Thursday, April 29, 2010

Who hates mikvaot?

I recall growing up in the USA that when our community wanted to build a mikva, there was animosity towards the idea. Not from non-Jews mind you, but from the Reform Jewish community.

Israel has its share of problems with mikvaot as well. Kfar Vradim, a mixed secular-religious community is an example. YNETNEWS reports:
The Kfar Vradim Council has unanimously approved the construction priorities recommendations drawn up by a special committee, which rated the construction of a mikveh at the bottom of the list.

At the top of the list were a community center, youth sports center and a junior high school auditorium. A synagogue and the mikveh were rated last. The residents also rated their priorities on the construction of a council hall, an arts and culture center, a school gymnasium, etc.

The proposal was met with some reservations on the part of the Ofek faction. "I will vote in favor, though I'm making a great compromise," faction member Yaakov Ziv said. "It's no secret I'd rather see the mikveh out of the list."

I understand why a mikva would be of little importance to those who wouldn't use it -- but to say it shouldn't be there at all, and intentionally offend those religious residents who would use it...that's simply secular coercion.
The religious residents, however were outraged over the decision. "This is unfounded hatred, even anti-Semitism," chairman of the synagogue committee Perry Shahaf said.

"What’s happening in Kfar Vradim is pure secular coercion, pure racism," he added and noted they intend to fight the decision. "We'll get a mikveh eventually, even if we wait light years for it. The council head will be replaced and we'll get our mikveh to which we are entitled by law."

The secular residents even started a petition against any mikva in their community:

"Kfar Vradim is a secular and pluralistic community, but pluralism doesn't mean changing its secular nature. Religious residents may live amongst us but must not enforce their lifestyles on us."

The religious residents are planning on building the mikva from their own money now, in an existing structure, so that "public land wont go to 'waste'", but it seems some of their neighbors object to that as well.

How is the existence of a mikva, "enforcing a religious lifestyle" on a secular community?

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Michael Sedley said...

I've seen a similar attitude here in Modi'in where the former mayor was radically opposed to building any structures which would encourage religious Jews to live here (Shuls, Mikva'ot, even a Hesder Yeshiva).

It wasn't a question of money, he buried everything in red tape, even if there was private money available.

I believe that his biggest fear was that the "Charedim" would move in (which showes how little he understands Jewish life - Charedim would hardly be attracted to a Heser Yeshiva).

His attitude to the Charedim may be similar to that attitude towards Blacks in some US cities in the 60s and 70s. Although not totally without justification, Modi'in was built at the same time as Ramat Beit Shemesh, and the problems in that town with radical Charedi elements are well known.

Olah Chadasha said...

I was going to ask the same question. How does having a Mikvah force a religious lifestyle onto the other residents? Would the religious people force the secular people to use it? Would the religious people berate the secular?

I think it's actually the opposite. NOT having a Mikvah forces the secular lifestyle onto the religious population. The secular people can go right on living their usual lifestyle even if a Mikvah was there while the religious people have to go out of their to another Yishuv or city and greatly inconvenience themselves in order to keep the Mitzvah. What inconvenience is there to the secular population by having a Mikvah? Seriously, this is religious discrimination at its most obvious. If this is what's going on, Kfar Vradim can't call itself a mixed pluralistic Yishuv. It's a secular Yishuv that simply tolerates religious occupants as long as they don't try to "force" or incorporate any of their rituals and traditions into the mix. Pathetic.

Mrs. S. said...

Something doesn't make sense here. I was under the impression that Misrad HaDatot is in charge of building mikva'ot - not the local or regional councils.

Michael Sedley said...

Mrs S,

To the best of my knowledge, Misrad HaDatot finances a limited number of Mikvaot, but the local council still has to proved land and approval.

GoNorth Participant said...

Thank you for this. I was going to visit Kfra Vradim but now I know not to.

The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

Would the religious people force the secular people to use it? Would the religious people berate the secular?

This is indeed the fear. Even a pluralistic community needs boundaries, and creating a situation where frum kids may someday throw eggs at the "b'nai niddah" is no way to maintain them. There is no lack of Mikva'ot in Israel.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Reform Baal Teshuva: Yes, there is no lack of mikvaot in Israel that are accessible during the week.

Yet there is no option for shabbatot in communities like KFar Vradim.

I have never heard of "frum kids throwing eggs at bnai niddah". I live in a mixed secular-religious community and there's no issue at all of anyone being forced to do anything.

We keep our municipal pool open on shabbat, but the food kiosks are closed (to prevent kashrut problems), vending machines are open, and if you want to "pay" to come to the pool on shabbat, you need to have purchased a ticker on Friday. Everyone gives in a bit so we can all live together.

Olah Chadasha said...

Reform, it is an unfounded fear except in the ultra-orthodox communities, and even there it is a small minority. My in-laws live in a mixed Yishuv like Kfar Vradim, and they have a Mikvah. Nothing violent, unseemly, or embarrassing occurs against those that choose not to use it. It is simply accessible to those that want to use it. That's true pluralism. Pluralism doesn't just mean an open community by the definition of one small group. It's access to all. Yes, there are plenty of Mikvot in Israel, but in the north, especially in the Yishuvim, they are scarce. The roads are dark and to have to drive to a nearby town or city to use their Mikvah might be a 15 or even 30 minute drive. If Kfar Vradim touts itself as an open and welcoming community for both the secular and religious population, they have to cater to everyone's needs, not just the secular. If they claim fear of coercion from the religious if they put in a simple Mikvah, then they're not pluralistic and not open.

Anonymous said...

Slightly differant, but just as bad mikva war...

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