Most Israelis are at least vaguely aware of the political climate in America right now. Certainly the Capitol riot made the news here and just as took place in America, the event was denounced firmly by Israeli leaders. Many more of us Anglo-American Israelis have been paying far closer attention. America is split down the middle. There is some very bad blood and negativity spreading between different factions of American society. For all of the talk of unity that we’re hearing from President Biden, those words seems far more like platitudes than actual plans of action. It’s extremely concerning and I had hoped that we in Israel would take heed and learn what lessons we could from the situation. Sadly, we are getting dangerously close to a “civil war” of sorts in Israel as well.
We’ve all seen the pictures coming out of Bnei Brak. Horrifying is the best word that comes to mind. On all accounts. I am not Haredi and I do not accept or understand the flagrant violation of corona regulations that we’ve seen come out of multiple Haredi communities. While I absolutely do not justify the actions taken by the Haredi mob over the last few days, it would serve us well to try to be more understanding of the mindset of those communities.
This is a group of people who have felt themselves to be discriminated against at every opportunity by a government that they don’t accept and don’t believe in. Whether or not the rest of us agree with that mindset is entirely irrelevant. At the end of the day, we have done very little to try and work with them and dissuade them of that notion. What’s more, we have forgotten something very important. They are Jews and Israelis just like us. We are all part of the nation of Israel. We all make up the population of this country and live alongside each other – for better or worse. I don’t understand the way they live or their beliefs. I don’t agree with a lot of what they believe but they are still a part of us. Pitting communities of Jews and Israelis against each other serves no one and no good.
The way this government has handled the pandemic over the last almost year has been atrocious. It has been about preserving power and position of the few rather than serving the needs of the many. The view that we have seen of the inner workings of the cabinet have been lackluster at best and damaging at worst. They’ve also contributed to the divisions in our society and the blame game that we’re all playing.
Here’s the thing – some, by no means all, in the Haredi community are breaking the rules. Some in the dati community are breaking rules. The same goes for the chiloni and Arab communities and everyone else in between. We all have a part to play in the state that we are in now — regardless of whether or not we agree on the matters that led us here. And it’s also true that we as a society are at a breaking point as a result of the pandemic, the closures, the economic loss and the regulations that seems to have very little basis in logic. But what I know with absolute certainty is that sending huge numbers of armed cops ready to shoot to start enforcing these rules will not make things better. Doing so in a community that has more or less run itself as its own country for years and already feels that they are discriminated against and stigmatized will not change how they do things. We are only raising the flame on an already boiling pot of water. And if we don’t start changing things, that pot is going to boil over and burn everything in its path.
The status quo cannot be allowed to continue. We need to start learning how to work with each other. Start engaging those groups who we leave to their own devices. It’s true that we cannot allow the Haredi communities to continue violating every rule and regulation that the state puts forward. However, we will not get anywhere with those communities if for months we let them go on as if there’s no pandemic and then suddenly we bring the full force of the police on them. Just as the rest of Israeli society cannot continue to be used as pawns in a political game, we cannot allow the Haredi communities to be used in the same way. Instead of casting them out, we need to work on bringing them into the fold of the general Israeli society. It’s time to put the politics aside, stop playing the blame game and start learning how to engage with each other and work together.