Grapevine: Rules made to be broken?

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

Masses attend the funeral of Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik, January 31, 2021 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Masses attend the funeral of Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik, January 31, 2021
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
 If rules were made to be broken, Jerusalem seems to be the place to break them. The big news about broken rules this week related to the mass gatherings of ultra-Orthodox Jewish males at the funerals of two great sages, rabbis Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik and Yitzchok Scheiner, where the numbers by far exceeded those of the crowds that have gathered for the past seven months to demand the ouster of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In both cases, there is a flouting of Health Ministry regulations, with people from each of the two so vastly different groups pointing to the other and saying, “If they can do it, why can’t we?”
In these cases, police are accused of either doing nothing or of being overzealous and of provoking violence. The ultra-Orthodox also claim that police discriminate against them.
Similar allegations are voiced by Israeli Arabs and by Israelis of Ethiopian background.
At the Knesset marathon session on Sunday night, Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi cited a case in which there were some half dozen Jews and an equal number of Arabs riding in a bus that was stopped by police. All the passengers wore masks, and were returning from their places of work. According to Tibi, none of the Jews were fined, but the Arabs were fined for not wearing seat belts.
If all the passengers were masked and none of them wore seat belts why was a penalty imposed only on the non-Jews? In so doing, the police themselves were breaking the antidiscrimination laws. According to the law, all citizens of Israel, regardless of faith or ethnic background, are equal – at least on paper, but not always in practice.
People who follow the rules say the police are being too lenient with the ultra-Orthodox. But when the police break up an ultra-Orthodox wedding celebration or a prayer service and distribute fines to organizers, there are cries of anti-Orthodox discrimination.
This week, there were many complaints in the media in relation to the number of people who attended the above-mentioned funerals.
Dep.-Ch. Ofer Shomer, the Zion District police commander, explained again and again to various media that, prior to the funerals, the police had contacted leaders of the ultra-Orthodox communities and impressed on them that they must urge their followers to stay at home. Agreements that had been made were not adhered to, said Shomer, adding that common sense dictated that in such gatherings, police interference would lead to violence and bloodshed, which was something that the police wanted to avoid, especially at a funeral.

Asked about arrests made on Saturday night at the anti-Netanyahu demonstrations, Shomer explained that demonstrators were getting too close to security barriers leading to the President’s Residence. There have been conflicting reports as to whether demonstrators had previously tried to break through barriers leading to the Prime Minister’s Residence.
Meanwhile both the president and the prime minister are breaking the rules by traveling all over the country, even though they do spend a lot of time on Zoom. But there are many photographs of them in different venues where they are not observing social distancing.
In addition, Haaretz on Monday reported a different breaking of the rules by senior army personnel who last week congregated in a closed hall at Jerusalem’s Friends of Zion Museum together with soldiers undertaking a national security course.
■ THE ATTITUDE of the Jerusalem Municipality in relation to the objections of residents of certain neighborhoods to projected changes is similar to that of a parent who says to a child “I know what’s best for you” while ignoring the feelings, needs and desires of the child.

“They won’t listen to us,” bemoans a Talbiyeh resident who is interested in child safety. Talbiyeh residents are also complaining that they can’t park their cars in the streets on which they live, because, during the pandemic, parking has become a free-for-all from early morning till late at night, and early bird demonstrators are parking their cars all over Rehavia and Talbiyeh, and the municipality is not doing anything to stop them. The parking problem will be exacerbated after the lockdown, when institutions in the area resume operations.
In addition, the municipality is ignoring pleas from residents in different parts of the city to leave green spaces alone, and instead is approving building plans on parklands and forests. The latest travesty is reducing the size of a park in Kiryat Yovel to make way for the construction of a synagogue on a street in which there are already two existing synagogues.
Moreover, a request for an additional traffic light in Talbiyeh due to the potential dangers that may be caused by a change in traffic regulations has been ignored, just as the municipality ignored the many people who objected to the light rail going through Emek Refaim or a cable car to the Western Wall, against which leading architects and urban planners have campaigned.
Mayor Moshe Lion should bear in mind that inasmuch as he believes in urban renewal, and has done some good things in this regard, the next mayoral elections are in 2023, which is not all that far away.