Sunday, April 13, 2008

An Aberration from the Core

Here's a link you may not want to follow. It tells the story of Elior Chen and his circle of disciples, who crashed into our attention recently when one of the disciples, a mother of eight, was brought to trial for torturing her children. The leader, Chen, has escaped the country. It is a weird story, bizarre, but mostly it's horrendous.

There's a gag order on the case since children are involved, so it's not clear if it's one case, or two. Because there's another mother, this one with 12 children, who is also on trial for cruelty to her children. Although unnamed, she has been in the public eye for a number of months already, because she dresses just like the Taliban likes its women, totally covered, and apparently she has a following of perhaps a few dozen women who regard her as a saint. I think there's no connenction between the cases, in spite of the similarities, but some of the news reports I've seen seem to tie them together.

It's all nauseating. But it's worthy of our notice because unlike some aberrations - say, the non-Jewish Russian thugs arrested last year in Netanya for their neo-Nazi practices - these two cases started well within the Jewish tradition. They have long since lost any mooring they might have had in Judaism, indeed, they totally contradict what Judaism is about, but the trail head of their twisted journey was from within. Moreover, their surrounding environment was not able to put a stop to them; for that an intervention of the state was necessary. They are a demonstration why society always needs vigilance, and belief in the good of Man isn't enough.


Lydia McGrew said...

"Only in Christianity and in pagan religions is there a concept like that - to pass a child over a fiery oven so he will burn."

I want to register a strong dissent from this odd sentence, quoted from a rabbi in the course of the story. I challenge anyone to find a passage in the Christian scriptures that involves such behavior. For that matter, I've never so much as heard of any such practice in a Christian denomination. I literally have no idea what he thinks he's talking about.

Yaacov said...

Yeah, I expected you not to like that sentence. I suggest however that you don't take it too seriously. The fellow being quoted isn't exactly at the pinnacle of enlightened Judaism. Or any other type of mainstream Judaism. Everyone in this article, even the "normal" ones, are hardly normative.

Lydia McGrew said...

I get you. I was just pointing out the strangeness of it for the record. People say the darndest things.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Yaacov, you must admit that if in the US (or France, or Argentina, or any other democratic country) anyone claimed that the Jews use babies' blood to bake Matza, he would be immediately prosecuted on God knows how many counts of hate speech.

But in Israel a rabbi (for God's sake, A RABBI) makes an exactly equivalent outrageous charge against Christians and, well, nothing happens.

But how do I dare miss the context! Israel is a country fighting for its very survival! If San Diego was daily bombed from Tijuana, US reverends would no doubt spread blood-libels against the Jews!

Thank you for giving me an idea for a post on my blog.

Yaacov said...

It will be cherry-picking, I have no doubt.

Remind me when was the last time that a fool was persecuted in any of those countries for an idiotic statement in an unimportant context? Had he been an important person, making his statement in a significant context, we could have talked about your comment. But he's a figure with no public standing, talking nonsense, and this comment wasn't even what he was talking about. That definitely falls within the context of free speech, which includes the freedom to lie and otherwise be idiotic and offensive, in this country and any free country.

Let's agree, you and I, that when important figures in the Arab or Muslim world learn not to spew rabid antisemitism, Israel will do it's best to curbs its anonymous fools.

Lydia McGrew said...

Actually, we don't have hate speech laws in the U.S. of the same sort that they have in the UK and Europe. Yet. There are people working to that end, but I hope they fail. Freedom of speech is still very important in the U.S.

And I agree with Yaacov, actually, that this was just a weird passing comment by this fringy rabbi. For that matter, I would never try to _prosecute_ even disgusting blood libels against Jews, though I would try to get people not to publish them. But it's very true that such blood libels are far more important than this comment of this guy's, because such blood libels have a history and have been used to justify all manner of evil. After all, even the rabbi quoted in the story has no plans to attack or exterminate Christians! I wouldn't want my comment on the topic to be used as an excuse for moral equivalency. (I just detest moral equivalency.) I merely commented on it for accuracy's sake.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

How do you define "fringy rabbi"? He was the rabbi who prayed at Prime Minister Sharon's bedside before he entered coma! He is also the leader of a large community in Jerusalem, and the head of the HaShalom Yeshiva. See here.

But to be honest (not that I mean to be honest, but Yaacov would find out the following information anyway), Batzri has been indicted on hate speech charges. Not for his anti-Christian comments, but for the following remarks about Arabs:

"The Arabs are donkeys and beasts. They want to take our girls. They are endowed with true filthiness. There is pure and there is impure and they are impure."

In sum, he's a fanatic, but not a fringe one: he leads a large community and an educational institution, and prays at a Prime Minister's bedside without an eyebrow being raised (note the neutral tone of the JPost article I linked to). He got indicted, but only after he made the most extreme racist statements. He had a long previous history of hateful remarks, and even so he had been able to run his state-sponsored yeshiva.

And please note: the State is prosecuting him, but the High Rabinate has not shunned him.

Yaacov said...

The famous rabbi is the father, not the son who was interviewed here. And "famous" is a relative term. These folks are Kabbalists, which means they're outside of the rabbinical establishment anyway. And outside any mainstream.

Sharon was an avowed atheist. This story of praying at his bedside was s stunt of some sort. It certainly doesn't give the rabbis any national stature.

Personally, Ibrahim, I think this thread has exhausted itself, but feel free to hammer onwards.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Since we are not yet publishing on our co-authored blog, I'll hammer onwards on this one.

In America, when Farrakhan makes racist remarks blacks are expected to distance themselves from him.

In Israel, when the Batzris (both father and son) make racist remarks much worse than Farrakhan's, the High Rabbinate is not expected to distance itself from them. Why would that be?

Also, this non-mainstream Kabalists are the source consulted by a major leftwing Israeli newspaper.

All very weird.

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