Thursday, June 09, 2005

How much different is Charedi society then Saudia Arabia?

This sounds very strange but when you think about it you realize that it is not so far-fetched. The NY Times has an interesting article Reformers in Saudi Arabia: Seeking Rights, Paying a Price. Many of the things mentioned in the article could apply in some measure to Charedi society as well. Some examples:
  • The overwhelming emphasis on religious education to the detriment of secular education

  • The complete segregation of the sexes (think of the Tznius patrol etc.)

  • The role of women

  • The intolerance of dissent (e.g. the Slifkin affair)

  • The denigration of science and Western culture in general

The list goes on.

Clearly there are major differences, especially regarding respect for life, and many many other issues, but I still believe that the comparison is valid.

Today it is almost impossible to close your society off from the rest of the world as the Saudis are seeing. The Charedi leadership is attempting to do the same thing by banning internet, cell phones, etc. I am very skeptical that this will work and this approach may cause major problems when Charedim are exposed to the outside world with little or no preparation.


daat y said...

But the specific major difference you mentioned ia A MAJOR DIFFERENCE.So much so to negate the comparison.A dog and a wolf share having four legs.But they are
different animals.

Anonymous said...

just remember to distinguish between charedi israel and charedi US.
many, prob. most of the charedim i know are on the net for example.

Anonymous said...

You want to be careful with this:

"The role of women"

The MO can't give them much role in public religious life either and are also open to these charges. I mean, no one prevents charedi women from getting jobs and driving and the like (nonchassidic ones anyway). Any differences wrt secular education apply to the men too - it's much easier for a charedi woman to go to university than a charedi man, actually. So the oarallel with islam is inherent in orthodoxy.

Anonymous said...

that should be "parallels w/ Islam"

bluke said...

daat y,

I think there are enough similarities that the comparison is in some way valid.

I think that the elements I listed are quite similar.

bluke said...

In Charedi society women are quite limited in what they can do. They can never be the leaders. Shas and Yahadut Hatorah have 0 female Knesset members and it will stay that way. There are many poskim (including R' Kook) who didn't want them to vote.

Depending on what part of Charedi society you look at it looks more or less like Saudia Arabia. Satmar etc. are very close, for example I don't think the women drive. The Yeshivish community less so.

MNR said...

I agree - there are comparisons which we must deal with. On one hand we have to ask the question - are frum Jews more similar to Muslims in Saudi Arabia, or to the average Joe (not religious christian) in America.

However, I think one of the main differences between Saudi society and Charedi society is bechira chofshis. In Charedi society, if you choose that it's not for you, you can leave (extreme societal pressures notwithstanding). In Saudi Arabia, they beat you.

bluke said...

You can only leave because there is no Charedi state. They have no way of forciong you to stay. If there was a religious state they would not let you leave either.

MNR said...

Interesting point, but how do you know that? I think many charedi authorities would say that since we do not have the beis hamikdash yet, then, as a result, we cannot compel people to follow halacha (i.e. by malkot etc) personally. This is different than not doing an aveira which infinges on their [charedi] rights in some way (i.e. driving on shabbos or wearing untznius clothing in their neighbourhoods is something they may protest, eating a cheeseburger in the privacy of your home they may not).

Nobody said...

I find the whole comparison absurd, frankly. The only reason it holds is because of an underlying unconscious admiration, if not preference, for secular society. Attempt to rewrite any of your 5 items in a neutral manner, and you will find that a secular society has the same behavior, about different things. Just to demonstrate:

1) The overwhelming emphasis on one type of education over another.
2) Treating sexes and their differences categorically.
3) Having a distinction in the social roles of women.
4) Intolerance of ideas outside the accepted range.
5) Denigration of undesired philosophies and cultures.

For point 1, I'll just point to the fact that, in America, all religious education is on your own pocket, whereas a nice secular education is fully publicly funded. And regardless, a secular education is mandatory, on penalty of prison.

For point 2, secular society inverts the position to its polar opposite. Any differences are categorically ignored. Coed bathrooms in college dorms, and the President of Harvard nearly lost his job for suggesting that men and women might inherently have different aptitudes, etc.

For point 3, women are constantly objectified in the secular culture. Lets leave it at that, but Hamevin Yovin.

For point 4, just wearing the color Orange seems to be a problem now in Israel. Or, if you want something out of government, try here.

For point 5, well, the secular society (especially the left wing side) denigrates the religious all the time.

The only thing we have in common with Wahabbiests is that we are both religious. The taliban (a Wahabbiest state) did not have a religious rule of law state. They had thuggery and lawlessness using religion as a cover. The simple example is the "religious police" routinely raping women.

