For the past couple of nights, a group of Charedim has been rioting in Jerusalem, protesting the arrest of a Neturei Karta woman who has been accused of starving one of her children almost to death. She apparently suffers from Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy and refuses psychiatric evalution.
The boy, who is three-years-old, weighs just 7 kg - less than my nine-month-old - a shocking picture can be seen here. Now that he has been seperated from his mother, he is apparently gaining weight. A hearing for the mother is underway as I write.
The husband, incidentally, is London-born, though the family name has not been released.
The Jerusalem Post has contacted various experts to try to explain how the Charedi activists can take the mother's side when the evidence against her seems so conclusive. They say that the fight is being led by a small sect, with a history of tension with the state and its institutions; that once they begin a fight, it is very hard for other Charedim to come out against them, as they will be seen as less keen to "defend Judaism"; and that many Charedim see the arrest of the woman as an attack on the reputation of their community.
I will add:
1. The fight is directed at two audiences. Yes, there is the external one - though how anyone thinks that they will be able to defend their community's image as 'wholesome' by erupting into violence is unclear. But there is also an internal audience. Many of the rioters may genuinely believe that this woman is being victimised, badly treated etc etc etc, but surely those behind the riots know full well that one of its functions is to maintain and create the tension with the state - not just reflect it.
2. It is clear that the Police and Jerusalem municipality have no idea how to handle these Charedi extremists, who have been rioting on various pretexts throughout the summer (this is not new - I remember as a child growing up in the 1980s similar riots every summer).
3. It is clear that the Charedi leaders also do not know how to handle these extremists, who are inflaming the street often to the great consernation of much of the rest of the Charedi world. But no one is prepared to say or act, and in some cases, they actively encourage, for fear of looking 'soft'.
4. Given 2&3, it is going to be a long, violent summer, at least until the yeshivahs start up again in the beginning of elul.
5. Expect further secular flight from Jerusalem, which is perhaps the greatest loser in all of this mayhem.