There was a time when African Americans claimed that they would often, too often, be stopped by the police for nothing more than driving through a white neighborhood. My guess is that this still happens. It is racial profiling. The popular jargon calls it DWB (Driving While Black).

There are parts of Europe where Jews are concerned for their own physical safety. They are afraid they will be picked out of a crowd just for being Jewish and subject to violence. It has happened. Some fear wearing a Kippah on the streets for this very reason.

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Thank God for the Jewish state where Jews, whatever the skin color, are protected from this. Or, maybe not?
Ours is the country where the Prime Minister demands the Palestinians acknowledge us as a “Jewish state.” This is the country where the Prime Minister has called for an oath of loyalty to be taken by new non-Jewish would be citizens that recognizing the State of Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” Now he has shifted his position and plans to ask that all take such an oath.

Jewish and democratic? Really?

In a previous blog I pointed out that in my fifteen years working with converts to Judaism who are entitled to make Aliyah, and to receive citizenship under the Law of Return, I have never seen the process work smoothly for people of color. African American converts to Judaism (in all denominations) are suspected of being in the wrong place - Israel - just as the Black drivers in the white suburbs. They are suspected of being part of the Black Hebrews in Dimona. Others are presumed to be messianics.

They are routinely denied the right to citizenship, health care, work, and other benefits, until the lawyers, with whom we are privileged to work, intervene. The Jewish Agency can not stop this. The fault is in the Interior Ministry - a ministry wracked with racism and paranoia.

The failure of a government to follow its own laws can lead to bigotry and even to violence. Today is just a few days after the anniversary of the murder of Yizhak Rabin. The lawlessness and incitement in the days before his murder may have been a root cause.

Routinely, our Palestinians neighbors are humiliated by those in positions of authority (I am not oppose to security. I even understand that at times the airport authorities may not be able to treat all passengers alike. But never is there justification for humiliation).

Now the Israeli equivalent of DWB has become a reality. There are dozens of African-American Jews by Choice living in Israel who have been harassed by the government. This despite being in possession of all the requisite papers.
There are several dozen such Jews living in Ashkelon who participate regularly in the prayers at the Masorti congregation. They attend and participate in Jewish religious life in our Jewish state.

But last night, the very lawless situation I described turned ugly, as I knew it inevitably would.

The immigration police entered the home of one such family and demanded to see papers. This family is well known to the Interior Ministry as they seek nothing more than to live as Jews in the so-called “Jewish and democratic state,” to borrow a phrase from Mr. Netanyahu.

The grandmother, her seven month pregnant daughter, and one year old granddaughter were all struck and injured by the police. Two were hospitalized. One was taken into custody.

In the end, the boarder police realized, “Oops!” They had made a mistake. Papers were in order. The local police refused to register a complaint by the family that was attacked. The blame was put at the feet of the family who were harassed in their home.

The Masorti  Movement’s director, Yizhar Hess,  has sent a letter to Interior Minister Eli Yishai, and to Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch, demanding that they investigate the incident and that  justice be served regarding  the “violent officers.”

The family decided to immigrate to Israel and is active in Congregation Netzach Yisrael  in Ashkelon.
“Instead of embracing this family with warmth, they abused them twice. It both doubted the family’s Judaism because they converted … and it has raised its hand against them just because it is easy to do so against someone whose skin is not white,” wrote Hess.
So I ask how it is that we ask others to take an oath of loyalty to Israel as being both “Jewish and democratic” when our own officials act in ways that are an anathema to both.

Today Pete Seeger’s ballad rings in my ears, “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

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