Unearthing the treasure that is Beit Shemesh

The campaigning and elections in Bet Shemesh were exciting, but not nearly as exciting as the aftermath.  Exciting with a capital S-A-D.  But with a treasure chest full of potential.

Democracy is a beautiful thing, but only when laws are respected.  The laws have been disregarded and all bets are off in Bet Shemesh this week.  Were it possible to run cities by carefully programmed robots, the situation would have been clearly regarded.  Ballots are tampered with? 200 fake IDs are confiscated?  Voters show up to cast their ballots only to find the records show they have already voted?  Fines, arrests and election overhauls should do it.  Voter fraud could not have been more obvious, short of paid billboards announcing it in the city’s merkazim.  It’s time to stop debating the facts, folks, and time to fix things.

We are beyond the concepts of right and wrong here.  We are now caught in the no-win whirlpool effect that closed and sheltered minds have on the communities that they dominate.  Where factual media and an honest exchange of ideas prevail, where social forums do not become defense cases akin to courts of law, there is room left for logic.  Elderly parents must be pulling out their hair to witness their children throwing out the basic values of right and wrong that they no doubt spent years instilling in them.  Not to steal, to deface others’ property, and not to defend those who do so are precepts that seem to have been peeled away from the core of many who wish to banish “hatred” for those who have committed crimes.  This defending of the guilty and the distortion of the rights of the innocents make for a pretty confused community, especially when the term “sore losers” is attributed to those who outright had their voting rights snatched up by those who impersonated them, or whom deliberately rendered ballots invalid, affecting hundreds of votes.

Bet Shemesh is a beautiful community, one that has the potential it started out with, as a culturally diverse city.  With few venues in which to mingle, the cultures have remained separate.  Not a problem in itself perhaps, but the promotion of separation denies populations the richness that diversity offers.  We hold the rights to a diamond mine here.  Cultural fairs featuring Ethiopian, Russian, Sephardic and Ashkenazic foods, music, and crafts could be gracing our community.  Instrumental concerts at the ampitheater more than twice a year, and special programs in the merkazim remain mere ideas that fade into a backdrop of the “homogeneity or bust” mentality.  Even humor has an iffy success rate, as I have found on occasion while posting on Facebook with members outside of my immediate neighborhood, which I absolutely adore and thank G-d I am a part of.

We in Bet Shemesh must learn to compartmentalize.  When laws are broken, we must come out with zero tolerance.  When jokes are made, we must come out of our little comfort spheres and to put it simply, lighten up.  But when driving through neighborhoods, we can be courteous.  We can smile at the locals and slow down for their children.   We can appreciate the unique values they bring to the table that we never will, the result of our unique upbringing.

Am I happy to live in Bet Shemesh?  You bet I am.  I did not make aliyah to sit in my kitchen cooking up kugels all week long, not to underestimate a good, hot kugel.  Every oleh should arrive in this wonderful land with a bag packed full of inspiration to leave it a little better than they found it.  For me, it will be the pursuit of a culturally rich existence, without the threat of extinction, as a Jew can only know living in Eretz Yisroel.

Good times are ahead for Bet Shemesh.  Just wait and see.


About the Author
Miri Gantshar is a mother, psychologist and freelance writer who immigrated to Israel from New York in 2007. She is currently writing a book on her experiences in Israel.
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