Jerusalem like the rest of Israel is a melting pot of Jews returning home from a 2,000 year diaspora. Walking through Jerusalem one will hear French spoken, perhaps some Russian, pass by an Ethiopian restaurant, and walk through a Yemenite neighborhood. On paper, scores of Jews hailing from all corners of the map to live together again in the homeland sounds nearly utopian.
The cold truth is that there is racism, discrimination, and a rather general sense of discord among the Jews of Israel.
On Friday, June second I attended a seminar lead by an Ethiopian woman. Beta Israel Jews have yearned to return to Jerusalem for quite some time, The heaven they once dreamt of became an ugly reality. Their black skin was all that people saw when they arrived. The media depicted them as hoodlums or criminals. They lived in poverty and most could not read or write in Hebrew. Though their situation has improved due to vigilant activism on their part, times are still difficult.
Mirroring the plight of Ethiopian Jews is the discrimination towards Russian Jews, whom serve as yet another example of this lack of coexisting or tolerance. Russians are ridiculed and discriminated against for their more secular practices, and for the group of Russian jews who sell or eat pork, as it is a part of their culture.
It’s difficult to imagine that the Jewish people, after millennia of persecution and targeted violence still cannot seem to get along. With a serious conflict in the region based solely on Jew’s right to exist in their homeland and a world rife with anti-semitism, wouldn’t it be natural to band together to fight our adversities?
Perhaps this concept is too utopian as well. In India Muslims and Hindus have struggled to coexist, and in the U.S. Blacks and Whites have struggled to reside amongst each other for centuries. At the end of the day, Jews are human nonetheless. Perhaps it is in our nature to fixate on our differences rather than our similarities.