The Island of Misfit Toys

As a convert, you have a life prior to Judaism.  Both my ex-wife and I are converts, so this is the case with both of us.

When I was a kid, Christmas was obviously a big deal for any American kid. In addition to presents on Christmas morning, the TV fare was loaded from Thanksgiving onward with Christmas specials. One of these was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

In the story, the embarrassed Rudolph flees Santa’s workshop because of harassment from the other reindeer due to his red nose. He picks up other misfits along the way. Their journey leads them to an island called the Land of Misfit Toys.  All of these toys are broken or defective in some way. Our heroes return to Santa’s workshop along with these toys and the happy ending sees these playtime misfits being given another chance by Santa to make children happy.

This “mashal” or story may seem cute. However, I think it may also apply to my neighborhood. I noticed misfit toys are here as well. They block traffic and serve up garbage flambe’ dumpsters at Kikar Shabbat, Zomet Bar Ilan, and many other locations along Yechezkel Street in Geulah and Meah Shearim. The police frequently sit aside and do nothing, so I must assume that the prime minister’s allies are being given kid glove treatment. No need for the misfit makeover here that the toys got in Santa’s workshop.

These riots (I am a middle aged man and call property destruction and vandalism riots) happen so often now they are not even mentioned in the papers. I am regularly admonished that they do not represent the majority of the community. I guess this is meant to make my aching knee joints (I have old injuries and require a cane when pains flare up) feel better when I have to walk an extra distance to get home without a bus. Why then have I seen the costumes of all of the Haredi sects at these cookouts, including Viznitz, Bels, Gur, etc., in addition to the normal Neturei Karta and other Jerusalem Faction malcontents.

Unfortunately, I live less than a block from flambe’ central at Kikar Shabbat. Many times, you can not even walk down Yekezchel Street, let alone take a bus.  This requires that I walk a painful extra fifteen minutes to get home after I have been working the whole day at multiple metapel and cleaning jobs.  I usually walk the extra distance so I don’t have to pass through a riot zone.

I never thought I would say this about Jerusalem. For years, I dreamed of living here. That dream is now a stressful, daily nightmare that I am just thankful to have over at the end of the day.

For my readers, realize that I have lived in other large cities before, including Phoenix, Chicago and Ulm, Germany while serving in the US Army.  In more than ten years of living in Chicago, I never had as many close calls with crazy drivers when pedestrians have right of way, rioters and generally crazy people who are in your face multiple times during the day as I have here in five.  That, by the way, is city wide, and not just in my neighborhood.  The cane is a remnant of one of the automobile encounters.

Frankly, I live in fear. Wear the wrong kippah and you are an offense to someone.  I guess we are more laid back in the Midwest US where I am from.  Yihiye beseder, leat leat, I am always told. The culture is different here. Frankly, I see no culture or derech eretz at all. Maybe the misfit toys should reflect on that. Their unholy behavior does not reflect well on the holy city. I am not the only one who feels like this. Many are leaving the city because it is not a pleasant place to live anymore.  This is all because of misfits who can’t follow a Torah that will teach them to be human beings and live better.

About the Author
Akiva ben Avraham is a former community college professor, US Army intelligence analyst and officer, and a caregiver.
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