[Yocheved] Horowitz views the campaign in Beit Shemesh by the extremist Sicarii, who made headlines last week after grown men spat at an 8-year-old girl whom they believed was not dressed modestly enough, as yet another misinterpretation of the Torah. “The Sicarii are insane …”

A haredi woman who sat in the front of a gender-segregated bus in Israel makes the distinction between religious and insane – a distinction without which no state can function.

France isn’t quite there yet, if we are to go by the comments of a judge who, on sentencing a man to six months in prison (the man called his wife’s midwife a rapist, damaged the delivery room in a rage, and then punched the midwife when she moved aside a bit of his wife’s burqa to make her more comfortable), said:

Your religious values are not superior to the laws of the republic.

Non, non, non. Sociopathic violence is not any kind of religious. It is insane.

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11 Responses to “Religious v. Insane”

  1. dmf Says:

    mm, have you read (with fear and trembling) the old testament and such texts? not so easy to draw a clean line without erasing much history and many practices, there is no objective/scientific position here from which to make such judgments, the limits of psychiatry cuts both ways.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    dmf: The line is a legal one.

    I assume you’re not defending fathers starting to kill their sons because the lord tells them to, etc. I mean, yes, there’s plenty in the history.

  3. dmf Says:

    that legal one has to be based in something (see recent supreme court discussion of whether or not the govt has cause to protect people who work for religious organizations, like schools, who are punished for seeking to report illegal behavior to civil authorities to see how messy these things get), I’m not defending anything of the sort just noting that there is no objective/scientific basis for such distinctions.

  4. Margaret Soltan Says:

    I see your point, dmf. My point – drawing on Horowitz’s observation of haredim insanity – is not that these haredim – and the burqa husband in France – are criminally insane. Of course no one’s bothering establishing their criminal insanity – from the viewpoint of the law, only their violence is of interest.

    From the point of view of the state, however, as an entity wishing to sustain itself, the presence of demented groups of people within it – cultists who exhibit an array of irrational behaviors, some illegal and some simply primitive and cruel – is a hideous problem. Such people need to be identified and controlled.

  5. dmf Says:

    indeed, but the distinction will have to be between particular behaviors we who have power to make the rules accept/protect and those that we will try and stop and or punish, not between religious (let alone trying to parse religion and rationality) or not. Was reading this in the broader related context of those who would try and separate Religions from what religiously identified people do. Also I’m not a fan of say hate crime legislation as it puts courts in the position of reconstructing intentions, lets keep mind-reading (by MD’s or otherwise) out of the legal system.

  6. Shane Street Says:

    I thought the sicarii went out with the last man to slit his throat at Masada, or at least with the bar-Kochba revolt. To see that there are still those around claiming to be the “knife-wielders” is really something. Who plays the Romans in this charade?

  7. Chas Clifton Says:

    Yes, when did they bring back the term “Sicarii”? That is spooky. It’s not just newspaperese — people are describing themselves that way?

  8. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Shane, Chas: The name meant nothing to me. I’m researching it now.


    Jerusalem Post:

    Over the past two years, a bookstore, known as Or Hahaim/Manny’s, was targeted by the Sikrikim, a small group of radicals considered by locals to be the “mafia of Mea She’arim.”

    The name “Sikrikim” comes from the Latin “Sicarii,” or “dagger-men” a term applied, in the decades immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, to an extremist splinter group of the Zealots who tried to expel the Romans and their partisans from Judea through assassinations with concealed daggers.

    The men smashed the stores’ windows several times, glued its locks shut, threw tar and fish oil at it, and dumped bags of human excrement inside.

    Earlier this year, the Post reported that “the same group of Sikrikim has also targeted an ice cream store in the Geula neighborhood because they thought licking ice cream cones in public was immodest. Haredi media reported last year that Sikrikim in Beit Shemesh have targeted shoe stores in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods that refuse to remove high-heeled shoes from their selection.”

    “They attack haredim in their own neighborhood,” said David Rotenberg, an employee at Or Hahaim.

  9. Chas Clifton Says:

    Judas Iscariot — one of the original Sicarii, some scholars say.

  10. janet gool Says:

    Since you’re following this story, Margaret, I thought you might be interested in some news from the front. I think (and hope!) that the pendulum has swung as far as it can, and is heading back to the middle. A lot of public officials, from the Prime Minister, head of the police and prominent Haredi rabbis, have spoken out against this violence against women. Last week my husband and I attended a demonstration here in Beit Shemesh; there were a couple of thousand people there. I understand that someone is trying to organize groups of women to ride on the segregated buses. I’ll let you know what comes of that.

  11. Margaret Soltan Says:

    janet: I feel so fortunate to have you there, reporting on the scene! And it’s wonderful to hear that you and your husband were at the demonstration. Please keep me up to date!

    My sense too, from my reading, is that the rabbis are crucial — that until they really start condemning what’s going on and indeed letting some of the bullies stay in prison for awhile without allowing people to protest that, things won’t get significantly better.

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