The issue of the religious nature of Jerusalem popped up recently when I shared an initiative called Shabus.co.il, which was started by a group of people in Jerusalem who are not Shabbat observant and want to be able to travel around freely on Shabbat even though they cannot afford their own private transportation. This same post, later shared in a Facebook group focusing on things going on in Jerusalem, became the focus of a conversation about self-hating Jews and how this specific initiative will destroy Jerusalem and the Jews as a people.
With the elections on the cusp of dismembering any semblance of unity our already challenged country may be facing, Jerusalem is at the center of many political promises, being the representative city for the demographic of conflicting religious coexistence.
Now normally, in those online conversations of the bullying kind, I can console myself with the fact that the online haters are only a small percentage of society and do not represent a group much larger than themselves. Still I can’t help but wonder if here this is the case. If it truly were only a select few, then there would be hope that we could institute a long-awaited solution, without opposition, for not Shabbat observant Jerusalemites, to have viable transportation solutions.
Maybe I am naïve to think that our fellow Jews will one day understand that religious oppression might be something that might have seemed good on paper when they planned that ideal population of our country-to-be but that in reality it is one big falling out when instituted. Because the fact is this:
People do not only fall in love with their own kind.
Not everyone will be the same religion in your so-called idyllic society.
Not everyone sees Shabbat observance in the same way.
And there won’t always be one kind of person following the exact same religious dogma simply because your way is obviously the right one.
So whether one agrees with the need to refuse transportation rights to people within the city on Shabbat or not, the arguing needs to be less about bullying and more about understanding the other side. I really try not to expose myself to the haters online because they are so plentiful and really sap your faith in humanity. But what I saw there I cannot unsee. The arguing I witnessed surrounding the ‘Shabus initiative’ post was one big name calling, self-hating, close minded mess.
There was barely any mention of the relevant issues such as the laws of the city, the need to provide freedom to those who aren’t observant and the fact that not all the population in Jerusalem are the same and want the same thing.
And don’t we all want something better for our children? Don’t we want them to look back at what we went through as kids and adults with disbelief and ask us how we ever managed to live like that with the stigmatizing of ethnic groups, the segregation of religions and the lack of human rights for those among us who are not of our faith? The basic rights we allot those among us needs to be less about ‘where you came from’ and more about ‘who and where you are today’.
I am that person who believes that it is of the utmost value to hold tight and fast to that overwhelming desire prevalent in the majority of society regardless of race or religion to live and work and raise their families. I believe that change and coexistence is a slow process that we need to direct and that we cannot deny or refuse to accept the fact that the population within our country is varied and that no one is leaving.
I hold fast to this unwavering belief.
I truly believe that if we are able to harness the power within the will of the people and if we can try to ignore the propaganda and hatred injected into us, we might just have a chance to find a semblance of happiness within our little-messed-up-excuse-of-a-country. It is through my conviction that I continue to fight the silent fight as I refuse to be caged, controlled or to fall prey to the haters.
And Jerusalem is one of the places where change can happen, and it will happen, for the better. What other city witnesses the lives of so many, so closely intertwined from so many different cultures and religious backgrounds?
We want our kids to have a chance to live in a society different from the one we experience, where haters don’t fly and religion is nobody else’s burden to bear but our own. Shabus will eventually happen. The only question is what cost we will have to pay to make it happen, how long it will take people to accept this fact and when everyone will pipe down with their own yelling long enough to hear the other side speak.