Sikrikim

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The Sikrikim or Sikarikim (Hebrew: סיקריקים) or Sicarii is a radical group of ultra-Orthodox Jews based mainly in the Israeli ultra-orthodox neighborhoods Meah Shearim in Jerusalem and in Ramat Beit Shemesh. The anti-Zionist group is thought to have roughly 100 activist members.[1] The Sikrikim gained international attention for acts of violence they committed against Orthodox Jewish institutions and individuals who would not comply with their demands.[2] The name "Sikrikim" comes from the Latin term Sicarii which was applied to a group of Jewish zealots who attacked Jews and Romans during the Roman conquest of Judea using concealed daggers, sicae in Latin.[3]

History[edit]

The Sikrikim began to appear in ultra-orthodox neighborhoods in 2005. In Mea Shearim they are called the "Mafia of Mea Shearim" by some residents of the neighborhood, according to the Jerusalem Post.[3] They are considered to be loosely affiliated with Neturei Karta.[4][5]

Incidents[edit]

Use of Holocaust symbolism[edit]

On 31 December 2011, several hundred Haredim demonstrated in Jerusalem's Kikar HaShabbat (Sabbath Square) in response to the outrage in Israel caused by the exclusion of women, protesting against what they call "the exclusion of Haredim" from society, using Holocaust symbols. Some of the protesters were wearing yellow badges, others, including children, were dressed in concentration camp uniforms, claiming by way of analogy that they are being persecuted in Israel by the secular majority. At the same time, the protesters expressed their solidarity with Shmuel Weissfish,[6] a leading Sikrikim activist sentenced to two-years imprisonment for rioting, extortion, assault and grievous bodily harm,[7] whose sentence was slated to begin on 1 January 2012.[6] The use of Holocaust symbols at the demonstration which made headlines in the international media, was condemned by Israeli politicians.[8][9][10]

Orot Banot Girls School[edit]

In September 2011, the Religious Zionist Orot Banot Girls School opened in Ramat Bet Shemesh. Many Haredim opposed the school's location and position on religion.[11] Groups of haredi men believed to be Sikrikim regularly stood outside the school on school days and taunted the students,[3] throwing eggs and rocks at them, claiming that the girls were immodestly dressed. The incidents attracted wide attention in Israel and became an international news story after an Israeli television channel reported about harassments against one of the girls.[12]

Zisalek Ice Cream Parlour[edit]

In October 2011, the Sikrikim vandalized a store selling ice cream in a Haredi neighborhood in Jerusalem. The store had set up signs asking men and women to be seated separately, and not to eat in public. The Sikrikim asserted that licking ice-cream cones was "immodest". They broke in one night and vandalized the store.[3] [13]

Or HaChaim Bookstore[edit]

The Or HaChaim Bookstore,[14] or "Manny's," as it is known in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, was targeted in a series of vandalism incidents in which the Sikrikim took credit via posters hung outside the store. The posters opposed the bookstore's selling of "Zionist" material. The stores windows were smashed several times and members of the group put glue in the store's locks and dumped bags of human excrement inside the store.[2][3][15]

Rivalry with the Gerrer Hassidim[edit]

The Or HaChaim Center belongs to a chain of stores partly owned by Yaakov Bibla and Yaakov Litzman, both Gerrer Hassidim,[16] with whom the Sikrikim have an ongoing rivalry in Jerusalem.[17] Gerrer Hassidim from the Batei Warsaw neighborhood near Meah Shearim reported widespread harassment that has almost escalated into a street war with people from Ger attacking Sikrikim out of vengeance.[18] The main issue seems to be the large involvement and support that the Ger give to the state and government of Israel.[17]

Response[edit]

The group has been denounced by several members of the Knesset, including National Union Knesset Member Yaakov Katz (not to be confused with the Likud Transportation Minister of the same name), who called them "terrorists".[18][19] When asked to comment or condemn them, a Haredi Rabbi from Bet Shemesh refused to condemn them, saying that by issuing a public condemnation it would make it look as if they are connected, when "No man in his sane mind wouldn't condemn this, just like you wouldn't ask me to condemn Madoff".[5]

The group and its supporters were criticised by a number of Israeli politicians for using Holocaust symbolism (including yellow badges and Concentration Camp uniforms) to call attention to what they call the exclusion of Haredim from Israeli society.[6][8]

Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef criticised the Sikrikim, saying that they "discredit the Torah".[20]

Eida Charedis, which has been accused by anti-Haredi activists of supporting the Sikarikim, routinely condemn them over their activities.[21]