In Torah, all enforcement in a Halachic state is deliberative, based on evidence, and must be warned about beforehand, and is never enforced by indiscriminate killing.

Yes, you have Tznious police in some communities, but that comes from not having a Halachic state.

bluke said...


That was really my point (not written well), that a chareidi state would be like that, clearly being a minority in a Western democracy limits authority.

bluke said...


Western society is pluralistic, in the US there is freedom of religion, freedom of speech (Mel Gibson could make his movie about Jesus). A halachic state would allow neither, no freedom of religion nor freedom of speech.

The same goes for education. A chareidi society would outlaw many subjects (e.g. evolution), in the US you have Yeshivas.

In the US dissent is tolerated (in Israel it isn't), in a halachic society there is a din of zaken mamre.

I agree 100% that the halacha and it's enforcement is much different, but the bottom line is that the law on teh books saysthat if you do melacha on Shabbos you get stoned, adultery you get stoned etc.

a pushut yid said...

This is quite insulting. It borders (and im not sure which side of the border) on Lashon Hara against an entire community of torah observant people.

What the chareidim, saudis, and you can throw in amish as well, have - which is manefested in all of these issues is a burning desire to do whats right on a religious level, placing religion above everything else, including what secular society would call societal norms.

There is a great spiritual depression in the world at current, and these people, and anyone else who feels it, is trying to stand strong in the current of sweeping modernity, in order to hold on to what they believe.

Nobody said...

If your point is that western society is different than a halachic society, point granted. If, however, your point is that Saudi society is similar to a Jewish one, I dispute that totally. They are only different in the that they are both are different from western society. Funny thing is, I heard (around November) a newsweek columnist making the point that America was more similar to Saudi Arabia (in its attitude towards religion) than Western Europe. It is the same fallicy. They are only similar in how dissimilar they are to a more secular society. That that is anything to answer for only comes from placing some value secular society, or at least taking it as the neutral starting ground.

Regarding your points of pluarlism and freedom, the US is very unusual in how free it is. That isn't the norm in western democracies. Israel is much more typically European in that way. In Canada they fine people who quote the Torah as saying Homosexuality is forbidden.

That being said, America draws its lines as well. American Indians can't smoke peyote. A bar mitzva boy can't (although I have never heard of it being enforced) make kiddush on wine, and Christian Scientists can't make their own decisions about medical care for their children. In America now, you can't take out political adds before elections, and the courts have orderd the election commission to write laws to limit bloggers. And those are only the legal limits. The socially enforced limits are much larger. My point is that everyone has limits, and restricts or directs all of the social norms you brought up. The only debate is about the line.

"do melacha on Shabbos you get stoned, adultery you get stoned"

In public (in front of two people - even the adultery), after being immediately warned of the penalty not to do it, and verbally expressing defiance to the warning. Although admittedly that could be expanded in a halachic society if violations were widespread.

Anonymous said...

"There are many poskim (including R' Kook) who didn't want them to vote. "

exactly - it's not a charedi thing.
The other things you list mostly fall under segregation.

Anonymous said...

"Satmar etc. are very close, for example I don't think the women drive. The Yeshivish community less so."
this is silly, bluke. yes in satmar they dont let them drive (other chassidic groups too). in the yeshiva community *including in E"Y* the charedi women can be professors if they like. the charedi men cannot. they have more freedom, this way.

bluke said...

There is a very simple test. A charedi Jew can basically live their life with little or no government interference in the US and Israel and other democracies. They dress the way they want, eat differently, worship the way they want, educate their kids the way they want. A non-religious Jew or even a Goy would not be able to do the same in a halachic state. They would be severely impacted in their day to day life. This is a major difference.

Nobody said...

"educate their kids the way they want."

No, we are forced to include a secular curriculum.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"American Indians can't smoke peyote. A bar mitzva boy can't (although I have never heard of it being enforced) make kiddush on wine, and Christian Scientists can't make their own decisions about medical care for their children."

AFAIK American Indians can smoke peyote in their religious ceremonies, or at least the Feds look the other way. And a bar mitzvah boy (or a three year old) certainly can drink kiddush wine with his parent's permission. You're right about the Christian Scientists though.

Roberto Iza Valdes said...
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Ariel said...

They also both believe in G-d.

ariel said...

Even if they're comparable to Muslims in some ways, what's wrong with that? Not everything Muslims do is wrong. Many things they got from Judaism.

Roberto Iza said...
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