"The same people who, to make a total distinction between a righteous person and an evil one, claim that one should not criticize a woman who was attacked in any way, and she must not be blamed even if she herself behaved flirtatiously and seductively – have no problem saying that if someone is harmed because he was hitchhiking, he bears the responsibility for it. I have said many times that a moral argument is harmed the most when it is used only when it supports your point of view, but not used when it contradicts your point of view.”
Above: Rabbi Yuval Cherlow
A Leading Israeli Zionist Orthodox rabbi, Yuval Cherlow, has written an op-ed titled “we will continue to hitchhike,” meant as a response to the many public calls for Zionist Orthodox West Bank settlers to stop hitchhiking. Those public calls were made after three hitchhiking Zionist Orthodox teenage boys were kidnapped on the West Bank late last Thursday night by Palestinian terrorists.
In his op-ed Cherlow argues that “the objective of terror is to disrupt life’s routines and to sow dread and fear among the public. Therefore we will not give in, and we will continue to hitchhike in Judea and Samaria – with increased awareness and minimizing risks as much as possible.”
Cherlow writes that drivers must pick up hitchhikers and asserts that criticism of West Bank hitchhiking has two flaws:
1. “It seems that those who oppose hitchhiking are simply not acquainted with reality: they are not aware of the need to move from one place to another, the lack of proper public transportation, and the culture of mutual support that exists in our communities. And therefore, many of the things that are said do not pass the test of reality,” Cherlow wrote.
2. “…Hypocrisy and manipulation of the moral arguments. The same people who, to make a total distinction between a righteous person and an evil one, claim that one should not criticize a woman who was attacked in any way, and she must not be blamed even if she herself behaved flirtatiously and seductively – have no problem saying that if someone is harmed because he was hitchhiking, he bears the responsibility for it. I have said many times that a moral argument is harmed the most when it is used only when it supports your point of view, but not used when it contradicts your point of view.”
Cherlow goes on to insist that “[m]ore than anything else, the victory over terror will be achieved by society not surrendering to it, and not allowing it to disrupt the normal routines of life. Society continues as it was, and this conveys the message that nothing will break it, and that the attempts at terror will be met with a wall of determination and resilience. As a result, it is very reasonable to assume that we and our children [emphasis added] will continue to hitchhike in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. This is proper, and this is the reality of how we live during our times.”
What Cherlow fails to note is that the IDF, Shin Bet, Police and other security forces all warned West Bank settler leaders and rabbis before last week’s terrorist kidnapping that a kidnapping of hitchhikers was very likely to happen and begged these leaders to stop their followers from hitchhiking.
These were specific warnings about real, known threats – not general safety advice.
None of these settler leaders and rabbis complied with those requests anyway – even though the IDF and security services foiled dozens of kidnapping attempts during the last 12 months just like the one that was successful last week, and the threat was absolutely real.
First, lets look at Cherlow's bizarre claim about rape victims.
If women are told by police that a rapist is targeting women in a certain geographic area who wear very short red dresses, any woman walking alone late at night in a secluded part of that area dressed that way is risking her life and the lives of police and emergency medical personnel who may be forced to help her.
This does not in any way justify or excuse the rape.
Sex crimes experts will tell you women are raped no matter how they dress, no matter how revealing their dress is or isn’t compared to the location’s norm.
That’s because rape is a crime of violence, not a crime of passion.
Rapists are dominating and abusing women and choose their victims because they look like someone who emotionally hurt them, or because of some other similar trigger – or due to no trigger at all.
Many rapes happen simply due to availability. Being in the area alone and vulnerable is all that matters. The rape victim can be old, young, fat, thin, beautiful or ugly, very modestly dressed or almost naked. For many rapists, all that matters is that woman is alone and vulnerable, no more, no less.
But most rabbis are ignorant of these facts just as most rabbis are ignorant of the facts of child sex abuse and of so many other things they nonetheless pontificate on.
These rabbis first decide what they believe to be the correct policy or answer and then cobble together a few bits of information – or, sometimes, no information at all – to support it.
That their ‘facts’ are often not facts, or are taken out of context or are countered by better, newer, more complete research?
For far too many, that simply doesn’t matter.
Cherlow does go on to warn hitchhikers to be careful and to use public transportation when it is available and to avoid unnecessary risks – “[t]here is no commandment from the Torah to endanger life, and we did not choose a way of life that may harm ourselves, or take unnecessary risks,” Cherlow wrote – but by all means, still keep hitching rides.
Cherlow’s real focus is to compel Jewish drivers to stop and pick up hitchhikers, even if it is inconvenient.
“‘And Your Brother will Live too’, in its simple interpretation. But the main principle is directed especially toward the car owners: Your great contribution to minimizing the danger of hitchhiking will be when we take upon ourselves anew to pick up hitchhikers, a lot of them,” Cherlow insisted.
“Even if they are annoying; even if they talk on the telephone; even if they behave as if they are in charge; even if it is not pleasant for us; even when it is for short distances,” Cherlow continued.
“The more we ourselves decide to behave according to the commandment of the Torah – ‘And your brother will live too’, and as required by simple humanity we are more responsive to the needs of others – the more, with positive deeds, we will succeed in significantly minimizing the number of those at risk on the roads,” Cherlow wrote.
As I've noted previously, settlers could better alleviate the risk of hitchhiking by setting up regular shuttle bus service between settlements, by starting free loan funds to help poorer settlers buy cars, and by ending hitchhiking entirely.
But as I also noted previously, settler leaders and rabbis will not do this because to them, hitchhiking is almost a theological necessity, a means of showing the world that we have settled the land and that the land is ours.
I'm sure none of them want hitchhiking teens to be kidnapped by terrorists, but if that happens occasionally, it's part of the price that needs to be paid to control the land.
Read Cherlow's piece. He almost says as much explicitly.
And by doing so he displays the same disregard for the individual that all cults and all fundamentalisms, religious or secular, must have. The 'community' or the cult or the ism is always more important than any of its members, save a few leaders. This was true with Soviet communism and its true with radical Islam and all fundamentalisms, even Jewish ones – even ones led by otherwise moderate rabbis like Cherlow who are willing to risk children's lives to make their theological points.