Many chareidim in Israel, it seems, feel persecuted. As you are no doubt well-aware, extremists in the chareidi camp have been trying to force an agenda of religious extremism on others in Israel. Bloggers have long been writing about the violence and intimidation coming from the extremists' camp. Eventually, a number of incidents involving violence on buses and intimidation of school-age children has captured the attention of the international media. People began writing against the actions of the extremists and, rightly or wrongly, against chareidim in general. In short, the chareidi public had a PR nightmare on their hands, and the entire chareidi community, both the extremists and those against them, were caught up in the glare of unflattering light brought against them.
In response, over a thousand men gathered in Jerusalem to protest on the night of Dec 31. Many of the protesters dressed themselves and their children in Holocaust-themed clothing, trying to show that just as the Jews in Nazi Germany were persecuted, so too they are being persecuted. You can see images of the protest here and here.
The not-so-funny part of the entire affair is that these people have no idea what the word "persecution" means.
These people live in a state where Judaism can be freely practiced (even if they are unable to freely push extremist views on others). There are no laws preventing anyone from keeping Shabbos, davening, learning Torah and so on.
They live in a state where many of them do not (by choice) work, and instead choose to learn Torah all day while being supported by the state. In addition, in a state where military or national service is normally mandatory, they are largely *excused* from such service if they continue to learn in yeshivos, and given the opportunity to serve in special chareidi units if they so choose.
They live in an environment where they aren't subject to special Jewish taxes, aren't subject to having their properly confiscated without compensation on the whim of some local official, are free to live pretty much wherever they want, aren't forced in overcrowded urban ghettos and aren't subject to forced labor.
They aren't forced to go into churches each week and listen to fiery sermons delivered by preachers telling them that they are condemned to torment on earth and hell in the afterlife for holding on to their religious principles. They've never been forced to make the choice between the Cross and the sword, never had to face a mob *literally* screaming for their heads simply because they chose to maintain their Jewish beliefs.
- Ask a Jew who lived through the miracle of Purim if these people are truly persecuted.
- Ask a Jew who lived through the oppression of the Seleucids at the time of the miracle of Channukah if these people are truly persecuted.
- Ask a Jew who lived in medieval Europe, where their lives and fates could hang on the whim of some local lordling or church official if these people are truly persecuted?
- Ask a Jew who lived in Spain during the Inquisition, where any outward display of Jewish behavior would likely mean death for them and their family if these people are truly persecuted.
- Ask a Jew who lived through the Khmelnytsky Uprising if these people are truly persecuted.
- Ask a Jew who made it through the Nazi Holocaust if these people are truly persecuted.
- Ask a Jew who bravely held on to Jewish practice in secrecy in the Soviet Union if these people are truly persecuted.
Any of those people would have *loved* to be able to live the life the chareidim are living now. Persecuted?? They have no idea how good their lives are in comparison to the vast majority of Jews who have lived during the last two thousand years. Their use of Nazi-created imagery to portray themselves as the victims of persecution only shows that those who participated in the rally are completely ignorant of history... and that's truly a shame as you'd think that, as a people who have lived through so much true persecution, they'd be more appreciative of just how good they truly have it.