Yes, it was my daughter.
You saw her crying on a viral video that circulated internationally, when policemen were trying to issue her a “doch,” a ticket for holding her mask in her hand and not wearing it, as she had just sipped a slush on a hot summer’s day. That was her, hysterically attempting to call my wife and me, as her younger siblings looked on. That was my 13-year-old struggling to get her mask in place as the policemen stood around, filing an official report, and a crowd gathered around her.
Yes, my daughter was harassed by the police — something no child should ever have to go through. And, yes, we agree that policymakers and law enforcement officers need to use (a lot more) common sense and sensitivity. Indeed, we all want our kids to feel that police are there to help and protect them, and not to attack.
But that’s not what I want to focus on.
You see, despite the trauma that day, despite the incredible amount of (unwanted) attention she received, something unbelievably heartwarming came out of this. Basya, my daughter, awakened the tremendous good in people.
Since that incident on July 6, my phone has been ringing incessantly: people from around the world have been calling to express their support, love, and friendship. These are not necessarily people I’m friends with, or even acquainted with. Many are strangers who heard about what we went through and who wanted to stand with us in this time of darkness and confusion. They’re other Jews from across the spectrum of Klal Yisrael, from across the scale of religiosity, people who don’t look at me as a Boyaner chassid or as an Israeli or as someone so vastly different from them. They saw what we went through and they just wanted to express unity, achdus.
Basya’s name means “daughter of G-d.” Her very public suffering and humiliation awakened something in people. They recognized the G-dliness in themselves and reached out to express their solidarity, stripping away the mask of difference that divides us. From clothing to head coverings, from affiliation to mother tongues, from America to Israel and everywhere in between, our distinctions fell away.
Our family has been inundated (in the best way!) with outpourings of love and solidarity, over the phone, through email, on LinkedIn, on the street, and even through gifts like chocolate and flowers. An unaffiliated Jew in Rishon Letzion sent a package; someone from California reached out to see what she could do; and these are just two examples of many. An episode that represented pain, embarrassment, and ridiculously overzealous policing became an expression of love and identification. My daughter pulled the masks off us all, revealing the breathtaking harmony and connection of which only the Jewish people are capable.
I have given interviews for all the major Israeli news outlets and I’ve spoken at the Knesset. I’ve been contacted by magazines and newspapers across the Jewish world. And this is what I would like emphasize: Everyone makes mistakes — even the police. At the same time, we have to learn to forgive and work toward even greater unity — we are all brothers, after all.
I’m grateful to share the happy ending of our story. Jerusalem Police Chief Mr. Shimi Marciano, together with Chief Rabbi of the Israel police, Rabbi Rami Berachyahu, met with Bassy, expressing their deep and genuine sorrow over the incident. They affirmed that, in her merit, incidents like this will not happen again.
After the meeting, our family met with Minister of Public Security Mr. Amir Ohana, who empathized, “When I saw that video, my heart went out to you.” We also had the opportunity to meet with MK Rav Yakov Asher (UTJ) to thank him for organizing the Knesset committee. MK Rav Uri Maklev (UTJ) and former Mayor of Jerusalem MK Mr. Nir Barkat joined our meeting as well, sharing their insights with us.
Working together, discussing openly, and reconciling: isn’t this what Hashem wants from us in these times of worldwide chaos and specifically in the days of Bein HaMetzarim?
Thank you for this love and support! Our family – and our entire community – are feeling the warmth of Klal Yisrael emanating from all corners and segments.
People have been asking me if I plan to pick up my family and leave this place. And that is what I would like to address here (in addition to expressing my thanks). We’re not leaving Israel. That thought hasn’t crossed my mind even once.
This is the place we belong. It’s the historic homeland of the Jews. If anything, more of us need to be moving here. An extremely unfortunate police incident doesn’t make me love this place less; I certainly don’t blame it on Eretz Yisrael. In fact, if anything, this story has only highlighted to me more the uniqueness of the Jewish people and the strength of our togetherness, even as we live scattered across the globe. My hope is that more of my Jewish brothers and sisters will come to live here and that we will fill this Land with kippahs and shtreimlech, snoods, tichels, sheitels, and shpitzels of all colors, shapes, and sizes—and we’ll enjoy a slush together on a hot summer’s day.
The latest reports suggest that my hopes may soon be actualized. Back in May, The Jerusalem Post indicated as much as a 20% increase in aliyah to Israel as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Since then, the numbers have only climbed. In June alone, the Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah organization logged 1,350 aliyah applications and a mindboggling 25,000 phone inquiries—a more than 300% rise in applications and a 500% upsurge in calls from June 2019.
Even with the incredible complications brought on by making an international move during a worldwide public health crisis, people are moving here—and how. Current projections show an anticipated 250,000 Jews moving to Eretz Yisrael in the next three to five years. Although flights have been grounded across the world, aliyah has continued, with olim arriving from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Brazil, the Ukraine, and more.
While government officials have credited Israel’s initial handling of the pandemic and the country’s strong public health and social services, and blamed rising global anti-Semitism and general unrest, as being behind the increased interest in aliyah, I feel there’s something else at play: the Jewish heart. People recognize that there’s something important about being in Eretz Yisrael.
Home Is Where the Heart Really Is
As Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, the cofounder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh, so eloquently related to the press recently, “Through corona, we have learned many things. Israel is not a given. For the last 70 years, we could always get on a plane and come here. Over last three to four months, with the travel ban in effect, we have recalibrated our compass, prioritized, taken time to pause, to assess and evaluate what and where we are in our trajectory of growth and our visceral connection to our homeland.”
Our compass is pointing here. Our hearts are yearning to come home.
The Kuzari poignantly writes, “This sacred place [Eretz Yisrael] serves to remind men and to stimulate them to love G-d, being a reward and promise, as it is written: ‘Thou shalt arise and have mercy upon Tzion, for the time to favor her, the set time is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones and embrace the dust thereof,’ (Tehillim 102:14).” He continues, “Yerushalayim can only be rebuilt when Israel yearns for it to such an extent that they embrace her stones and dust,” (5:27).
People are yearning for the stones and dust of this land.
In my own business, I’ve seen a dramatic increase in inquiries from those who wish to buy homes here, even if they can’t move just yet. There’s something vital and spiritually valuable about buying and owning property in the Holy Land. The Ibn Ezra discusses this in his commentary on Bereishis, writing, “The person who buys a portion in Eretz Yisrael acquires a portion in the World to Come,” (33:19). And as Rav Fishel Hershkowitz, zt”l, the Heleiner Rav and the senior Klausenberger dayan, once told one of my clients, “If you buy something [property] in Israel, you’ll see hatzlachah in America.” That client did see that brachah come to fruition. And he’s in touch with us about buying another property in Eretz Yisrael.
I don’t recall having a client sell a dirah they’ve bought through me. People are happy with their decisions and stay with them. This a place where you can make an investment based on spiritual concerns, and see it pay off.
History doesn’t reveal great results for Jews in the wake of pandemics and social upheaval. We all wish, hope, and pray for the best. But anti-Semitism only changes its colors, expressing itself in different forms.
Take off your mask of difference. Stand — socially distanced, of course — with my daughter, my family, and, yes, the police. Stand with the rest of Klal Yisrael.
It’s time to come home.
We’re in this together. Feel free to contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be in touch.