The enmity I have observed between groups here in the holy land has been a source of great disappointment to me. Not that I didn’t know it exists. But I have encountered numerous instances of it I and did not realize the extent of it.
A young 17 year old Charedi girl I know who takes public transportation to her seminary in Jerusalem told me that she constantly gets unfriendly stares from secular Jews all the time. But there was one situation she described that really disgusted me. Over the summer she was a lifeguard instructor for other Charedi girls in her community. The organization she worked for rented a pool from a woman in a Dati Leumi (DL) neighborhood near her home.
One fine day that woman came out of her house and told her she was no longer going to continue renting her pool to them. Why? Because she was embarrassed by having so many Charedi girls hanging around her pool!
Just this morning I spoke to a young American woman who made Aliyah over 20 years ago and mentioned that very few of her fellow high school graduates made Aliyah. She mentioned a few names of those who did, and in the same breath she said that two of them became Charedi so they didn’t really count.
And then there is the Charedi fellow who I hear constantly putting down the DL community. Why? Because of the very thing I just described. And because he constantly hears them denigrating his lifestyle of learning Torah L’Shma full time. The anger I heard in his voice against DLs was palpable. And frightening!
These observations were made here in Ramat Bet Shemesh A. But this is not a local issue.
One need only recall the incident last year at that DL elementary school that borders Ramat Bet Shemesh B (RBS B). The taunting by Charedi extremists of 8 year old Na’ama Margolis is enough to make any normal person angry… and (right or wrong) hateful of all Charedim by extension.
It is hard to separate the extremists from the decent – even hard core Charedim like those in Ramat Bet Shemesh B when the protests and disavowals by the rest of the community and their leadership are as tepid as they have thus far been. Which – as I have mentioned in the past – tells me that they are secretly not all that unhappy with those extremists. They do after all share their goals if not their methods.
So of course there is DL enmity towards Charedim which understandably extends to even the moderate ones. Meanwhile the secular Jews see media reports of this kind of extremist garbage which serves only to increase their enmity towards Charedim.
It thus becomes a vicious cycle. Charedim, even the moderate ones do not appreciate their values being attacked. On the other hand DLs and secular Jews do not appreciate what they see as Charedi values increasingly being forced upon them.
There are two stories in the media that illustrate this unfortunate attitude quite clearly.
One story was written by my cousin, Elana Maryles Sztokman. She describes a beautiful park near her home that Charedim seem to take over during the holidays of Pesach and Sukkos. Although it bothers her that so many Charedim come to that park and monopolize it for themselves she also appreciates living in a country whose freedoms allow anyone to avail themselves of the best the state of Israel has to offer to the public.
What she does rightly object to, however, is that they do not only bring their bodies to the park, they bring their values and try and impose them on others. And they get away with it. That is wrong and of course it exacerbates the already existing enmity between the Charedim on the one hand and DLs and secular Jews on the other.
And then there is the following incident. Because Meah Shearim streets are so narrow residents have lately insisted on having separate sides of the the street for men and women during the busy holiday season.
This does not sit well with the secular public. Those sidewalks are public property and no one has a right to segregate different sides of the streets for gender separation purposes. So a group of secular Jews decided to challenge them – calling the police and bringing the media – and walking into that neighborhood on the ‘wrong’ sides of the street. The next thing you know rocks were flying and people were hurt.