New Exhibit On Chareidi World Paints Frum People as Lunatics


hardim7_waBy Yair Alpert, Israel

An exhibit by photojournalist Menachem Kahana titled “Chareidim” opened at the Eretz Yisroel Museum in Tel Aviv this week, in cooperation with the Beit Avi Chai center for Jewish culture in Yerushalayim. Kahana managed to penetrate into the heart of chareidi society, and his photos – the product of a decade-long fascination with chareidim – are being presented in a fashion that almost purposely portrays chareidim as strange and fanatical.

The pictures are morbid and lack any cogent explanations. And the pictures are ostensibly supposed to speak for themselves. And speak they do – exactly the way Kahana wants them to.

One picture in the exhibit shows a crowd of frum people sitting around the body of Rav Yitzchak Kadouri wrapped in a tallis and placed on the floor of the Nachlas Yitzchok shul in Yerushalayim shortly before his levaya.

In another photo, members of Neturei Karta are seen cheering as they burn an Israeli flag.

There is no mention that Neturei Karta is a fanatical, non-mainstream group, which does not represent any faction of chareidi Jewry. Nor is there mention of the fact that Neturei Karta has been shunned by virtually every faction of Torah Jewy.

Yet another picture shows pidyon peter chamor, as if chareidim are completely insane for attempting to redeem a donkey laden with jewels and bedecked in the finest silks.

No surprise, then, the secular Israeli media is having a field day with the exhibit. One secular visitor to the exhibit told Yediot Achronot, “This [the exhibit] is appalling, un-Jewish and shouldn’t be on display. I’m ashamed that there are such pagan, primitive people in my country.”

Other directed their anger at Kahana, who has been at the exhibit. One person said to kahana, “How are you, as a Jew, not ashamed to display here photos of flags being burned and a donkey being abused?”

The person added, “I’m amazed by the quality of the photography, but shocked by this idol worship in our midst in the 21st century. This is simply outrageous.”

Kahana’s response was: “Each person has a right to live his life and believe in what he wants to believe. I opened a window for us to peek into the chareidi world. They didn’t ask for it. They don’t force anyone to look inside, and those who are not interested shouldn’t come to the exhibit, just like they shouldn’t visit Meah Shearim or Bnei Brak.”

Kahana’s “peek” is as flawed as his photography may be fabulous.

Where are Kahana’s pictures of the unending chesed that takes place in chareidi communities? Where are his photos of the righteous people who give of themselves to Jews – religious and secular – each day across the breadth of Israel?

Kahana tried to justify his exhibit by saying, “I’m glad that my camera is the key to a world that many of them don’t know. Perhaps now they will understand there are people who may look different – but underneath we are all Jews and we all resemble each other much more than we can possibly imagine.”

Kahan’s righteous justification is lacking in light of the fact that presenting his exhibit in the manner he has will undoubtedly simply increase hatred for chareidim, as they will be further viewed as cave dwellers and lunatics.

But then again, this is Israel, so why are we even surprised?

{Yair Israel}


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