Three Ladies, Three Lattes: Beit Shemesh bullies

Any ideas for a more peaceful coexistence?

Beit Shemesh (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Beit Shemesh
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
I live in Beit Shemesh, a city with a very diverse population. In our community we have a Friday-night Carlebach minyan to bring Jews from all backgrounds together, but the burgeoning anti-Zionist slogans and stringent rules on women’s clothing are very offensive to many residents. Any ideas for a more peaceful coexistence?
Scared to sign her name
Beit Shemesh
Tzippi Sha-ked:
The situation is a powder keg! The hurt and fissures this is causing among religious Jews is appalling. Since bold initiatives to stop this Talibanish behavior isn’t surfacing from within the Haredi sector, the onus is upon us to act, and fast.
Studies from the Simon Wiesenthal Center about bringing disparate groups together suggest that working on joint projects, unrelated to the underlying issues at hand, is the best way to foster peace. When enemy border populations share businesses, or collaborate on agricultural or scientific interests, this often leads to a cessation of hostilities.
Beit Shemesh is a city in crisis. Some ideas for the saner residents: Launch an ahavat hinam (baseless love) campaign in your neighborhoods. Stick signs all over the city (possibly funded by the municipality).
Approach the local haredi leadership and create an “adopt a family” program. While I don’t foresee a “kumbaya” with cross-cultural picnics, dads can pair up for a hevruta (Torah learning) session, children can play together, moms can meet. A neighborhood seuda shlishit (third Shabbat meal) sponsored by a national- religious team with kashrut supervision by the haredi Badatz can bring people together over herring and cake.
Joint projects can benefit both populations. Beautify local parks and schools, adopt a grandparent from across the divide – the examples are endless.
This ahavat hinam campaign must be in everyone’s face. It needs to be purposeful, with foot soldiers. Surely the national-religious community can find 10 haredim with whom to join forces. If not 10, look for nine. Then aim for shock and awe.
Pam Peled:
Breaking the Silence is being silenced, at least in schools. Our indefatigable Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev is ending funding for artists she deems unpatriotic. University lecturers are next in line, with murmurings of thought police trawling campuses.
The only ones who get away with anything – anything! – spitting at girls whose sleeves are too short for their streets, bullying and bludgeoning in the name of God – are the barbarians in black with their bristling white beards. They are the worst danger to democracy in our little beleaguered land; they are a danger to decency; they are a danger to you and me.
They stop planes from taking off because they can’t sit next to women? – Don’t let them fly.
They demean women in the streets? – Lock them up where no women can tempt them.
They riot over soldiers who enlist? – Deport them.
And they wound security personnel? – Raze their houses to the ground.
Tzippi’s idea of coffee and chat as women bake hallot in communal harmony sounds oh so sweet. Those days are gone. These goons are a menace.
They are messing up the country and impacting on our lives, our governments and our sanity – not to mention our pockets. Bibi bows to their leaders and caves in on the Kotel.
They determine when buses can run and shops can stay open, and they dictate our life-cycle events with stern, well-greased palms. It’s pathological.
We still outnumber them, for now. We must stop them while we can.
Danit Shemesh:
While I cannot agree with Tzippi’s “peace-and-love” or with Pam’s declaration of war, I do not take the middle ground either. The Torah is not about finding commonality nor about hatred, it is the truth. As such, Torah must be our only point of perspective.
The Torah teaches acceptable behaviors. We do not need political ministers or bleeding hearts for that. If “men in bristly beards” misbehave, haredim suffer, too. The most disturbing thing is not the abhorrence of peripheral hassidim, but rather the ignorant misunderstanding that they represent all haredim. Honestly, Pam, if I didn’t know you better, I would think you a rabble rouser with your horn yelling, “Down with the haredim!”
To mix all bad behavior into one ugly truth-bag is sorely perverting, and promulgates loathing. I urge readers not to accept Pam’s trauma of beards. Rather breathe, and ask good questions.
To spit, to judge, to hate, to push and to curse is inexcusable behavior and falls under the “do nots” of the Torah. However, to fight for what is stipulated by the laws of Shabbat, such as no buses running, is democratic. There are crazies who provoke in all sectors. No sector is immune.
I agree with Pam that coffee is not a balm. It is offensive to smile at me and tell me you will change me /fix me. Like all others, we enjoy democratic privileges, and like all others, we answer to the same code of ethics.
Let’s never forget that we are one people.
Comments and questions: