The 'leaders' of the generation including Rabbis Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Aryeh Leib Steinman decided it best if all Simhat Torah–Hakafot Sheinit celebrations took place indoors at synagogues and wedding halls. But even that is not enough strictness for the dark side:
To enforce gender separation, monitors in Jerusalem's Mea She'arim quarter diverted women to side streets toward separate entrances to the synagogues and halls. On the main streets, men and women were told to walk on separate sidewalks.
So, after almost 50 years of hakafot sheinit in the streets with live music and dancing, what made the dark side crack down? This:
The rabbis' concern seems to stem from the presence of young men and women who have dropped out from ultra-Orthodox schools, and according to one street poster, or pashkavil, bring "singers or various cantors, thus causing gatherings of boys and girls who have deviated from the path."
Thankfully, both the National Religious and Chabad refused to give in to haredi pressure to cancel their outdoor celebrations. This has led to a haredi wall poster campaign against them and to actual street protests.
I have to say that some of my favorite memories from my times in Israel are from the outdoor hakafot sheinit in Sefat's old section and simhat beit hashoeiva celebrations outdoors in Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter. I saw no lewdness or bad behavior. I just saw thousands of Jews having a good time and rejoicing, which is what the chag is all about – it is z'man simhateinu, after all.
I'd also add to that list the giant communal succa near the Kotel (Western Wall). To sit in there with a close view of the Kotel and share food, songs and stories with Jews from all over the world, Jews you just met moments before, is a truly amazing experience.
Former Agudat Israel MK Menachem Porush, who has for
years organized the second night hakafot in Sabbath Square, initially resisted pressure to cancel this year's event, but the pressure was too much and he caved in:
Sources speaking for Porush initially said the only person authorized to cancel the event was the Brisker rabbi, Yitzak Ze'ev Halevi Soloveichik, who had personally ordered Porush to hold the celebrations in public. However, the Rabbi from Brisk died in 1959.
Porush eventually gave in to pressure and decided a few days ago to cancel the public celebrations, earning high praise in the pashkavilim [often anonymous wall posters sometimes used to incite the haredi populace against a specific person or action].
If the Brisker Rav were alive and well today, Rabbis Elyashiv, Shteinman, et al, would be teaching in heders in remote development towns, or perhaps cleaning their bathrooms. The term "yeridot hadorot," "descent of the generations," could easily have been coined specifically for this generation of self-styled 'gedolim.'
Meanwhile, the walls get higher, the streets get narrower, and the pressure mounts. One day soon those walls will collapse, and the haredi world will come tumbling down with them. May it be soon, in our days – amen, sela.