In my most recent blog, I looked forward to returning to our old routines post-vaccination. This Tuesday marked two weeks subsequent to the second vaccination my wife, Iris, and I received. The following is a first-person account by my wife of her unpleasant experience in returning to our routines:
After not visiting my children and grandchildren in their apartment for the ten months since the start of the pandemic, I was on my way to babysit for them in the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood of Jerusalem. I decided to walk there from my neighborhood in Talpiot Tzafon on a beautiful and relatively warm winter day this week.
As I walked down Yechezkel Street, I realized that a protest was taking place. There was no violence, but lots of men and boys congregating on the street, around garbage bins that had been turned over in intersections and lit on fire. I was uncomfortable walking through, but didn’t know how to circumvent the area of the protest, and did not feel threatened by the protestors, who in fact were standing around with a strangely celebratory attitude.
As I walked along the street, a police truck arrived. Again, I did not feel that I was in danger, but rather curious about what would happen. Call me naive, but I had never encountered such an event and had no idea what to expect, although I did increase my pace to pass the protestors and police. Suddenly, water started shooting from the police truck. Unbeknownst to me until that moment, it was equipped with water cannons, which were mobilized to disperse the protestors. The latter were obviously more prepared than I, and immediately ran away down side streets. I tried to follow and ended getting sprayed a bit.
When the water cannons stopped shooting, the protestors returned to the main street, as I did, to continue quickly along my way. Unfortunately, as I walked away, the truck turned around and started shooting again. The protestors, again, ran away down side streets and escaped the cannons. This time, alas, I wasn’t fast enough, and as I turned into a side street, was hit directly by a cannon. The force of the water was so great that I was thrown off my feet and onto the ground, sustaining multiple scrapes and bruises. I didn’t realize how badly my hands and knee were bleeding. Several of the protestors ran over to help me, lifted me off the ground, called for Hatzalah, and asked me if I was okay. I touched my mask and bloodied it, so I must have looked a fright, but I told everyone I was fine and didn’t need medical assistance. I was able to walk away and knew that, thank God, no bones were broken. I was also soaked to the skin and wanted to simply reach my kids’ apartment, just a few minutes away, so I could clean off my scrapes and change into dry clothes.
My kids and my husband, Sholom, who came to help, were quite alarmed at their first sight of me, wearing a bloody mask, bleeding visibly from my hands and knee, and soaking wet. I was able to clean off, take care of my wounds, and warm up in dry clothes. The next day, I received a tetanus shot, and God willing, will heal up without any residual injuries.
What is my take-away from this experience? First and foremost, while the Haredi protestors were wrong to obstruct traffic and burn garbage in their streets, the police were even more culpable in indiscriminately firing water cannons at everyone who happened to be on the street. There is no excuse for police to injure innocent bystanders, particularly when there was no actual violence being perpetuated by the protestors.
Furthermore, there seems to be selective enforcement (if that is what you want to call this) by police, depending on the community in question. I have been hearing complaints by residents in Rechavia that the protestors next to the PM’s residence on Balfour Street have been keeping them awake half the night and leaving filth on the streets, but there is no enforcement of the law by the police. Are the police targeting the Haredi communities and ignoring the secular protestors? What is the basis for this kind of apparent discrimination?
Today, I am feeling somewhat stupid by having been caught unawares, very grateful that I wasn’t seriously injured, and quite sad that, in the midst of a pandemic when we all need to look out for each other, such divisiveness still exists in our otherwise wonderful country. How can we change this for the better?