On advice of her rabbi, “C” called police – twice. And police came twice and tried to speak with her upstairs neighbor, who refused to answer his door. But because this is Israel where the rule of law is very porous, police are often inept and, in haredi cities, are oftentimes functioning under the control of local haredi fixers and rabbis, police did nothing about it. So "C" took her case to civil court – and was promptly excommunicated by her city's chief rabbi and his beit din. And what Israel's High Court of Justice and AG may have to do to right the wrongs done to "C" by these haredi rabbis and neighbors may very well spark a religious war.
Case Of Illegal Haredi Construction Could “Spark A Religious War,” Insiders Say
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Just before the High Holidays three years ago, the upstairs neighbors of “C,” a haredi women living in the planned haredi city of Elad, asked for permission to extend their balcony-sukkah porch, the Times of Israel reported. But because this balcony extension would cover her own balcony and therefore make her sukka non-kosher and reduce the value of her apartment, “C” refused to sign her neighbors’ application for a building permit.
That should have put an end to matter, but it didn’t.
Angered, the neighbors reportedly belittled “C” to other haredim. They said she only has female children and as females, she and her daughters are not obligated to sit in a sukkah. Therefore, she was being spiteful by refusing to allow their own sukkah balcony expansion to go forward.
When that shaming did not work, “C’s” neighbors did what haredim so often do – they began building the balcony expansion without a building permit and the haredi city government – then led by Mayor Yitzhak Idan – did nothing to stop them. (The following year, Idan was arrested on unrelated corruption charges.)
“C” asked her haredi rabbi for advice on stopping the illegal construction above her. He told her to call police and get them to intervene and stop the building immediately.
So “C” called police – twice. And police came twice and tried to speak with her upstairs neighbor, who refused to answer his door. But because this is Israel where the rule of law is very porous, police are often inept and, in haredi cities, are oftentimes functioning under the control of local haredi fixers and rabbis, police did nothing about it.
“C” eventually hired a lawyer and took her case to civil court.
In response, her upstairs neighbors went to a local haredi beit din (Jewish religious court), Ha’yoshar v’HaTzedek (Honesty and Justice). It summoned “C” and warned her that if she did not appear, she and her daughters would be excommunicated.
“C” did not answer the summons and the beit din – which is under the direct control of the city’s government-paid haredi chief rabbi, Mordechai Malka, issued a k’tav siruv (writ or preliminary excommunication) against them just before Yom Kippur. The k’tav siruv was posted throughout the city, and next to the copy they tacked to her door, they also posted a copy of an article from a haredi paper that reported on the sudden death (presumably at the hand of Heaven) of a haredi man who had been excommunicated.
As a result of the k’tav siruv, “C” and her daughters had no synagogue in the entire city they could pray in on Yom Kippur, which is the holiest day of the Jewish year, and her daughters were blocked from registering at local schools until Israel’s minister of education intervened on their behalf.
Tortured by local haredim for more than three years and trapped in Elad because she has no money to move elsewhere, “C” took her case to Israel’s High Court of Justice last Thursday. Representing her is an attorney who is also a Reform rabbi – and who heads the religious freedom nonprofit Hiddush, Rabbi Uri Regev.
Unable to afford to move and with nowhere to go, C is continuing to fight, and on Thursday saw her case discussed before the Supreme Court under the helm of a Reform rabbi. After a series of complaints and civil court hearings, C joined forces with Hiddush, an organization founded to fight for religious freedom and equality by rabbi and lawyer Uri Regev.
The court ordered Israel’s attorney general to investigate the beit din rabbis and reprimand and them if they violated the law. The justices also openly stated their strong opposition to beit dins issuing k’tav siruvs, as did Israel’s attorney general.
The case comes back to the court in four months, and the question is how it will be handled.
If the AG strongly deals with beit din rabbis, perhaps the court will do nothing. But if the AG does not properly deal with this issue, or if the government – which is beholden to haredi political parties to stay in power – finds ways to evade or block what the AG does, the court would be forced to rule. And if it rules against the beit din rabbis and the upstairs neighbor, in haredi eyes it would essentially be ruling against the Shulkhan Arukh (Code of Orthodox Jewish law). And that is the looming crisis.
In other words, who makes the law for the State of Israel? The people through their elected representatives and through the checks and balances of the court system and the AG? Or ancient pre-modern Jewish legal codes and the haredi rabbis who believe they have the exclusive right to interpret them?
This case is felt so viscerally by haredi rabbis in Elad, that it could “spark a religious war,” insiders reportedly claim.