[Note: I don't like the word Chareidi, since I believe it is an overused term that obscures the nuances between certain religious groups, but I don't have a better term for this post. So I'm using it.]
I've been sitting on this post for a couple of weeks, unsure what I want to say and even more unsure how to say it.
In my rabbinic circles and in my Toronto circles, I've heard a lot about "vitriol", "venom" and "hate speech" coming out of Chareidi circles regarding Yesh Atid, Rabbi Dov Lipman, and the much-discussed plans to cut stipends for kollel members and push Chareidi men into the army or the workforce.
Realistically, I know that much of the vitriol/venom/hate speech is aimed at "my kind": RCA-affiliated rabbis with knitted yarmulkas who are open to the idea that:
1. The Chareidi community in Israel has grown past the point where it can be supported at current levels, and
2. The combination of its size, its political and economic demands and its political inflexibility has become unacceptable within an Israeli society that is increasingly fed-up with dealing with it.
However, I don't think it's fair to criticize Israeli Chareidim for the violence of their speech. We are talking about people who are being forced to radically change their lives or face starvation, aside from feeling that they are under ideological siege by a powerful majority. If it was fair for Jews in Gaza facing Disengagement to sharply criticize those who evacuated them - and the term "rasha" is hardly the worst term they used at the time - then it is fair for Chareidim to use such language now. Being wrong does not mean they cannot be upset.
I'm not talking about people who have no personal connection with the situation, for whom the debate is one of ideology; they should be guarding their tongues.
I'm not talking about the battles over whether to compromise with women who want to wear tefillin at the kotel, or whether a restaurant serving treif will open in another neighbourhood. In that matter, too, they should be guarding their tongues.
But when it comes to their livelihood and the existence of their community in the form they desire - This isn't about ideological debate, or delivering tochachah with a positive tone. These are people who feel their lives are being threatened.
As I said above, I've been mulling this post for a couple of weeks now, and I'm still not sure I'm the right person to say this, and I'm not sure this is the way to say it. But my sense is that when it's a matter of life and death, then vitriol is justified.
Is vitriol helpful? No. Understandable? Yes.