Ultra-Orthodox Deliberate Online Legality of Ripping Blue Ribbons

Moshe Zuchmir recently opened debate on the ultra-Orthodox Internet forum 'Behadrei Hadarim.'

When Moshe Zuchmir recently opened debate on the ultra-Orthodox Internet forum "Behadrei Hadarim" ("In the Inner Sanctum") on the question of whether it is permissible to tear a blue ribbon from a car, his own car, for example, no one flamed him. Perhaps this is because, according to this Haredi surfer, it was not he, heaven forefend, who tied the blue ribbon on his car, but someone else. He claimed that when he stopped beside a Chabad Hasidic synagogue to pray, however, the ribbon was forcefully removed from his car despite his objections, and this made him angry.

The debate was conducted politely even when the forum manager, a Chabad Hasid whose username is "David10," asked in response if it were permissible to tear off parts of the Land of Israel. Between the lines, it was evident that the criticism of vandalism was the issue, and less so the ideology.

Another surfer who responded related angrily that she had seen how, in an attempt to remove a blue ribbon, antennas and mirrors had been torn off cars, and she protested this action. Another surfer wrote that such actions constitute theft, unconnected to politics.

Even though in reality it seems difficult to find a single Haredi whose car, or even his hat, is adorned with a blue ribbon as a sign of support for the disengagement, at Behadrei Hadarim one discovers that not only are there such supporters in the Haredi neighborhoods, but there also are still a few voices warning against violent escalation among the Haredi public on the eve of the disengagement.

While the active involvement of Haredi youth in protests against the disengagement is already a known fact, no clear statement has yet been issued by the rabbis against participation in violence. Even though a few yeshivas have announced that they will expel students who participate in demonstrations, there have been no similar declarations from the large Lithuanian-stream yeshivas, such as Hebron, Ponevezh and Mir.

On this background, the column written by Dudi Zilbershlag in last Friday's edition of the Haredi newspaper Bakehila (In the Community) is all the more conspicuous. Zilbershlag called for the cancellation of the three-week summer vacation at the yeshivas, which coincides with the scheduled implementation of the disengagement.

"The thought of Haredi youths participating in the right-wing protests is terrifying," wrote Zilbershlag, warning that "the wildest sections at right-wing protests are specifically the Haredi ones."

In a conversation, Zilbershlag says that he fears a violent escalation will lead to "a cycle of hatred that will bring hostility toward Haredim." Unlike the national religious, the Haredim do not recognize Israeli strategy, so when they loosen their restraints, they have no limits.

Even though he is not known for his right-wing opinions, Zilbershlag opposes the disengagement. This is due mainly to what he calls the improper behavior of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Still, Zilbershlag says that the settlers should have chosen quiet, rather than aggressive, opposition. He says that the heads of the Yesha Council of settlements asked his advice when planning the anti-disengagement campaign, and he suggested a silent protest in synagogues or continuous Torah study.

Zilbershlag believes that almost the entire Haredi public opposes the disengagement, despite the objections of the Haredi Yated Neeman newspaper to the orange ribbons as a Zionist symbol, and the Hamodia newspaper's refusal to publish notices by the community's Admorim (leaders of the Hasidic sects) in support of Gush Katif. As proof of this support, Zilbershlag notes that the Admorim traveled to Gush Katif to encourage the settlers there.

The Hasidim's closeness to the settlers is a growing phenomenon. Last week Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Horowitz, the Admor of Boston, visited Neveh Dekalim with his followers, and Tuesday one of the most secretive of the Haredi Admorim, who belongs to the Biale Hasidic sect in Jerusalem, visited there with two of his followers. Although these two Admorim are not among the most prominent Hasidic leaders, to put it mildly, there is no doubt that their visits boost the settlers' morale.

"The Haredim will always be on the side of the underdog," says Zilbershlag. Another Haredi spokesman explained that their anti-disengagement position is a mixture of hatred toward Sharon and the perception of the disengagement as theft - the uprooting of Jews from the homes they purchased lawfully - and as an act that destroys the Jewish character of the state. Theft - as long as it involves Jews.