Thursday, March 28, 2013

Am Yisrael Chai??

Am Yisrael Chai.

It's one of my mantras, the nation of Israel will live on. The nation of Israel. It's you, it's me, it's all of us. It's the secular, and it's the Charedim.

I believe in unity. I am a big advocator of Jewish pride, Jewish unity, Jewish love, and when other people bash other sectors of our religion I do my best to defend. We're a small nation and at the end of the day, all we have is each other.

I've heard people say they hate the Charedim in Israel. The biggest conversation in the country is why they can sit and learn in yeshiva while our sons and brothers need to go to war. And though I agree that they should be fighting, I can still understand them. They're just good people who want to learn Torah, who want to be closer to Hashem, who think they're doing the right thing. How can you look down on that?

I was at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem tonight, waiting for my bus. It goes through my city but ends up in B'nei Brak, a very Charedi area, and the whole line was mostly made up of Charedi families. I've never seen so many people waiting for a bus before - there were probably over 100 people standing there. We waited for around an hour for all the buses to fill up and leave, and the mood was mostly good natured. Everyone shared their water and cookies, assuring each other that it was kosher for Pesach with no kitniyot and wondering how long it would be until the next bus came. We all complained together, taking pictures of the ridiculous line that stretched all the way into the back of the room and doubled back again.

And then it was my turn to get on the bus. As the bus pulled up, some Charedi yeshiva guys who had been standing by the door for five or ten minutes rushed up to get on. They were stopped by an older Charedi man who yelled at them. "What are you doing?? Have some respect!"

One of the guys, about 20 years old, yelled back "What do you care? Get on the bus and shut up." They started pushing everyone who had been waiting to get on, fighting to get to the front of the line. There were elderly men and women, a few pregnant women, fathers with little kids, a girl with Down Syndrome who was standing behind me. Everyone was yelling at each other, and I was just praying I would get to the bus alive and be able to find a seat. One older woman very calmly told the guys to calm down and wait because other people had been waiting longer. "Do you work for Egged?" one of them spat at her. "Get out of my face and shut your mouth".

At that point I finally reached the stairs and turned around to see one of the guys, my age, pushing forward to get to the door. An old man was in front of him, and he lifted his arm to tell the guy to stop. The yeshiva student grabbed his arm and forcefully PUSHED him backwards. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Until then, I'd been a spectator in this scene, but when I saw that my hands started shaking. "What is wrong with you??" I screamed at him. "What would your Rabbi say about the way you're acting right now? Would your father be proud of your yeshiva education? Have you not learned Derech Eretz yet??" My words came out in a mixture of English and Hebrew, my dikduk completely lost. He looked at me, said "Chatzufah, why are you speaking to me?" and turned away. It was all I could do not to slap him across the face. I had a ridiculous urge to grab his kippah and throw it as far as I could - I've never in my LIFE been so full of rage at a person.

One Charedi father was trying to get on the bus - his wife was already on, and he had been putting their stroller on the bottom. One of the students straight out punched him in the stomach. A fight started, cameras were everywhere, and I somehow paid and sat down, watching out the window. I can't describe the feeling I felt right then. It's NOT the Charedim. It's these students, these guys who spend their lives in yeshiva and never learn manners or how to treat a person with respect.

A part of me wants to forget it happened, not write this blog post, go back to my naïve ideas of love and unity and am yisrael chai - that idea that if we want it enough, we can all just get along. But I know that these guys will marry girls who will have sons who will learn from their fathers and there has to be a way to end this.

I've never really encountered anti-semitism. And although I've have a few altercations, the Arabs and arsim in the country have never brought me to tears on a public bus. But this made me cry, and not only because I feel sad for the Jewish nation, but because I was terrified. Because everything that I believe in, Am Yisrael, the land of Israel, everything that I think is worth having pride in, took a shot to the heart when that "bochur" wearing a black kippah who probably had just davened maariv pushed an old man so he could get onto a bus.

So I ask you - where do we go from here?

What am I supposed to think now?

I don't hate charedim. There are good and bad people in every sect of Judaism - every sect of the world. But something needs to change in the way they educate their sons. I don't want to start a Charedi bashing wave because of this story - I want to make a change. This is not okay. This is not what we survived thousands of years of persecution for. The Jewish people have come a long and painful way to get to the place we are today, and if after all that we can't respect each other, how can we ever imagine that anyone else will? How can we imagine that we're deserving of any kind of geula?

14 comments:

  1. don't let go of the "am yisrael chai" dream. you are right that something must change but it is still possible.

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  2. Dear Shev,
    I can feel the sorrow in your words,and it's justified. but I think the very same story could be used as a script to prove Jewish Unity.It's been a long time since I've seen someone been reprimanded by a stranger.Or respect been demanded of others, by civilians ,in such a public setting. there seems to be a universal shroud of apathy (אדישות).
    to me, Jewish unity means that out of admiration of our beautiful shared past, and anticipation of a glorious joint future we must put in the work (so much work!) to mend our conflicted and complex present. It's sad to see fellow religious Jews acting in such a way,but excellent to see that that is what fills you with rage. who says perfection brings the geula. perhaps it is the fight against imperfection.the holiness of the Jewish people and our land are partially inherent, but I believe the more significant part must be earned.I'm proud to have a high national moral standard, and prouder that were not ashamed to tell others when they've forgotten it. Am Yisrael Chai !! (with regards to the fact that these guys will be exempt from military service on religious grounds, that makes me sick aswell )

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  3. Well if they're so great at hand-to-hand combat, they should for sure be drafted. Maybe the army can teach them some discipline.

