Sunday, August 10, 2008

Big Brother in Beitar IV - Fear of Shababnikim & Baalei Teshuva

Anonymous's comment to "Big Brother in Beitar III - Undesirables in Beitar...":
I have mentioned in a previous post that the people who the community is afraid of are those who threaten their facade of "kedusha", such as baalei teshuva with their individuality and diverse backgrounds, including many breslovers and russian chabadniks, divorcees and single parents, serious social work cases, etc. The main issue though, as in most of the Charedi world today, is clearly that of the growing presence of "off the derech" youth at various stages of non-conformity and with a general lack of framework or direction, who have nowhere to go and so are very obvious around the city. Many of these kids have serious issues due to the broken, abusive, or poverty stricken homes they come from. Baalei teshuva are blamed for bringing with them outside influences and a lack of mesora and strictness, and have become the city scapegoat for all its problems. This was explicit in the false propaganda statement released by the city PR man in response to the acid attack on that girl (see earlier post).

In the recent elections a political party was created just to represent all the "pariahs" here. they won one seat in the city council. a small victory but not nearly enough. i have sent Rabbi Eidensohn some of their info, perhaps he can post that here.

The following Haaretz article (June 12) is not entirely accurate but it is good enough to give you a sense of the dynamics going on around here:
Excerpt from Haaretz:
For two weeks now, the streets of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Beitar Illit have been rife with tension. Bulletins have been posted throughout the city, denouncing problematic youths and sowing panic. Residents have taken to the streets to demand that the troublemakers be expelled from the city, riots have erupted and rumors have spread.

It is difficult to tell whether these demonstrations were organized by supporters of the ousted former mayor, Yitzhak Pindros, who is supported by the Hasidic Ashkenazim (that is, Jews of Eastern European origin). People are wondering whether the unrest was planned as a provocation, or whether it is a spontaneous reaction to various incidences of violence perpetrated by the shababnikim (disaffected ultra-Orthodox youth, who are religious, but relatively more worldly than other Haredi teens). This latter explanation is the one put forward by supporters of the elected mayor, Meir Rubinstein, who is backed by Shas and an additional Sephardic (i.e., Jews of Middle Eastern descent) faction.

The problem of youth at risk has been a recurring one in Beitar Illit, located west of the Etzion Bloc. Statistics indicate that the numbers of troubled youth increase as the city expands. The local municipality estimates that there are between 60 and 70 high-schoolers who are not enrolled in any educational framework. Motti Pindros, brother of the outgoing mayor, also runs a local youth club. According to him, the actual number of at-risk youth is higher: Some 30 kids make up the "hard core" of problematic teens, while about 70 others tag along. Residents, for their part, say that until recently - or, to be more exact, up until the recent municipal elections - the problem was under control and adequately handled by the welfare services. In recent months, one resident said: "The shababnikim are emerging."

Locals point to the wave of burglaries in the city, kids smoking in public on Shabbat, and - apparently the height of audacity - one of the youngsters actually took a stroll through the streets with a dog. According to the best-case scenario, the breed in question was a Chihuahua; the doomsayers claim it was a huge bulldog. Later, the troublemakers even brought a horse into the city, residents say. Rumor has it that the police seized the horse because it was not properly vaccinated. But that didn't stop the shababnikim: They obtained the requisite shots and brought the horse back. But the dog was truly provocative, since the fear Haredim have of canines dwarfs even their fear of the shababnikim. When these two forms of trepidation merge, "it seems like the hatred genie is out of the bottle," according to one official who deals with the youths. [...]

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