Beit Shemesh elections: Israeli democracy or constructive conflict?

I write this blog with mixed emotions: hopefulness, and great trepidation. I am by nature, an optimist. A Child of Auschwitz survivors who moved to Israel with my family, to fulfil the Jewish Dream – the unfulfilled dream of my  grandparents who died in the Shoah, and millennia of Jews before me. The dream of returning to the Home to the Land of Our Forefathers – the Jewish People, the Nation of Israel. You must wonder why I am repeating basically the same thing – why Israel is Our Home, Home of the Jewish People, for all of us. I believe it is, my family and friends believe it is, so what is making me try to convince anyone in many words that it is – exactly that which it is? The Home that should be the Unifying Force for Our People.

You see, I live in Beit Shemesh. It has been the home where my children grew up almost since making Aliyah. We live in a great neighborhood, where our neighbors are both friends and a community where we feel secure and cared for. Where people share our Zionist values, and our values of Ahavat Yisrael – Loving our Fellow Jew, no matter who he is.

We are “Dati Leumi” or what is known as “National Religious”. We are religiously observant Jews (like our Charedi Bretheren) but our lifestyles and our ways of life greatly differ as well as do much of our value system. Our children go to the army or do National Service, and generally study in University or College and work and mingle with the General Israeli Society in the Study and Work Place. You might say we have “one foot in each door”, and we are very comfortable there (even though some times it is tough to balance those two feet!).

We Religious Zionists are now having to deal with something that I am sure many of us never imagined would be a challenge for a Jew living in Israel. The well known conflict between many sectors of Israeli society, the society which we happily, almost naively joined as we just wanted to “be Israeli”. It turns out that being Israeli, or being a Jew in Israel for the purposes of this blog, is much more complex than just being happy to “be an Israeli”. There are Secular Jews, Traditional Jews, Leftists and Rightists. National Religious and Charedim. Never mind those who I haven’t mentioned like the Bahai leaning or the Communist die hards.

How do we balance being “Israeli Jews” who are just so darned happy to be living with our Brothers in the Land of Israel, when we are now embroiled in the well known Beit Shemesh Conflict highlighted by the Elections, both recent and upcoming? In this particular case, I am referring to the divide largely characterized by (much of but not all of) the Charedi voting public and the largely (but not only) Non Charedi public comprised of National Religious, Secular and Traditional Jews and everyone else here. We are stuck in a mire of divisiveness, and some would even say hatred. There is mistrust on both sides. I have very close Charedi relatives and friends living in Beit Shemesh and I and my family love and trust them dearly. They are good, kind and decent people. I will not focus upon the issues that caused the last election to raise the ire of the non Charedi Beit Shemesh world (dishonesty, indecent behavior by certain but not all individuals…). The Election Divide has caused much hurt, mistrust and anger on both sides, and yet, we are essentially Brothers. I know how I literally share  the same flesh and blood of my Charedi relatives, and I am a “soul sister” of my Charedi friends. I truly love and respect them as fellow Jews and as good people.

The Big Question now is: The new elections recently declared by the Supreme Court, makes We Lovers of Democracy thrilled, but not so (many of) our Charedi brothers. We “won” one battle, but kept the flames of another one burning. High flames, scary. So can this so-called Battle for Democratic Elections (and future of Beit Shemesh) become a test case for many Israeli cities, not only about elections, but, could it possibly become a source of Constructive Conflict for the Jewish People in Israel?

The answers could simplistically be: we just need to talk, we need to compromise, we need to accept one and other etc…. But in reality, the Great Divide between the let’s call it “Greater Nationalist Camp” and the “Greater Charedi Camp” (caveat: not all Charedim support the Charedi Political Camp, and not all Nationalists support the National Political Camp) is so wide, that can we ever shrink it? Can we ever become One People, the Jewish People, the Nation of Israel – whatever you want to call it?

I began this blog by stating that I am by nature an optimist. I am a Jew who knows about and has witnessed terrible divides between Jews. I am also a Jew who has seen the rebirth of the State of Israel, Land of the Jewish People and the People of Israel. I have seen us all Come Back Home and I am certain, that we have to and will find a way to mend our fences, and our hearts. I am not a prophet, and I am not exactly sure how and when this process will occur. But I do know, that it will happen, G-d Willing. We didn’t stick together for these long, tiresome, tough years only to have it blow up in our faces. No, not us. In 1948 everyone, Charedim included literally fought for the existence of the State of Israel so that the Jewish People could come home, and live freely, and practice Judaism freely as Jews in the Land of Israel.

Don’t forget, Jewish Tradition states that We also have a  Brit – a covenant or a “deal” with the Guy Above. We are given this Holy Land as our home. We just need to “behave” and we get to stay here. And flourish, which we have definitely done. We are probably in His Bad Book now, the Quibbling Siblings, and no parent can see that without steam coming out of their ears. But, at the end of the day, Blood is Thicker than Water. Parents forgive, and we will continue to be One Family. We will find ways to live together. There are already people quietly meeting and working on this from all sectors, Charedi, non Charedi etc… This I know for a fact from excellent sources.

Hatikvah, the Hope. We are all keeping  the Flame Burning Together. With lots of help from Above.

To be continued….

About the Author
Barbara Solomon Brown is a Geriatric Social Worker,a Child of Holocaust Survivors, and is a Canadian who made Aliyah with her husband and family in 1996. She lives in her beloved Beit Shemesh. She continues to be a Social and Political Activist on things related to Israel and the Jewish People. She runs Aliyah121 specializing in the Elderly & Aliyah. Motto: Acts of Kindness Build the World.
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