Paula R. SternPaula R. Stern is the Founder and Documentation Manager of WritePoint, a technical writing company.
Okay, now that I have your attention with that horrible title - imagine seeing it plastered to a street sign in Jerusalem, our holy city, the capital of our Jewish nation. That's right...there it was (picture coming soon). So the Hareidim (Ultra-Orthodox) protested again today. To emphasize their opinions, they dumped garbage on the streets of Jerusalem and burned those garbage cans again.
I had a meeting near one of these neighborhoods. My first impression as we drove through the streets was of the garbage, strewn on the sides, piled on the sides and even sometimes in the middle. Then I saw the "carcasses" of the garbage cans...all that remains is the twisted metal, the plastic having melted away completely and the garbage left to be scattered. What disrespect, I thought to myself - of our beautiful city, our holy land.
Last week, they had a demonstration. I walked through the crowd on my way to make some purchases. There they stood on the high wall that surrounds the cemetery. There they congregated to watch the huge protest rally...what disrespect, I thought to myself. Of the dead who lie there in eternal rest, here in the holiest of holy cities.
They are saying it isn't about racism, but rather a battle between the arrogance of a judge who dared to declare the law was above man, or at least their rabbis. There are those who say this began as racism and certainly the words of one mother, saying "In any case, we won't agree to unite the (Ashkenazi and Sephardic) classes" implies that it remains an issue of racism.
When the demonstration was over last week, massive crowds drifted away...many taking buses to get home. Buses...of the Zionist state they condemn, on the roads built by the Zionist state. They paid for the buses with the Zionist money and when they got home, as evening arrived, they turned on the lights in their homes - powered by electricity from the Zionist state.
From outside our borders, they send flotillas filled with those who hate this land. But worse, so much worse, are those who dare, in our holy city, to put up a sign that says, "Arabs YES, Zionists, NO!." Not so many years ago, there were Arabs who tried to blow up those very buses they took from the demonstration. I was filled with fury when I saw the sign. I was filled with disgust.
My first thought was to ask Egged to write, "ZIONIST BUS" on all those green buses these people regularly use; to ask the government to write "ZIONIST GARBAGE SERVICE" on the trucks that pick up the refuse in these neighborhoods. As we drove away, my mind was cluttered with all the thoughts of what they take from this land and how little they give back in any concrete sense.
I have used up all the arguments, argued them from all sides. Yes, I believe that our army fights with the weapons we give them...and the prayers we say for them. But who are we kidding? Do you think these people who post signs that say, "Arabs YES, Zionists, NO" are praying for the Zionist army?
I am not foolish enough to believe that all of the Hareidim support a sign that would encourage our enemies and show a preference for them over the very government and institutions who provide them with their medical care, support for their schools, transportation, water, electricity and more. And yet, as I stood there staring at that sign, plastered to our city, I saw no Hareidi person try to remove it in shame. I saw none come over and say to me, "we don't feel that way; it's wrong that someone put it up there."
And I thought to myself, what disrespect to our people, our land and yes, to the very God they claim to serve. I think in a very real sense, this debate about Emmanuel is filled with more wrongs than rights; more exaggeration than fact...even more bluster than real racism. I think the parents were wrong, the school was wrong, the courts were wrong and the parents were wrong again.
Our religion does not preach that our rabbis are infallible or above the law...God's or man's. More, our religion is based on respect - respect of people, respect of property, respect for the dead, and respect for the living. There was no respect last week in the streets of Jerusalem as tens of thousands of protesters caused massive delays, littered the ground, trampled the cemetery walls, and cursed the Zionist hand that helps make their lives tolerable here.
Yes, blessings come from God, but the electricity comes from the Electric Company, the buses come from Egged. The garbage they threw on our city will be picked up by our sanitation workers and those signs of hatred will be scrubbed away.
But the next time a Hareidi man comes over with his hand out asking for a donation, I will ask him if he really wants my Zionist money. Perhaps this is still the anger talking. Perhaps tomorrow I will be calmer. For now, I think of the tremendous disrespect I saw today, on the streets of Jerusalem, on the walls, and in their hearts.