Today’s International headline –“Ultra Orthodox protestors attack bus in Beit Shemesh”. Apparently, according to police reports several Hareidi men s attacked the bus, using rocks and hammer because one woman had a Rosa Parks moment and refused to go to the back of a very crowded and, according to JTA, sweaty bus when they demanded that she do so. One man and one woman were arrested for the attack. The man for actually attacking and the woman for interfering with the police when they attempted to arrest the man, both arrested are Hareidi. Why attack the bus? What did the bus do? And, the attackers seem to have attacked at least one other bus, a bus that was not even involved in this particular incident. I understand the rocks; rocks have been the chosen weapon of street toughs in Israel for decades. Since when have they begun using hammers? Is this an escalation in the choice of weaponry?
This is really not a joking matter. It is sad, scary and wholly inappropriate. Just a few minutes ago I spoke with a friend who is most comfortable in, and defines himself as a member of the Hareidi world and again asked him how can it be that these things keep happening. “Where are the religious leaders who should be speaking out publicly against this sort of behavior and teaching basic human midos/ good deeds?” He gave me the customary, hackneyed response – “These are kids who are off from yeshiva and will be going back next week to their studies. They are just trouble makers. They are lost souls…” I stopped him and I said according to the reports the men were adults not teenagers, not men in their early twenties. He switched gears and deflected – “So it is OK to attack the new Chief Rabbi, David Lau, for his statement that boys should spend time in learning and not watching basketball games?” I told him that I did not call to have him ask me questions but I would consent to play this game with him. After all we are both Jewish. So I asked him “Do you know exactly what Rabbi Lau said?” He was quiet. “Rabbi Lau used a derogatory term for the basketball players. He called them Kushim. And, for what it’s worth, didn’t we play basketball all the time when we were kids and into our twenties; And with all manner of people? Maybe,” I said ” if these troubled co-religionists of ours had some healthy outlets other than resorting to violence they would not have to destroy property and get arrested for delinquent behaviors.”
He was not interested in hearing it so he tried to redirect again. He began to ask me about my children and spoke of his family. In keeping with the better angels of our two natures, and in deference to our many, many years of friendship, we laughed knowing that our discussions would produce no major policy changes. Someone somewhere has the key to help put an end to these internecine reactionary behaviors. People can live with respect for one another and in peace even if they have some fundamental disagreements in how they express their beliefs. Studies using a psycho-history perspective and social-psychological research have shown repeatedly that people can get along very well if they just make very small changes. It is time for someone to gather the data and make it happen.
And the Women of the Wall managed to actually pray at the Kotel in their chosen style without 7000 protestors. Perhaps the WOW members learned to just be quiet about the way they chose to pray. We will see about that next week.