is missing in all of the condemnations. Urging that community to rid themselves of this element is like talking to the wall. As is urging them to support law enforcement and hand the perpetrator over to the police. They will not do it!

Why won’t they? I suspect that they are of a mind to say something like… ‘OK. What he did was wrong.’ ‘But his heart is in the right place.’ ‘We need to protect him from the authorities and teach him not to express his justifiable animosity towards the government in violent ways.’ ‘Handing over to the authorities who are like Nazis – is clearly wrong.’ ‘It is Mesirah of the highest order!’

I’m glad Mayor Abutbul doesn’t think that way. His views are more mainstream. But all of his condemnations aren’t worth a dime. Not that they aren’t sincere. I believe they are. But he is wasting his breath. There are a lot more where that rock thrower came from.

There have also been protests by non Charedi activists about this kind of thing in the past. As there was once again here. That clearly hasn’t worked either.

What needs to be understood is that it isn’t the behavior of a few delinquent Jews that is the source of the problem. It is the ideology. That is the real problem. Until that is properly dealt with, this kind of thing will surely happen again. And again!

Normally I would not think it justified to fight an ideology. People are entitled to believe what they wish. But when that ideology produces violent anti social behavior, it must be fought – if that is the only way to curb it. In this case, I think it is.

How do you fight an ideology? I don’t think you can with any degree of success. The ideology of the extremists in Bet is one that is so entrenched that it would be impossible to change it. It is an ideology that predates the state itself. Telling them they are wrong and using every tool in the book to show them why – will be like talking to the wall. But something has to be done. And it needs to be done by the Charedim now in charge of city government in Bet Shemesh.

Speaking out is not enough. They have to ‘hit’ them in their ideological anti state ‘belly’.

For example, Israeli flags should be placed throughout all public areas in Bet with security cameras facing them. So that anyone desecrating a flag will be caught, quickly indentified, prosecuted to the maximum extant of the law.

The city of Bet Shemesh should hold public events and rallies in support of the army and the State  – right in the heart of Bet. They should schedule a rally there with Israeli flags, representatives from the military and the government with public speakers (preferably Kipa wearing ones)  extolling the army and expressing gratitude to the army and the state for providing them protection and the services that make living in Israel a civilized and pleasant experience.

There should be a massive police presence there (a show of force, if you will) to disabuse anyone of the notion that they can disrupt it. The national anthem should be sung by a kipa wearing Israeli – preferably a Charedi singer.

These events should be held often and the participants should be mostly Charedi. The crowds attending should be overwhelming and as Charedi as possible. …  all cheering and showing support for the army and the state.

This will not change their minds. But it will show them just how tiny the number of people with their ideology is.   And who knows…. it might make enough of an impression on them to do more to prevent these kinds of attack in the future.

About the Author
My worldview is based on the philosophy of my teacher, Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik , and the writings of Rabbis Joseph B. Soloveitcihk , Norman Lamm, and Dr. Eliezer Berkovits from whom I developed an appreciation for philosophy. I attended Telshe Yeshiva and the Hebrew Theological College where I was ordained. I also attended Roosevelt University where I received my degree in Psychology.