Arrests and trials[edit]

In November 2011, Yosef Meir Hazan, a member of the Sikrikim, was arrested in the Geula neighborhood by the Jerusalem Police on suspicion of causing public disturbances, damaging property and assaulting a police officer attempting to arrest him. In a video posted to YouTube he is shown directing various demonstrations and violent activities against the Ohr HaChaim Bookstore in Mea Shearim and the Batei Warsaw complex in Geula, the focus of a violent struggle between the Sikrikim and the neighborhood's Ger Hassidim.[22] He was indicted and charged with one count of aggravated assault, one count of aggravated assault against a police officer, and rioting. The 21 year old Hazan was released to house arrest at his aunt's residence and will be under the supervision of his aunt, his mother, and a rabbi.[23]

In September 2011, one of the heads of the Sikrikim considered responsible for harassing and vandalizing the Ohr HaChaim Bookstore was arrested by the police.[1]

In January 2011, Shmuel Weissfish, a leading activist of the Sikrikim, and one of the assailants of the Space electronics store owner in Geula was sentenced to two years imprisonment for rioting, extortion, assault and grievous bodily harm by the Jerusalem District Court. The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in November of the same year.[7] Hundreds of Haredim protested against his condemnation.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Lidman, Melanie (20 September 2011). "Police arrest one of the leaders of Mea She'arim 'mafia'". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  2. ^ a b Maayan, Lubell (22 April 2011). "Religious zealots attack "immodest" Jerusalem shops". Reuters. Retrieved 2011-11-07. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Kasnett, Israel (16 December 2011). "Extreme or mainstream?". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  4. ^ Tessler, Yitzchak (2011-12-14). "נפש יהודי הומייה". Ma'ariv nrg (in Hebrew). Retrieved 2011-11-07. 
  5. ^ a b Amoni, P. An Interview with Rav Shlomo Pappenheim. Ami Magazine, September 2011
  6. ^ a b c d "Israeli politicians decry ultra-Orthodox protesters' use of Holocaust imagery". Haaretz. 1 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  7. ^ a b Sharon, Jeremy (22 November 2011). "Court denies appeal by haredi extremist over J'lem attack". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  8. ^ a b Kershner, Isabel (2 January 2012). "Israeli Protest's Invocation of Holocaust Is Condemned". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  9. ^ "Ultraorthodoxie: Israelische Politiker verurteilen Holocaust-Vergleiche". Die Zeit (in German). 2 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  10. ^ "Une manifestation de juifs ultra-orthodoxes choque Israël". Le Monde (in French). 1 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  11. ^ Kaplan Sommer, Allison (19 September 2011). "Throwing Eggs and Jeers at Little Girls". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  12. ^ Kaplan Somer, Alison (29 December 2011). "American enclave stands up to extremists". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  13. ^ "Ultra-strict Jewish sect trashes ice cream parlour claiming licking cones in public promotes promiscuity". The Daily Mail. 18 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-07. 
  14. ^ Shtrauchler, Nissan (5 April 2010). "Mea Shearim gets modern bookstore. Or Hachaim Center becomes a hit soon after opening in Jerusalem haredi neighborhood". Ynetnews. Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  15. ^ Brown, Luke (19 September 2011). "Jerusalem bookshop targeted by 'mafia-like' extremists". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  16. ^ Ettinger, Yair (3 October 2011). "People of what book?". Haaretz. Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  17. ^ a b Yerushalmi, Shalom (22 April 2011). "פוגרום במרכז ירושלים: הסיוט של תושבי בתי ורשה". Ma'ariv nrg (in Hebrew). Retrieved 2011-11-07. 
  18. ^ a b "Sikrikim/ Gur Warfare Escalates – One Person Seriously Beaten". The Yeshiva World News (in Yeshivish). 26 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-07. "In what appears to be the next chapter in the quid pro quo chareidi violence, which seems to have escalated to street warfare." 
  19. ^ Tessler, Yitzchak (2 November 2011). "הצעת חוק:הסיקריקים בי-ם יוכרו כארגון פשע". Ma'ariv nrg (in Hebrew). Retrieved 2011-11-07. 
  20. ^ "Shas spiritual leader lashes out at Sikrikim group". Jerusalem Post. 4 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  21. ^ http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/211664/eida-gavaad-shlita-on-asra-kadisha-sikrikim.html
  22. ^ Sharon, Jeremy (25 November 2011). "Sikrikim member arrested in Jerusalem". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  23. ^ "Jerusalem - Sikrikim Extremist Released to House Arrest". Voz Is Neias. 7 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 

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