Mea She’arim bookstore accedes to demands of extremist haredi vandalists
Headline of an article in today’s Jerusalem Post (written by Melanie Lidman)
The article details the horrendous sequence of events that has finally caused the management of Manny’s religious bookstore to capitulate to the demands of a fanatical haredi (ultra- Orthodox) sect known as the Sikrikim. The story explains what has been happening to the unfortunate owners. Since the store opened 18 months ago it has been subject to repeated violent incidents of vandalism. I quote:
“the group has smashed its windows more than a dozen times, glued its locks shut, thrown tar and fish oil at the store and dumped bags of human excrement inside. The owners were also personally threatened multiple times.
Why did these haredim do these terrible things?
Are they carrying out a commandment from God? Or a desire of men, in the guise of religious belief, to subjugate others to their will?
They seem to have had two major problems. Firstly, as many of the books were in English, the store attracted a clientele of Anglo Saxons -especially tourists. Their dress code did not conform to the “Taliban” style criteria demanded by the Sikrikim.
Secondly, they demanded control of the inventory, to ensure that only books that they approved would be sold. Weakened by so much harassment , and after spending over $70,000 for repairs and security guards, the management finally surrendered and agreed to a compromise:
Under the terms of the compromise, Ohr Hachaim/Manny’s put up a large sign requesting that all customers dress modestly. A mashgiach, who checks the store’s inventory to make sure there are no controversial books, will go over the books in the coming week and require that some books be removed from the shelves, though they will not be permitted to remove any English books,
I am not criticising the management. They had to take a commercial decision. My question is,why do we calmly accept the concept that some inspector, appointed by these extremists, will decide which (Hebrew) books the shop is permitted to sell? And what will happen to the removed books? I presume that they cannot be sold anywhere else.
Will they demand that these be burnt?
“That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.” (Heinrich Heine)
Well, in this case, not burn people in the physical sense, of course. Too much history! But, certainly in the intellectual and spiritual sense.
And all of this in a country that makes so much of the fact that it is a free, open democratic society! Where is the anger? Where are the secular demonstrations of outrage? They don’t exist. And they will not happen. It constantly amazes me that in situations like this, the huge non-religious section of the population stay passive.
It ‘s extraordinary that the Sikrikim, that numbers less than 100 families, have succeeded in their objective. Or is it? The capacity of our secular and non orthodox majority to constantly pander to the whims of the religious loonies has no limits.
This case is just one example of the power of religious fanaticism. If the rest of our citizens do not respond, it will not be the last!
“And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.
So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.” (Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country)
And where does the Israel that I love exist?
Not in Mea She’arim – that’s for sure!
Andyboy – Telling it as it is
- Jerusalem bookshop targeted by ‘mafia-like’ extremists (guardian.co.uk)