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JV Editorial

Screaming and Spitting at 8-Year-Old Girl = Okay Knee-Length Skirts = Not Okay

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If we could just get her to wear one of these, we’d be fine… until someone starts screaming at her for flaunting her eyelashes.
If we could just get her to wear one of these, we’d be fine… until someone starts screaming at her for flaunting her eyelashes.

If we could just get her to wear one of these, we’d be fine… until someone starts screaming at her for flaunting her eyelashes.

Wait…what?! For those of you who follow events in Israel at all, or who read the Jewish Voice without simply skipping to this page (a difficult temptation to resist for sure, and one for which I certainly couldn’t fault you), you’ve heard about the recent developments that have Chareidi and secular Jews up in arms. Relations among Orthodox factions and non-religious Jews were already tense. The lit match to this powder keg came in the form of an eight-year-old girl, one Na’ama Margolis, who was viciously harassed on her way to school. It seems that some of her Chareidi* neighbors, dubbing themselves the community’s morality police (which I always thought was more of a Saudi thing), decided that the girl’s knee-length skirt wasn’t sufficiently modest. They called her names that no gentleman would ever use, and, so the story goes, even spat on her.
I’m going to go ahead and ask the obvious question here: If you live according to a moral code where showing more than, say, 20% of your leg is considered inexcusable behavior (and again, we’re talking about a kid here), how does screaming and spitting at a child not even register?!  I realize it’s not exactly the ultimate in courage or audacity to get on one’s soapbox and denounce child abuse; I’m just trying to understand what was going on in this moron’s head, is all.
I guess one could argue that there is a Torah concept of rebuking someone who strays from the Torah path. But then, even if you want to say that by failing to meet a non-universal chumra (stringency), that happens to be the attacker’s custom, what of the fact that she’s eight years old, not even a bat mitzvah, liable for observance of the Torah’s commandments. So perhaps it was a message to her parents, for letting her dress that way? Yeah, that seems like ample reason to traumatize a little girl, as well as making it extremely likely that she’ll grow up to denounce Orthodox Judaism as a result of said trauma. Even if you want to say that the girl is somehow liable, or that her parents are, then what about the fact that the Torah considers publicly humiliating someone to be tantamount to murder.
Put another way, if this child is liable for some sort of punishment for her clothing (she’s not), then the guy who chose to point it out with a vitriol-and-spit-fueled tirade, should be executed.
If you’re going to hold yourself to the strictest interpretation of the law, then at least paint a complete picture.
So, to recap:
A little girl walks to school, her dress only reaching her knees. Some people (the ones who spend a disproportionate amount of their time looking at little girls anyway), are offended.
An adult man, presumably under the impression that he is defending his Torah (his Torah, not His Torah), and the honor of his community, takes it upon himself to call that girl a whore, and to spit on her. An international media circus ensues.
Is there really any room for argument as to which is the bigger chillul Hashem? And for those who would make honestly make that argument, would you please do us all a favor and remove yourselves from the human gene pool?
The line needs to be drawn here. When certain Jews start modeling their lifestyle less on Chazal, and more on the Taliban, someone in their own community needs to call them on it. I’d love to help, but I’m a blue jeans-wearing am ha’aretz, so my vote doesn’t count here. So, what do you say? Raboisai? Little help?

*Please note: It is in no way our intention to suggest that what befell Na’ama is indicative of “normal” Chareidi behavior. Chareidi (Ultra-Hyper-Mega Orthodox) Jews, like their Dati (Modern Orthodox) and Chiloni (Secular) counterparts, are unique individuals, each with their own history and personal traits. Although the assailant in question may rationalize his behavior with religious dogma, we firmly believe that his actions had nothing to do with his being Chareidi per se, and everything to do with him being a terrible person.

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