The major Haredi demonstration yesterday, protesting the end to draft exemptions reminded me of what scares me most about the exemption debate.
Last December I received a call from a distant second cousin who I’d never met before. She was only going to be in Israel for a few days, so we organised a quick reunion in Meah Shearim. The bus ride from my apartment to town usually only takes about twenty minutes so I didn’t worry about leaving at the last minute.
Twenty minutes into the bus ride I was nowhere near my destination. The bus was crawling at a metre a minute. All the passengers were frustrated; tapping their feet and, checking their watches and phones for the time. A few people asked the bus driver to open the doors so they could leave. I decided that I’d wait a few more minutes and see if the crawling traffic would clear up.
As the bus inched towards the next stop we heard a commotion outside. Everyone was leaning into the windows and craning their necks trying to see what was happening. A chefetz chashud? A police arrest? A car accident?
After another ten minutes of stand still traffic, I decided to walk the rest of the way. As soon as I stepped off the bus I found myself in the middle of a crowd of Haredi men. They swarmed the entire footpath and road. They were throwing burning dumpsters in to the middle of the street, lying on the tarmac to prevent the passage of traffic, and assaulting police officers who were just trying to maintain order.
The group was protesting the arrest of a 19 year old yeshiva student who dodged the draft. It isn’t the riot that upset me, even though I have very strong opinions on the issue. It’s not the lack of consideration for people just trying to get on with their day, or the fact that I was late to my family reunion.
It was the chant.
“Nazis, German Nazis, Nazis”.
Israel was built on the backs of Holocaust survivors. So many of our grandparents and great grandparents lived and died al kiddush Hashem in the Shoah.
And you have the gall to call other Jews Nazis?
I don’t care about the politics, I don’t care about the inconvenience.
I care about the disrespect to all the victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
Our own families.
Our own ancestors.
Leave them out of it.
Protest, riot and demonstrate as much as you want.
But there’s a line.
And you crossed it.