The problem isn't 'Christianity' - it's disaffected youth

The discovery of a gang of neo-Nazis in Petah Tikva compels us to write about this development.

September 17, 2007 19:27
3 minute read.
The problem isn't 'Christianity' - it's disaffected youth

nazi idf rifle 224.88. (photo credit: Israel Police)

Following the exposure of a gang of neo-Nazi youths in Petah Tikva, media commentators were quick to note - correctly - that the vast majority of Russian immigrants are productive, law-abiding and Zionist citizens. Most have integrated successfully into the community and many excel in their chosen professions. However, it is true that a not-insignificant number of immigrant youths experience serious integration problems: Large numbers of Russian-speaking young people do not graduate high school. But even those who are better adjusted come to feel that their loyalty is in question, and because they strive to be accepted, you'll find that many immigrant soldiers often volunteer for highly dangerous army duty, hence their casualty rate, which is several times higher than the norm, and similar to the Druse community. WHAT MOST troubles us about some of the media coverage of the neo-Nazis in Petah Tikva is the description some outlets have used of the delinquents as "Christians." Was this the result of investigative journalism? We don't think so. It was more likely the product of a xenophobic fear that any Russian who is not halachically Jewish must be a Christian, and any Russian Christian must be a potential Nazi! After three generations of Communist rule in the former Soviet Union, even the most halachically Jewish Russians know sadly little about Judaism. An equally sad state of affairs, we've noticed, is that many Russian believers in Christianity know as much about Judaism as a not-insignificant number of secular Israelis. Yet few pundits would label these native-born amei ha'aretz, or ignoramuses, "apostates" or "Christians." Another troubling reaction to the Petah Tikva outrage was the call we've been hearing to deny immigration rights to third-generation children of Jews. The rationale is that the less one is actually a "kosher" Jew, the more one is likely to become a trouble-making neo-Nazi. Again, why don't our lawmakers uphold the same standards for secular Jews who are bereft of any Jewish literacy? The purportedly modern Orthodox leader of this immigration campaign, MK Zvulun Orlev, is in practice supporting the world view of Shas's Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who recently declared that Jewish soldiers die because they don't keep the commandments according haredi custom. Even the Anti-Defamation League reportedly agrees with Orlev's approach. What we have here, it seems to us, is opportunism by those who figure that "fewer non-Jews equals less intermarriage." But let's remember that the state already keeps a list of "kosher Jews" which helps prevent intermarriage, so there is no need to worry that non-Jews will corrupt kosher Jews through marriage - unless the Jewish partner chooses to get married in someone else's country, of course. ISN'T IT interesting that these guardians of Jewish "purity" would never propose deporting Western immigrants for hate crimes, people like the French-speaking immigrant who recently murdered a Palestinian Arab cab driver? Zionism envisions Israel as a free, multicultural society whose Jewish character respects all faiths and protects those whom the Nazis would have exterminated. Embodied in the Law of Return, this policy has allowed for an annual aliya of 80% non-halachic Jews, now numbering over 300,000 Israeli citizens. In this day and age, Israelis should feel insulted that a lawmaker would think them gullible enough to believe that a proposed Knesset bill is going to make much difference in reducing non-Jewish immigration. The days of a monolithic, socialist Israeli culture are long gone. So why haven't policymakers accepted the fact that Israel has to grant its growing non-Jewish (and half-Jewish) sector the same rights it affords Jewish immigrants? AS FOR the despicable gang, deporting them could free them to become even more dangerous neo-Nazis - perhaps even heroes - among their cohorts abroad. Should Israel be exporting anti-Semites? Prosecuting them in Israel would give them no option to express their anti-Semitism again, and prove to ourselves and to the world that Israel is a country of laws. The existence of this tiny, alienated gang of Russian youth is a barometer for the presence of other disaffected youth who reject Israeli and Jewish values in a desperate attempt to define their identities outside of the norm. When a problem needs to be squarely faced, demagoguery is never the answer. Oigenblick is a researcher in sociology and executive director of the Association for the Protection of Mixed Families' Rights. Triestman is director of public relations for the organization.

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