Rioting en masse.
Just another day in the Palestinian Territories, na’chon?
Sadly, no. Â In fact, we can’t blame these latest developments on terrorists, at least not in the traditional Arab sense of the word. Â Nor can we pinpoint these heinous acts to Gaza or the West Bank or even East Jerusalem. Â No, this unrest was in Israel proper, along the shores of the Mediterranean and in the streets of West Jerusalem. Â That’s right, Israel’s Haredim certainly do know how to stir up the brown stuff.
Midway through what was quickly becoming the worst cab ride of my life, our driver – who made South African minibus operators look affable in comparison – decided to take the scenic route through Jerusalem. Â That is to say, after my companion and I refused to pay 45NIS for at most a 30NIS fare, instead opting for the meter, this cabbie decided to take his touristy-looking, English-speaking passengers in the exact opposite direction from where they needed to be. Â Indeed, it seemed, he’d be getting his 45NIS after all, and then some.
But then we hit a snag. Â A flaming one. Â And our by now heated argument – his side in Hebrew, mine in English (though revealingly, the madman did know how to say “GIVE ME THE MONEY!”) - subsided as the police vehicles raced past us. Â As we drove past the burning dumpsters and the hundreds, if not thousands, of angry Haredi men and women, the car was filled with a tense silence. Â Sure, I was furious at the driver – and he at me – but neither of our searing furies compared to those of the Haredim towards the Israeli government.
Following a decision to clear out an ancient gravesite to make room for a hospital’s emergency room in Ashkelon, large numbers of blackhatters began protesting. Â Despite all reports to the contrary, they believe the graves are Jewish tombs, and as a result, are seriously pissed (excuse the technical terminology).
Now normally, this wouldn’t rile me up as much as it does – though, to be sure, a cab ride through fires and angry mobs will always be a bit disconcerting. Â What really vexes me is how the Israeli ultraorthodox communities have hijacked the political process here. Â Indeed, the main stumbling block towards peace with the Palestinians is continued Jewish settlement construction, largely for the ultra-religious. Â And time and time again, flare-ups of violence are instigated by, or at the very least aimed at, yeshiva students or other Jewish fundamentalists in the settlements.
In my humble opinion, it’s time we called a kettle a kettle, and a spade a spade. Â These religious wackos, these Jewish Tea Partiers, should no longer steer Israeli policy. Â The state of Israel, if it wants to shine as a just, morally upstanding Jewish nation, must move forward, with or without its Haredi fringe.
(By the way, that cab ride? Â Cost me 50 shecks and a lot of patience.)
Sam Melamed is a Masa participant, participating in Career Israel, one of Masa Israel‘s 160 programs.