Where ‘Equality’ Meets ‘Inequality’

The word “equality” grows more tiresome on my ears with each passing day’s events. Let me put it in more simplified language. In our country, equality as is known in the rest of the cultured and civilized world, is a two-faced adjective of national disgrace, much of which many of us have chosen to accept minus any major protest marches.

When Judea and Samaria, our first and most ancient regions of settlement in the biblical lands of Israel thousands of years ago before the birth of any other monotheistic religious faith became the new modern settlement movement,  communities of Jews seeking a return to ancestral home-sites or seeking living conditions that were unaffordable in Jerusalem or Tel-Aviv in the years immediately following our victories in the 1967 war, loud voices in the Knesset plenum could be heard both with pros and cons concerning Jewish settlements on lands owned and occupied by Palestinians for centuries before the birth of Zionism.

The pros overwhelmingly drowned out the voices of the cons.  Jews, mainly recent American immigrants (olim chadashim), delighted in the opportunities of the post-war land victories and began the construction of beautiful homes and communities on former Arab land.  Inhabited or not, yet still legally Arab land as recorded in the Ottoman tabu, recognized by the former Turkish regime and the British Mandate.

From time to time there were skirmishes between the earlier and the newer settlers but somehow both seemed to be resolved to a situation which was basically unhappy for both groups.

In recent years we have seen and been witness to unpleasant acts committed by wild Jewish youth against nearby Arab homes and land. These so-called “hilltop youth” are not representative of the older Jewish settlers. They descend upon the Arab villages nearby in pre-meditated plans to destroy homes, lands, and agricultural means of sustenance for the Arab owners like thieves in the night.

Many Arab homes are broken into, anti-Arab graffiti demanding “death to Arabs” are spray-painted on outer home walls, windows of Arab homes are smashed, Arab cars are vandalized and destroyed, and most painful, centuries of olive trees providing the major source of income for Arab farmers are cut down, uprooted and completely destroyed by the Jewish hands of misguided and hateful Jewish settlers’ children.

The police arrive at the scenes when it is most convenient for them. The “hilltop youth” have fled and returned to their cave-like domiciles on the hills. Few if any arrests of the Jewish criminals have been made and little if any restitution is demanded on behalf of the Arab victims of Jewish terror.

Let us reverse the situation. If Jewish homes, lands, cars, property had been destroyed by Arabs, our police forces and our Shin Bet security forces would not rest until every Arab terrorist responsible for the damages had been located after long police searches, arrested, brought to criminal courts, charged, indicted and imprisoned. Financial compensation for damages are often required by our courts.

Whoever invented the English proverb “what is good for the goose is good for the gander” could never have anticipated the inequality of search and punishment…. One punishment for Palestinians and a different one for Jewish settler youth.

The older settler leaders have not enforced restraints nor punishment upon the many of their wayward sons whose beards, flowing payot (side-locks) and white knitted kippot identify them. They are silently regarded as heroes for doing what their fathers cannot nor did not do. How many centuries does it take for an olive tree to produce sufficient fruits for making edible olive oil?

Equality for settler Jewish terrorists but inequality for Palestinian Arab farmers and families.

On October 7, a Palestinian from the village of Shuweika not far from the West Bank city of Tulkarm,  shot and brutally murdered two of his fellow (Jewish) workers in the Barkan Industrial Zone where Jews and Arabs worked side by side.

Ashraf Walid Suleiman Na’alwa was a 23 year old with a permit to work as an electrician at Barkan. We do not know the reason behind the Barkan terrorist attack. And to date, following an on-going massive security police manhunt, the terrorist has not yet been located nor arrested.

Using his family as bait to draw him out of hiding, his mother and brother have been arrested by our police forces and have been charged with having known about the plot at Barkan and not having informed the police. Of course, we have no evidence nor proof that the terrorist’s family actually knew of his criminal intentions.

Nevertheless, they must suffer the inequality of our justice system which may permit their home to be demolished unless Ashraf turns himself into the security forces searching for him. More than a month has passed since the Barkan murders took place.

Had a Jew been responsible for a brutal attack and murders of Arab co-workers, one can absolutely guarantee that the Jewish home would not be subjected to demolition.

Equality for some.  Inequality for others.

Our rabbinical courts are no less guilty. Equality is guaranteed for all recognized as Jews. But non-Orthodox Jews, a majority of the world’s Jewish population, are not recognized as Jews by our chief rabbinate and ergo, are not entitled to equality before the law. The kotel belongs to the Orthodox and they alone have the rights and privileges to worship there. At least, that is the thinking of our religious authoritarian and theocratic despots.

As an Israeli and as a non-Orthodox yet a practicing Jew, I yearn for a rabbinate in the style of our first Chief Rabbi of the 1920’s, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook.  His love for all Jews… Orthodox or Reform, communist or Zionist, socialist kibbutz farmer or Jewish non-believers endeared him to the hearts, minds and souls of every Jew in pre-state Palestine.

At his funeral, tens of thousands of non-religious Jews marched in procession behind the casket on its way to burial on the Mount of Olives in Holy Jerusalem.

We cannot resurrect his body but we can and we must resurrect his soul and bestow his respect, love and admiration for fellow Jews everywhere regardless of their religious beliefs or practices.

Somewhere and somehow, inequality in Israel must be forever abolished and replaced by love and equality for all.   Perhaps when the Messiah arrives!

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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