Bet Shemesh was in the news again last week. This time, there were no stories of grown men spitting at little girls on their way to school; no “modesty police” shenanigans; no signs asking women to refrain from walking on certain sides of the street. Although the story was about a woman. A dati leumi (national religious) woman running for mayor in this town that has become “famous” for its religious extremism and unsavory politics.
This is the town my family lives in. It is where my husband and I work. It is where our grandchildren go to school. And I desperately wanted it to change. To be honest, I always thought that people just had to begin behaving differently; to just stop already with all the overdone war on women, war against the Zionist government, war against anything/anyone that was different. Fear of being a “freier” to the point of actually causing traffic accidents also needed to be seriously addressed. Behavioral change was needed. Cooperation between all the various sectors in this amazing, fast growing city needed to come together for the same purpose of betterment for all our sakes. For this to happen, I thought, a major change in behavior had to come first.
I was mistaken. I missed a step. Before any behavior can change, it is necessary to change the thinking that happens before the behavior can take place. Once I realized this, I also understood why a modern Orthodox woman was able to succeed this time when better connected men with political experience could not. The thinking behind this campaign was a united city with services for all its citizens. That’s why there was no focusing on, or reference to, the candidate’s gender or the fact that the candidate was Zionist or Modern Orthodox. Each group was approached in the language that it understood and could relate to. This, I realized, was the exact model that is being advocated for parents and teachers in raising better adjusted and better behaved children who are open to problem solving rather than imploding in the face of change or hardship.
And one more thing. In order to effect lasting change, the desired behavior cannot, in any way, emanate from egocentric concerns. A mayoral candidate, a teacher and a parent, would do well to make rules based on constituent need, not on what will get him/her adoration. Citizens, students and children come to love the people who oversee their lives; are sincere in their concern for them and act accordingly, they also gain respect.