The secular municipal authorities in Jerusalem must be tearing their hair out at the behaviour of the city’s religious minority. For one thing, there’s the standoff with the Edah HaChareidis movement over the opening of a car park on Shabbes, apparently violating the sanctity of an eruv, which shows few signs of being resolved. Until it is, we can look forward to weeks more of violent clashes between police and frummers.
In this situation, the last thing they needed was for a second front to be opened up by a different haredi sect, but that’s exactly what they’ve got. This is the militant frum group Toldot Aharon, who have been responsible for several days of rioting in the holy city. What this clash derives from is the arrest of a woman belonging to the group after her emaciated three-year-old child was hospitalised. Apparently the mother is suspected of suffering from mental health problems, which had led to the neglect of the child.
It looks, on the face of it, like a straightforward case of child welfare. But that’s not how it’s been perceived by the haredim, who like to handle these things internally and don’t appreciate interference from the secular state. Indeed, there is a particular paranoid haredi cast of mind that will say that the secular state is trying to criminalise their entire community. I wouldn’t go that far, but secular dislike of the frummers is deep-rooted in Israel, and there are quite a lot of New Atheist types around Tel Aviv and Haifa who would be positively enthusiastic about the cops interfering even more heavy-handedly in haredi life.
Which is the background to a situation where haredim are going out at night to stone cars, set rubbish bins on fire and vandalise traffic lights. Meanwhile the Israeli police, who are more used to cracking Arab heads, are having to strong-arm religious Jews. Well, at least the IDF isn’t proposing to build a separation wall around Mea She’arim and bomb it from the air.