In a social-media post earlier this month, outgoing caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid employed customary sophistry to belittle the right-wing coalition-in-formation, led by his nemesis, premier-designate Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I want to ask the mother who voted for Likud,” he tweeted on December 13. “Is this what you wanted? When you stood at the polling station and cast your ballot, did you want the most extreme government in the history of the country to be established?”
“I want to ask the mother who voted for Likud. Is this what you wanted? When you stood at the polling station and cast your ballot, did you want the most extreme government in the history of the country to be established?”Yair Lapid
As someone who fits that description, my answer to the first half of the question is “yes.” I dispute the formulation of the second part, however, on the grounds that it’s Lapid himself who deserves to be called “extreme.”
Yair Lapid deserves to be called "extreme"
In the Twitter thread that followed his snide query, the Yesh Atid chairman decried a series of haredi-party demands to which Netanyahu had acquiesced. That his depiction of them was distorted beyond recognition came as no surprise. His dim view of the country’s various ultra-Orthodox communities is neither novel nor nuanced, after all.
But in the weeks that have passed since his and the rest of the “anybody but Bibi” camp’s defeat in the November 1 Knesset elections, his hostile rhetoric has reached new heights. As a result, his political foes – including Netanyahu – are accusing him of incitement.
Anti-haredi rhetoric in Ramat Gan
A recent altercation in central Israel adds weight to the allegation. The incident took place at a playground in Ramat Gan, where a class of 12-year-old girls from the nearby city of Bnei Brak had come with their teacher for an outing. As soon as the kids began to frolic, they were accosted by a disgusted resident of the neighborhood.
“We pay four million shekels for an apartment here,” yelled the young mother of two. “You don’t belong here! You don’t belong! You have your own city! You’re not connected to us in any shape or form! This is our place!”
Despite the realization that her unprovoked rant was being filmed by the teacher, she continued, undeterred.
“Look at them, those animals,” she grunted. “Look at what you do. Why are you wreaking havoc? Animals! Other than making children, you don’t know how to do anything. You’re like termites! You eat everything; destroy everything.”
THE STORY, first published by the Orthodox news site Behadrei Haredim – which omitted the verbal abuser’s name and blurred her face in the video, so as not to “violate Jewish law by slandering and shaming” even those who sin – didn’t end there. After the clip started circulating, a reporter from Channel 13’s current events program Hazinor contacted the woman for comment.
Inquired by the station about her over-the-top “termite” slurs, she not only refused to express remorse; she doubled down.
“It’s what I think about them,” she said. “What can I do? I have nothing to hide. I don’t respect the religious [sector], and certainly not the haredim. That’s me.”
Probed further about whether she “stands by her words,” she retorted forcefully in the affirmative.
“Do you really believe that the mere presence of haredim in the neighborhood lowers the value of your property?” asked the reporter.
“Of course,” she replied. “I purchased an apartment, for millions, in an upscale area, in order to enjoy the facilities suited to my lifestyle level. Yet, now, when I go downstairs with my baby, I can’t use the equipment, because there are always haredim out there. [So] I exploded [at the sight of] dozens of girls climbing on an apparatus and breaking it.”
Ya’akov Miller, the father of one of the victims, told Hazinor how pained he was by the vitriol spewed at his daughter and her classmates.
“And for what?” he asked. “Because we have a different ideology? Different values? A different way of life? Saying we don’t know how to do anything but have children; that we’re like termites. It’s hair-raising.”
He also said that though he’s experienced such hatred in the past, it’s been occurring more lately. He’s right and it’s no accident.
The drumbeat of anti-haredi sentiment emanating from the halls of parliament and the pens of left-wing pundits has become deafening. Anything remotely resembling it abroad would be deemed antisemitic, with good reason. Netanyahu concurred, promptly condemning the confrontation as “horrifying, antisemitic, verbal violence.”
WHICH BRINGS us back to Lapid. Can he be faulted for a phenomenon that was bubbling before he was born? No.
Nevertheless, he does bear a fair share of responsibility for the degree to which it has become acceptable in certain circles – among the chattering classes who pride themselves on their liberalism, enlightenment and social-justice awareness – to exhibit blatant bias. Given her social status, the woman at the playground would never have hurled such epithets in public if she hadn’t felt justified in doing so.
Ironically, she’s precisely the type of person who would gawk at the very suggestion that her views are “extreme.” That’s a term reserved by her ilk for the Right. And it turns out, as she told “TikTok provocateur” Daniel Amram, that she supports Lapid – because he “most closely” represents who she is.
“Like referring to haredim as ‘termites?’” Amram challenged.
“No,” she clarified. “He’s secular. He comes from the stratum that I relate to; the way it operates, its outlook, its path.”
While her vulgarity at the park may be atypical in the bon ton set, her attitude toward a certain kind of Jew is practically a requirement for membership. What this Tel Aviv metropolis soccer mom clearly doesn’t see is that snobbery and viciousness directed at fellow Israelis are dangerous to a populace plagued by external enemies.
Lapid’s inability to grasp this simple tenet is his literal and figurative loss. The tale of a Yesh Atid voter who not only attacked a bunch of visibly religious school girls, but defended having done so, should serve as an eye-opener.
Instead of casting aspersions on Likud-voting mothers for making a choice he can’t fathom – you know, since many of us are not Orthodox and therefore, in his eyes, we ought naturally to reject a right-wing religious government – he would do well to look in the mirror.
The figure staring back at him simply won’t reflect the mood of the majority, male or female. And the louder his protestations to the contrary, the greater the number of mandates will be granted the next time around to the side for which he has unbridled contempt – the legislators he has the chutzpah to label “extreme.”