The flyers and stickers can be seen strewn on the ground and plastered on signs in Bet Shemesh and Jerusalem, warning residents of ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods against “chardakim,” an acronym for “chareidim with daat kal” (light heads), a term seemingly chosen to evoke chaydakim, the Hebrew word for bacteria.
Images of chareidi soldiers leaping to their deaths by fire in pursuit of a livelihood and being led like cows grace these illustrated protestations against members of Israel’s insular ultra-religious neighborhoods joining the army, which claim that secular Israelis wish to “eradicate us by way of the chardakim.”
One sticker, affixed to the door of a garbage room of a building in Ramat Bet Shemesh, read “guard the cleanliness” of this location, which is “clean of chardakim.” Another flyer called on soldiers to “get away” from their chareidi neighbors.
A flyer found on a street corner announced that “there have been Sadducees, Karaites, Sabbateans, Frankists, maskilim, reformers, Zionists, and Mizrahis, and there are also . . . chardakim.”
In another, two mooing soldiers are shown on all fours, being led by ropes held by secular Jews under the words “like lambs to the slaughter.”
Such flyers could be found in Jerusalem following last week’s major rally against enlistment outside of the local Israel Defense Forces recruitment center on the outskirts of the Geula neighborhood, as well.
However, some chareidim are pushing back against the hate, especially in light of the attack against two chareidi soldiers who attempted to pass through Meah Shearim on May 19, in which dozens of chareidi youths were reported by the Jerusalem Post to have hurled stones at the servicemen. Garbage bins were set alight as well, according to reports.
In light of the incitement against chareidim in the IDF, the moderate chareidi Tov party, which does not participate in Knesset elections but has representation on the city councils of Beitar Ilit and Bet Shemesh, posted pashkevilim, or traditional street posters, denouncing the campaign, and especially the stickers that read “chardakim-free zone.”
This campaign, the party said on its Facebook page, contains elements “taken straight from the anti-Semitic press of our worst enemies.” According to Ariel Deri, a party leader, the chardakim campaign constitutes “incitement to violence.”
The Tov party represents a segment known as the “new chareidim,” an emerging chareidi middle class that is growing in size and which is slowly beginning to assert itself within ultra-Orthodox society. According to some experts, the Tov party may enjoy the sympathy of between one fifteenth and one tenth of the chareidi public, though many are reluctant to openly support its ideals.
Tov’s opposition to the signs is not just a reaction to the rock-throwing incident in Meah Shearim but also to several other cases, well publicized in the chareidi press, which have received little to no mention from chareidi politicians and rabbis here. Among the incidents reported was that of a kollel student turned naval rating who was excluded from prayers in Meron due to his military affiliation and a chareidi policeman in Bnei Brak who has complained of being attacked by children on multiple occasions due to his uniform.
This has drawn opprobrium from moderate chareidim not affiliated with Tov as well, with yeshivish blogger Rabbi Rafi Goldmeier, a popular commentator on current affairs within Israel’s Anglo community, noting that “when MK Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) recently called, from the Knesset podium, chareidim ‘parasites,’ there was an uproar in the press, especially in the chareidi press and in the chareidi communities.” However, he says, “when some chareidi groups attack other chareidi groups with similar names, such as the current ongoing campaign by some in the more extreme end of the chareidi camp, calling people vermin (chardak), nobody seems to say a word. I have yet to see a movement in the chareidi camp to put an end to these attacks. They are just as vile, and the fact that they are not made from the Knesset podium makes them no less vile.”
Given the increasing numbers of chareidim who have shown interest in national service, and the current coalition dedicating itself to integrating chareidim into the military and the workforce, expect such strident rhetoric to increase in the days to come. v