An army vehicle was stoned Monday by extremist Haredim in Beit Shemesh. The soldier hit a pole and was taken to the hospital.
In response, it was decided to have a demonstration at the corner where he had been stoned in the Ramat Beit Shemesh neighborhood. We gathered. We sang Hatikva. Some waved flags, I Facebook-lived.
There were some screams by extremists of “shiksa” and “Nazis.” Many Haredim came out of their homes to look and see, and a few women from the demonstration said and did things I wish they had not. What I really wanted to do was talk to the people. To hear if they knew what was going on and if they could help fight against it.
Some came out to say that they too hate the extremists, that they also live under their thumbs. We even heard one neighbor threaten another for speaking to us.
But worse than the scuffles and the yelling, worse than when I was spit on six years ago, was what I experienced tonight.
A young Haredi girl among 15 or so of her friends turned her camera toward me. I noticed and smiled. I said to her, “Let’s take a picture together, me and you.”
She looked at me derisively and said, “You’re not worthy.”
This girl could not have been more than 15 years old. She and her friends started speaking in Yiddish about me. In the language I grew up on at my grandparents’ knees, they called me names and sneered. They looked me in the eye while speaking to one another in a manner that I can never recall experiencing in my life. They asked who I thought I was to come into their neighborhood.
One girl was willing to speak to me — she didn’t let me answer, but she peppered me with questions. “Why did you come to bother us? Why did you come to our neighborhood wearing pants, singing out loud…” I asked her if she knew what happened to the soldier today and explained that was why we were there.
I told her that I had been spit on and did she think that was okay? She replied that obviously I had bothered the man who spit on me. Maybe because some of my hair was showing…
All of the girls around her began to chant together in Yiddish: “Retz nisht. Retz nisht” — Don’t speak. Don’t speak.
I told her that what they were doing was sinat chinam, gratuitous hatred. That I am a Jew like she is. At that, she looked me up and down, clearly saying I was not, in fact, a Jew like she is.
In all the years that I have experienced and written about the extremism in our midst, about the men who spit, about the boys who scream shiksa, I have never felt like I did tonight. The girls’ eyes were so full of disdain. The brainwashing was so evident, their derision and disrespect something alive, the likes of which I would never allow my child to show anyone, regardless of who they were. When I said that the way they spoke to me made me sad, the girl-child with the camera looked purposely away from me, and said that she was happy, so happy…
I had to walk away. When I got back to my friends I simply started crying as I told them what happened. Tears fell as I spoke of what they said and I asked what had become of these little girls and the Jewish people.
I cried not because I crumble at the taunts of teens, but because in those taunts, I see the depth of the division.
I surrender. I finally understand. We are no longer the same people. We — religious Jews and neighbors in Israel — are not Jews to them. We are not worthy of derech eretz, ahavat yisrael — civility and the basic love of Jew for Jew. Vahavata lareacha kamocha — love your neighbor as yourself — does not apply to us. We are no longer the same people. I understand now.