JERUSALEM (Jul. 16)
The failure of Orthodox leaders to offer strong repudiation of violent acts and the lack of vigorous police action were listed Monday by Mayor Teddy Kollek as key factors in the recent outbreak of secular-Orthodox violence in this city.
Kollek, addressing the opening session here of the 22nd annual America-Israel dialogue sponsored by the American Jewish Congress, said that without strong leadership, the violence in Jerusalem will spread.
He said that if strong leadership were offered, tensions would be ameliorated and violence and hostility reduced. On the other hand, he noted, “If you have no strong leaders who will come up and speak against it, violence will spread.” In the absence of effective repudiation of violence by such leaders, he added, people feel they are losing control.
Kollek noted that while “many people have come and quietly said that the violence is terrible and we are against it, nonetheless, there has been no strong voice unequivocally to denounce it.”
While deploring the absence of any strong repudiation within the Orthodox religious community of violent acts, he also declared that the rule of law cannot be meaningful unless accompanied by vigorous and consistent enforcement.
The police, he said have not enforced the law strongly enough and that punishment meted out for violent behavior has not been sufficient to deter it. He attributed the lack of vigorous police enforcement to the reluctance of officials to antagonize certain groups out of political considerations.
HERZOG: ‘SEEDS OF OUR DESTRUCTION’
Another speaker at the America-Israel dialogue, which this year centers on political and religious extremism, was President Chaim Herzog, who said that the growing extremism among both religious and secular Jews “carries in it the seeds of our destruction.”
“Virtually all the world’s societies, today, first and foremost those in the Middle East, are afflicted by the recurrence of fanaticism and a widening rift between secularism and religion,” Herzog noted. But he said that there is a growing movement within the “Orthodox center” to protest against “extremist manifestations.”
“Such steps include meetings in the President’s own home of representatives of all sectors of the community to communicate with each other and plan effective action against intolerance, Herzog said.
He pointed out that, in addition, the Ministry of Education is “bringing the them of tolerance and co-existence” into Israeli schools. “We have every intention of preserving the soul of our society and the future of our state,” Herzog told the dialogue audience.