On Sunday, Elhanan Buzaglo was sentenced to four years imprisonment for the vicious beating of a woman nine months ago in Jerusalem's Ma'alot Dafna neighborhood. Buzaglo, a member of a haredi mishmar hazniyut, a self-appointed modesty squad, pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain struck with the State Attorney's Office.
Buzaglo, who broke into the 31-year-old divorcé's apartment along with four other men, was convicted of receiving $2,000 from the mishmar hazniyut for his role in the attack, which was intended to intimidate her into leaving the predominantly haredi neighborhood. Judge Noam Solberg wrote in his decision that "the punishment must reflect the abhorrence of his acts... and deter him and others like him."
Even though the Jerusalem District Court described the assailants as an "armed militia," Buzaglo, 29, was the only defendant to be convicted in this barbaric attack. According to newspaper reports last October, a series of flaws in the investigation, including a problem with the recording device, enabled Buzaglo's dispatchers - the modesty patrol members - to evade indictments.
From my vantage point, it is unfortunate that all those who participated in the vicious beating of a defenseless woman are not facing long prison sentences. But it is a great step forward and hopefully will mark a turning point in the attitude of law enforcement officials to these thugs.
AS AN EDUCATOR and a proud member of the haredi community, I appeal to all haredi Knesset members to display moxie and genuine leadership by calling a joint press conference where they repudiate all forms of violence and vow to bring to justice all those who perpetrate these types of attacks from this day forward. They should bring all law enforcement resources to bear to bring law and order to the streets of Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Bnei Brak and other areas where these people operate. If elected officials cannot commit themselves to protecting innocent women from vicious beatings, they should all resign and be replaced by people who will.
There is no question in my mind that the vast, overwhelming majority of haredi Jews worldwide feel as I do: disgraced and shamed when these events occur, and frustrated that there seems to be little that we can do to remove this stain from our shirts. Many members of our community are reluctant to speak out publicly, fearing that doing so will cause a hillul Hashem, a desecration of God's name. However, I propose that remaining silent in the face of violent and lawless acts perpetrated by individuals purporting to represent Torah values is the greatest hillul Hashem of all.
The time has come for us to speak out, telling our children and students in unequivocal terms, "These people are criminals and sinners - and do not represent us!" Our publications should begin reporting these incidents in the news sections of our papers, condemn them in our editorials and call upon the police to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law.
We should stop using politically correct terms like "misguided youths" to describe cowards who beat women for sitting in the "wrong" sections of buses and physically assault peaceful citizens who do not dress according to their standards - observant or otherwise. "Misguided youth" implies that they engaged in a prank like a water fight or that they went overboard in pursuit on a noble goal. There is nothing noble about these acts - or the terrorist mentality that glorifies them.
THE VIOLENT MEMBERS of these self-appointed modesty patrols are, in fact, a modern-day version of the Sadducee sect - having long ago veered off the path of our Torah and formed their own cult. They kneel to the idol of intolerance and bring the blood and bruised bodies of their victims on the altar of hatred. They only lack the intellectual honestly to declare themselves a new, nonreligious movement divorced of any rabbinic teaching and tradition.[...]