The young, confused-looking child seen in the photo was perversely exploited by a mean-spirited adult or group of adults. Intended to mimic the pose of the dramatic, iconic image of the Jewish youngster leaving the Warsaw Ghetto, surrendering to the sneering Nazis surrounding him, his hands held high, the lad below is nothing more than a grotesque prop in a hateful scene of twisted, depraved political theatre.
Two weeks ago, on motza’ei Shabbat, some 1,000 haredim took to the streets in the Mea Shearim neighbourhood of Jerusalem to protest what they described as intolerance and persecution by mainstream Israelis against their way of life. It was a reaction on their part to the condemnation by most of the Jewish world merely days before of the aggressive, extremist, even violent behaviour of a small band of other haredim in Beit Shemesh.
The Jerusalem protesters used images of the Holocaust to make their point, comparing the treatment they receive at the hands of mainstream Israelis to the treatment the Jews received in World War II at the hands of the Nazis. Many wore yellow stars with the word “Jude” written on them. Some young children were brought to a makeshift stage wearing yellow stars on the infamous striped prison garb. And of course, at least one young boy replicated the horrific scene from the Warsaw Ghetto.
Last week in this space, The CJN lamented the blatant disrespect for the rule of law among the small group of extremist, haredi zealots. This week we lament the blatant disrespect for their fellow Jews, qua Jews and even more fundamentally, qua thinking, feeling, sentient human beings. The behaviour by this group of brutal, callous ignorant people was so execrable that it cannot pass without comment. The history they so cavalierly abused is too solemn to go undefended.
As Elie Wiesel told Ha’aretz, his heart broken, his emotions enraged: “How dare they? To both desecrate the honour of the State of Israel and the memory of the Holocaust? In all the difficult moments and times of crisis which Israel and the Jewish people have seen, I don’t remember seeing such a vile sight.”
The leaders of the people who marched in so disgraceful a manner two weeks ago must reject and expunge such foul behaviour from their midst. They might suggest to the protesters the words of the famous 16th-century scholar and kabbalist, Chaim Vital, whose works many of them probably know and even study, if not actually follow: “If you hate your fellow Jew, it is as though you hate God who created them.”