The final exile of Jews among Jews
by Jonathan Rosenblum
July 4, 1997
Growing up wearing a kippa and tzitzit in America, you get used to being stared at. And you learn to discern what lies behind the stare - anything from mild curiosity to undisguised hatred.
That is part of Exile.
So is being shown - as I was in London's Golders Green last week - the place where two skinheads recently jumped a Jew on the way to shul and beat him unconscious. It's always been like that, and worse.
One exile, however, there is no getting used to: the final exile of Jews among Jews described by the Vilna Gaon more than 200 years ago. Religious Jews in Israel today are experiencing that exile.
Sometimes the reminder is an obscene gesture made by a child from a passing school bus. Other times, you can't help laughing.
Last year, I attended a meeting in my parents' apartment building to discuss the proposed installation of a Shabbat elevator. Speaker after speaker rose to express fears that such an elevator would bring haredim to the building, and the neighborhood.
Proponents of the elevator countered that haredim would not use a Shabbat elevator. But both sides accepted, without question, the undesirability of people like me.
No one even felt the need for a perfunctory smile, a 'Nothing personal.' Never have I felt so powerful - or so threatening.
The news one reads and hears makes one wonder whether the asylums have been emptied, and the inmates are in charge.
Lev Leviev decides to close his shopping mall on Shabbat so as not to violate his deepest religious principles and profit from work done on the day of rest. In response, Mayor Roni Milo announces that he will not suffer the good citizens of Ramat Aviv to go without their Shabbat cheeseburgers.
And the situation grows more ominous. Last week a haredi teenager was grabbed off the street in Jerusalem's Zichron Moshe neighborhood, near Mea Shearim, stuffed into a car, and dumped on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway in the middle of the night, having been stripped of his hat and kippa.
Another haredi teenager was treated at Shaare Zedek hospital after being beaten up by a group of secular youths; a third was attacked on a Jerusalem bus.
None of these events was deemed newsworthy by the mainstream press. Yossi Sarid did not call for a special police task force to deal with the 'secular intifada.'
If Jews were threatened with government retaliation for observing Shabbat or beaten up for wearing religious garb anywhere else in the world, Jewish defense organizations would tumble over one another in decrying new outbreaks of antisemitism.
The few remaining rules of civility in Israel do not apply when it comes to haredim. Pious editorial denunciations of the 'Stop the Haredim' slogan provided no fig leaf for the hatred fomented by the media itself.
Would any Israeli newspaper have accepted a full-page ad that read: 'They don't serve in the army. They side with our enemies. Soon they will hold the decisive vote over the fate of the Jewish state. Stop the Arabs'?
Or: 'Forty percent aren't Jewish. They bring organized crime and prostitution. Stop the Russians.'
Any act by any haredi Jew is portrayed as the act of all haredim.
Imagine the shock that would greet these headlines: 'Secular youths slay cab driver for kicks.' 'Girl, 14, raped by gang of secular youths.' 'Secular businessman sells chemical weapons secrets to Iran.'
But when the reporting is about the haredi community, all journalistic standards of accuracy seem to fly by the wayside.
The two leading Israeli dailies both headlined excrement-throwing haredim in their coverage of Shavuot at the Western Wall. Yet the only excrement thrown existed in the febrile imagination of the Jerusalem police spokesman.
Did it occur to anyone that religious Jews do not generally carry sandwich bags filled with excrement with them on their way to pray?
For two months, the country has been in an uproar over an Israeli flag burned on Lag B'Omer by a 14-year-old in Mea Shearim.
But has any paper reported that the photographer in question is under investigation by the Jerusalem police on the grounds that he may have thoughtfully provided the flag? Did it strike any sleuthing reporter as curious that the photographer just happened to be on the scene at the opportune moment?
From the prime minister on down, Israeli politicians have rightfully rushed to condemn a poster ridiculing the Koran posted in Hebron. We are all sensitive to affronts to Islam.
But where was that sensitivity to the pain of religious Jews over Gil Kopatch's Bible buffoonery on national TV? The only response was left-wing politicians seeking to outdo one another in yet more ribald jokes.
Had a group of Jews announced that they were going to pray on the Temple Mount Shavuot morning, Sarid would have had an injunction from the High Court five minutes later, on the grounds that their prayer would likely offend Arab worshipers and provoke a violent reaction.
But no one even attempts to understand how tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews gathered at the Kotel might view the practice of rites that are at complete variance with the millenia-old practice there.
Labeling as enemies of the state those who insist on retaining their identity as Jews is of ancient lineage. Pharaoh justified enslaving us on the grounds that we were potential fifth columnists.
Such attempts to stop us, however, have an equally long record of failure: 'As much as they afflicted the [nation] so did it multiply.'
Related Topics: Chareidim and Their Critics
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