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  4. I cried when I read this. I share your fear that we will have trouble bringing the Moshiach if we keep having strife between us. But I choose to focus on a couple of positive aspects in what you wrote.

    First of all, kol hakavod to you for being brave enough to speak out. When we stand by and watch injustice, we are part of the problem; and I hope that I will gain strength from your example to never, ever stand by when Jews behave like animals. You may not have changed the minds of the wicked sons who attacked fellow Jews... but there may have been a young person "on the fence" who was shamed by your words to never behave like his uncouth brothers in the future.

    Secondly, a story from the Shoah: There was a fellow who came out of that horrible experience only to throw off his former religious life. His reason? "There was a Yid who managed to smuggle in a page of a siddur -- one page. And he would 'charge' fellow Jews their daily ration of bread to daven from his sacred page. Jews lined up to give up their meager crusts of moldy bread just to hold that page in their hands. How DARE that fellow steal bread from the mouths of his fellow Jews???" Another Jew, hearing the story, said, "It is sad that that one Jew could not share with an open heart. But it is even sadder that you are focusing on the wrong thing. Why do you not instead focus on the unbelievable number of Jews willing to give up physical comfort for a sublime moment of holiness?"

    You pointed out that most of the people waiting in those ridiculously long lines shared cookies and nice midot and pleasant conversation with each other. And, again, your own courage to face down evil behavior is much larger than the stupid, ill-bred behavior of the few (who, I am convinced, will discover at the End of Days that they weren't even really Jewish, much to their surprise). Thank you for sharing the beautiful behavior of fine Jews in trying circumstances. May it be that the Borei Olam will give much more credit to the good and decent multitude than to a few rude individuals.

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  5. I knew a wise teacher in Strassbourg who commented on misbehaving children; There are no naughty children, only naughty parents.

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  6. Your post is included in Shiloh Musings: HH #403 The Cyber-Threat Edition.  Please visit, check out the other blogs, comment, share and join the community of jbloggers if you haven't already.

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  7. These hooligans do not represent Charedim. I am not Charedi, but most of my friends are. And not a single one of them are like that. Nor are their kids.

    The people you encountered may be Charedi... but they are nevertheless evil. The pain and suffering they unleashed to innocent people that you were witness to, not to metion the massive Chilul HaShem will no doubt cause them to lose their Chelek in Olam Habah.

    Unless they do Teshuva by first asking for Mechila for every individual they have ever harmed or embarrassed in this way - and receive it... make public announcements about what they have done and ask for Mechila for embarrassing the Torah world with their behavior -and then Daven really hard to HKBH for His Mechila, their future in Olam HaBah is doomed!

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  8. Who says they were "Yeshiva students"? There are plenty of kids, completely off the derech, who never spent a day in "yeshiva" past 5th grade who dress in black and white because that's what they do. i have nver in my life seen a person who has spent any significant time in yeshiva act in this way. Unless you know what yeshiva they were from and that they actually were people who spent time there, i believe your whole article is an example of the anti-Chareidi "racism" that exists in this country. i say that respectfully, but anyone who actually believes that a person who has actually spent years learning Torah would act that way has no idea of what the Chareidi world is about. I would bet my last dollar that not a single one of those guys you saw could read a Tosafot. Honestly, even with all of your comments of making sure we are not taking this the wrong way about all Chareidim etc., it is clear to me that you have an axe to grind here. keep up the great blog!

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  9. Anonymous, shut your mouth. If you're going to deny this woman's experience, at least have the courage to do so behind a name.

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    1. "shut your mouth" - thank you "Ben M" for raising the level of discourse here. In the future, I will take your advice into account and should I actually decide to deny anyone's experience, I will be sure to use my name. Please, if you would like to make an intelligent comment, read what I actually wrote and comment on it. But if you would like to just continue to grind your axe along with Shev's, then please by all means, continue to hate on me or anyone else who leaves a comment here that you do not agree with.

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  10. Question for you Shev,

    your write in this article:

    "They're just good people who want to learn Torah, who want to be closer to Hashem, who think they're doing the right thing. How can you look down on that?"

    and in your article titled "how bais yaakov almost ruined my life" you say the following: "My daddy was a doctor, and it didn't matter that he finished all of Shas and had a chavrusah every night."

    it seems you use any details in any way it can shaddow that being frum is something to frown upon.

    you have questions? there are answers for them, however if youve decided that yiddishkeit aint alright and you need to tweek it to your liking, then there are no answers for you

    .....for in the end this is all just an answer to why you dont follow in that which is true.


    you mock tznius? dont be surprised if you grandson marries a non jew.

    youre very busy with "Derech eretz" like all those who dont feel they need to speak out against frumkeit. the same torah that tells us to have derech eretz tells us about tzniut too, i didnt say its all or nothing but dont be calling people out on their sins if you have a platefull of your own.

    sitting here and blogging about how to slowly change judaism to what you feel is an acceptable way seems to be theraputic so you'll probably keep doing it, but dont be using this in the name of hashem for hes not too happy about the way you speak of his children in public like this................





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    1. You seem to be mistaking sincerity for sarcasm. I'm not sure where you found any reference to tznius or how you've decided my grandson will intermarry, but feel free to send me an email if you'd like to explain.

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    2. You seem to be mistaking sincerity for sarcasm. I'm not sure where you found any reference to tznius or how you've decided my grandson will intermarry, but feel free to send me an email if you'd like to explain.

      Delete