Deena Levenstein

The real problem with tolerance in Jerusalem

I think it’s dangerous and destructive to talk about violence and tolerance in Jerusalem as though Yishai Schlissel‘s act is representative of something. What exactly might it represent?


I don’t know about you, but I don’t need charedim to say they oppose Schlissel’s horrific act in order to know that the overwhelming majority of them don’t support what he did in any way. And actually, assuming otherwise is a very dangerous and judgmental type of stereotyping of the charedi “community.”*

Does it represent a lack of tolerance or rights for different types of people in Jerusalem?

That isn’t so convincing either. The majority of the time most of us walk around Jerusalem, living all kinds of lives intertwined with all kinds of people and it seems to be working just fine.

If anything, deciding there is a problem when there isn’t necessarily one could end up creating the problem we want to prevent.

Stop for a moment and think about your life here in Jerusalem. In the most cliche of manners, literally many of my closest friends are gay people — men and women — living openly in Jerusalem. More and more places are opened on Shabbat so that non-shomer Shabbat people have things to do over the weekend. Even the violence of Arabs towards Jews (which is, in my opinion, more of a trend than the stabbing at the Jerusalem Pride Parade last week, and the lack of attention it seems to attract is extremely disturbing), if you put it in the context of how many interactions we have with each other on a daily basis (including the Arab who prepares your meal every time you eat at most restaurants in the city), isn’t so bad.

It’s almost like people don’t want to admit that Jerusalem is actually quite a peaceful, pluralistic and, dare I say, calm city. It is one of the most complex cities religiously, politically and geographically and yet most of the time it feels incredibly safe to walk around here, all hours of the day and night, which is more than one can say of many major cities in North America.

It’s time to just stop it.

We can all choose not to buy into generalizations, not to put people in a box and not to see one crazy/extreme person as the speaker for or the representative of a huge group of people*.

I think it’s time we all took a chill pill and found a way to cool off. My charedi (gasp) sister says the true key to peace is air conditioning — I think it’s helium beer, but I’m happy to discuss this in any air conditioned room. So maybe she’s right.

Amen to that, sista.

*To call the charedim a community in itself is ignorant, since charedim are made up of dozens, if not hundreds, of communities.

Outside_air_conditioner wiki commons the key to peace in jerusalem
About the Author
Deena is a new mother, a project manager and a writer living in Jaffa.