(photo credit: Courtesy Superland.co.il)
In recent weeks, several incidents have reminded us of disturbing undercurrents
in Israeli society. At the end of May, discrimination against Arabs at the
Superland amusement park in Rishon Lezion was reported. Khaled Shakra, a
seventh-grade teacher at the L.B. Ajial High School in Jaffa, tried to reserve
25 tickets for his students by phone. Shakra, who speaks perfect idiomatic
Hebrew without an accent, was initially told by the Superland employee who
answered his call that the reservation would be made. But after Shakra mentioned
the name of the school, and it became clear that the students were Arabs,
Shakra’s request was abruptly denied.
Meanwhile, this week, Tel Aviv
District Court Judge Emeritus Nissim Yeshaya, during an appeals commission
hearing in a rape case, said that “some girls enjoy being raped.”
seemed to be defending the Defense Ministry in its refusal to recognize the rape
of a 13-year-old girl by four Palestinian youths from the Shuafat refugee camp
as a terrorist act. Such recognition would entitle the girl to additional
state-funded compensation as a victim of terrorism.
Also this week, there
was a breakthrough in the Bar Noar shooting case. On the night of August 1,
2009, a masked gunman entered the basement of the Bar Noar center on Nachmoni
Street in Tel Aviv – a center for homosexual youths – and opened fire with a
pistol, killing Nir Katz, 26, a volunteer and counselor at the center, and Liz
Triboshi, 16, and wounding 15 others.
In all three cases, there was a
strong public outcry. In the Superland incident, posts on Internet forums by
Shakra were quickly picked up by the news media. Public discourse critical of
Superland was generated. Ministers and MKs from the Left and the Right joined in
In the Yeshaya incident, reactions were also fittingly
excoriating. Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis and Justice Minister Tzipi
Livni accepted Yeshaya’s resignation and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who
had considered appointing Yeshaya as head of an internal Likud court, pulled his
support, noting that “a man who says such things is unfit to serve as the head
of the Likud’s court.”
The police’s stubborn persistence in tracking down
those responsible for the Bar Noar shootings is a testament to the seriousness
with which they viewed the crime. The arrests come just two days before Tel
Aviv’s annual Gay Pride Parade. In 2011, Tel Aviv beat out New York, Toronto,
Sao Paulo, Madrid and London to be crowned by GayCities.com and American
Airlines as the best gay travel destination in the world.
chauvinism and xenophobia remain strong forces in Israeli society. This sad
reality was reflected, for example, in both Superland’s and Yeshaya’s initial
responses. Superland’s management essentially admitted that it upheld a policy
“In June, the park hosts events closed to the general
public reserved by schools that hold end-of-year parties,” Superland said.
“There are days reserved for Jewish schools and there are days reserved for Arab
Similarly, in the case of Yeshaya, there was an inability by
some to fully grasp what was wrong with saying that some women enjoyed being
raped. Attorney Roni Sdovnik, who was present when Yeshaya made his comment,
said that “he [Yeshaya] did not understand why everyone had become
And a spokesman for the court, responding for Yeshaya, said that
the judge’s comments “were not intended to hurt or disrespect rape
One can only wonder to what other end other than further
degradation of an already violated young woman Yeshaya’s comments were
These incidents point to something wrong in the
foundation of our society that needs to corrected. And that goes for both the
Jewish and the Arab sectors.
Many of Israel’s Arabs, who make up a full
fifth of the population, are either indifferent or antagonistic to
Few identify with the idea of a Jewish state. Jewish Israelis,
meanwhile, tend to be traditional-minded and see their loyalty to people and
religion as taking priority over their commitment to liberal values such as
equality regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender.
that, ours is a surprisingly liberal society, considering its tremendous
diversity and polarization. We should be proud of those values that enable the
members of our society to live together in relative harmony. But we should also
continue to fight against chauvinism, bigotry and intolerance.