"After years of familiarity with this area, my theory is that many ultra-Orthodox commit these acts because they are unaware that a specific act is a crime and because a lack of awareness of the punishments associated with these crimes. In the secular world, there is a crime, there's a criminal, he's caught and punished and the news is relayed through newspapers and television The message is clear. In the ultra-Orthodox community, the media doesn't report [such crimes]. There's no newspaper or other place to hear about what happened to some ultra-Orthodox person who committed a crime even if they were punished, no one knows what happened to them. The neighbors think that they moved abroad. One of the goals of punishment is deterrence, but there is none in the ultra-Orthodox public. There is always someone will hide things."
Ha'aretz has an article on the alleged rape of a 5-year-old girl in the haredi town Modi'in IIllit. As you may remember, the supervisor of the town's kindergartens reported the rape; she now claims she made up the story because she has seen so many cases of child sexual abuse, she decided to create a storm over the issue to get haredim to focus on it.
Police aren't yet sure whether or not the rape took place, although they appear to have evidence that it did.
Ha'aretz talks to anti-abuse activists who think the ploy – if that is what it is – was a stunning success because, as one of them, attorney Rivka Schwartz, noted:
“The public debate that arose in the community is far more important than the issue of whether the incident took place or not," she says. “The fact that this was talked about in every house in the town is a huge achievement. The discussion may have happened without a real victim, but it evoked many other real cases. People suddenly remembered stories about some yeshiva teacher who did this or that. The multiple stories that surfaced emboldened others to speak out, and hopefully will also lead to filing of charges. From my perspective that's a big accomplishment."
What Schwartz – who was only licensed to practice law a few months ago – fails to mention is that a false claim like this gives haredi leaders the ability to argue that real claims are false, and it will make those haredi arguments more successful.
Ha'aretz also discusses the Nachlaot ritual child sex abuse panic, but does so without correctly reporting the facts:
This was the first case that tried someone accused of pedophilia in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Nahlaot that was at the center of a pedophilia scandal last year. The scandal was branded as it unfolded the largest case of pedophilia in Israeli history and along the way increased the awareness among the ultra-Orthodox public of the dangers of pedophilia in its community. At the height of the scandal, neighborhood residents claimed that no fewer than 200 neighborhood children had been harmed by a sophisticated ring of pedophiles operating in the neighborhood. The police arrested 15 neighborhood residents on suspicion of having been involved in various sexual acts with minors. But soon enough it became clear that the testimonies of children taken by youth investigators were not reliable enough to be used in court and most of the suspects were released. In the end, indictments were filed against only three suspects. One of the suspects, Binyamin Satz, was convicted last week with committing indecent acts with minors, three counts of sodomy with children. The cases against the remaining two suspects are still ongoing.
The defendants' lawyers as well as various people living in the neighborhood have raised the possibility that most if not all of the supposed pedophilia cases in the neighborhood were actually the result of a mass panic and not actual attacks. According to these people, an insular society like the ultra-Orthodox community in Nahlaot didn't know how to deal with the phenomenon of potential child abuse and was dragged into a witch-hunt that ensnared innocent people. On the other hand, many parents of the children who filed complaints feel that the police didn't understand the codes of conduct in the community and, consequently, didn't find the children's testimony to be reliable. Some parents also claim that because the community is a very insular and conservative one, the children could not have fabricated testimony describing various acts of sexual abuse on their own and, thus, they should be believed.
What Ha'aretz fails to tell you is that parents and local freelance social workers corrupted evidence. They also induced children to agree with adult statements about abuse that supposedly happened to the kids.
At the same time, a mentally ill rape victim known for smearing people she doesn't like (and for smearing others she doesn't have any real hostility to but who become collateral damage) began to incite Nachlaot's parents against some of these people.
Haredim are great lovers of conspiracy theories because, for the most part, haredim do not think logically. Their education tells them to believe the stories that science and history prove wrong, to deny the reality around them in order to make the Torah literally true. It is not a great leap from believing the universe is literally less than 6,000 years old or that a talking donkey argued with an evil prophet to believing that there is a ring of more than one dozen pedophiles who use children in sexual rituals and hide ther evidence in secret tunnels running between their houses.
On the other hand, Israel police were woefully slow in responding to parents complaints as was social services.
This toxic combination created the panic.
As for change in Israel's haredi community, the truth is that haredim who want to fight the haredi community's status quo on dealing with child sexual abuse in Israel, the UK and other locations outside the US have been encouraged and emboldened by what anti-haredi-child-sexual-abuse activists have been able to accomplish in the US.
Schwartz believes haredim molest because they don't know it is crime to do so:
Schwartz, who became an accredited lawyer only half a year ago, became acquainted with cases of severe sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community during her internship with the State Prosecutor's Office and after a friend broke her own silence and confessed to her that she had been the victim of sexual abuse.
"After years of familiarity with this area, my theory is that many ultra-Orthodox commit these acts because they are unaware that a specific act is a crime and because a lack of awareness of the punishments associated with these crimes," says Schwartz. In her words, ultra-Orthodox society is not aware enough of the relation between crime and punishment.
"In the secular world, there is a crime, there's a criminal, he's caught and punished and the news is relayed through newspapers and television," says Schwartz. "The message is clear. In the ultra-Orthodox community, the media doesn't report [such crimes]. There's no newspaper or other place to hear about what happened to some ultra-Orthodox person who committed a crime even if they were punished, no one knows what happened to them. The neighbors think that they moved abroad. One of the goals of punishment is deterrence, but there is none in the ultra-Orthodox public. There is always someone will hide things."
Schwartz believes that this difference is significant. "[A situation] has been created where people are ignorant of the punishment. An ultra-Orthodox person who commits a crime because of a momentary impulse says to themself that it's their own problem and that will find a way to square things with God. He doesn't know how serious [his crime] is in this world, that there is also someone here who can punish him."
Schwartz's claim that haredim molest children because they don't know it is crime or don't think the crime is serious is largely false.
Every haredi man knows that anal sex between two males is a serious crime in halakha. Every haredi man knows that secular society punishes child sexual abuse.
What Schwartz may be trying to say is that in child sexual abuse cases where there is no anal penetration, halakha has not much to say about it. "Spilling seed" – a male orgasm when his penis is not inside a woman's vagina – is a crime in halakha (with some exceptions for married couples). But that crime is not punished by man. There is no beit din, Jewish court, proceeding, no fine, no reparations paid to the victim, no imprisonment, no lashing, no stoning. The crime is sin, and the sin is punished by God alone.
In other words, child sexual abuse without penetration is a sin like masturbation is a sin. And despite the kabbalistic claims about the severity of masturbation, halakhicly it is no big deal. And neiter is child sexual abuse.
This is, in essence, what Rabbi Manis Friedman claimed and what Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg claimed before him.
Haredim do need to be made to understand that secular law will not tolerate this, that sexual abuse of children will be punished to the fullest extent of our laws – not theirs.
The way to do this is to put more haredi pedophiles behind bars and to prosecute and imprison the haredi rabbis and community activists who try to obstruct justice.
But Schwartz is right about one thing – the haredi media and the rabbis who control it are complicit in these crimes.
One of the ways we will know that true change has taken place will be that haredi newspapers, websites and radio stations accurately and completely report all haredi child sexual abuse cases. So far, the haredi media has reported none of them.
[Hat Tip: HeathenHassid.]