Rabbi Yakov Horowitz has done something that in haredi circles is truly courageous – he printed a column by Miriam Shear, the woman beaten by haredi men last year on a public bus in Israel. Her crime? Refusing to give up her seat move to the back of the bus. These haredim wanted sex segregated seating on a bus that was meant for all users – religious and non-religious, haredi and non-haredi, Jew and non-Jew alike. They wanted it so they got it with their fists.
The latest haredi atrocity is of course the beating of a woman by 5 haredi men on a public bus in Beit Shemesh for the same reasons Miriam Sher was beaten (this time haredim beat an Israeli soldier, as well and their haredi friends rioted when police arrived at the scene, allowing their 5 'heroes' to escape). In between the Shear beating and this one are many 'lesser' incidents of haredi harassment against women riding public buses in Israel, some of which also include physical violence.
Even though American haredi leaders have been somewhat careful to appear to be opposed to such violence, the fact is Miriam Sher has been much denigrated by haredim here and in Israel for "making a scene." She has been falsely accused of faking the incident, falsely accused of inciting the incident, falsely accused of being anti-Orthodox (she is herself Orthodox) and falsely accused of being anti-haredi. But mostly she is viewed as one giant pain in the ass who should have simply taken the beating and shut up for the good of the (haredi) team. In short, she is not well-liked.
Yet when Miriam Shear asked Rabbi Yakov Horowitz to publish a column she wrote in the wake of the latest bus beating titled, "Enough is Enough!," he agreed to publish it on his highly-read website. This is not some Rabbi Avi Shafran snake oil job Rabbi Horowitz posted – it is the unvarnished words of Ms. Shear herself, words that cut to the heart of the problem. Here is a small piece of what she says:
…When Jonathan Rosenblum interviewed me for his Mishpacha article, “Knowing our Limits”, he was sincere (without condemnation) in his curiosity as to why I stood my ground in refusing to give up my seat. This is what I explained: “The incident has to be taken in the context of what was going on while I was in Yerushalyim for 5 weeks – during the “gay parade” brouhaha. Every night, yeshivas were letting their students out to riot in the streets. Garbage cans were dumped and strewn in the streets and their contents set on fire. Many people, particularly the elderly and small children, had been rushed to hospitals suffering from respiratory difficulties due to the toxicity of the smoke that was belching throughout residential neighborhoods. Public health officials were warning that the carcinogens in the air were at dangerous levels. I personally was in bed for 3 days with a severe respiratory infection caused by being forced to inhale these fumes every day. Almost every morning, our bus would have to stop and carefully navigate around burning piles of rubbish. Sometimes, people would have to get off the bus to remove these burning piles so the bus could get through and soil their hands and clothes in the process. I stood at Kikar Shabbat one evening and watched boys as young as 8 and 9 running through the streets setting anything within their reach on fire. A white van made the big mistake of traveling through Kikar Shabbat. The van was pelted with objects. When the driver stopped and got out of his van, it was overturned and torched. Nobody even knew if this driver was “for” or “against” the very thing the rioters were rioting about! I asked one of the boys – about age 10 – “do you know why you’re doing this?” His answer: “Because it’s fun!” The following Shabbos, an acquaintance of mine told me that her sons were “not going to shul today, they need to sleep in and catch up on their rest because their rebbe had let them out to go rioting almost every night this week.” I couldn’t resist responding that I wouldn’t send my son to such a yeshiva that employed such “rebbes”.’
I also went on to explain to Mr. Rosenblum that it sickened me to stand and watch the store in Geula which had been burned to the ground by the area’s “Tznius Patrol”. This store, “One of a Kind”, is owned by an American Rosh Yeshiva’s wife who sells nice and affordable tznius clothing. However, sequins on some of the items did not meet the tznius standards of this “Patrol” and they demanded its removal from the store. The proprietor refused; they responded with an arson that destroyed her merchandise, her store, and her livelihood…
Ms. Shear describes the actual haredi world in Israel, as it really is, without the veneer of American PR added to clean it up. And Rabbi Horowitz printed this.
Many people will no doubt praise Rabbi Horowitz for this – of course, myself included. But others will be far less kind.
How will that play out? I suspect he will be praised publicly by the very men who will stab him in the back as soon as they are able. Hamayvin yavin.