Photographer Shaul Golan decided to spend Memorial Day in an unusual – for him – venue: Levinsky Park, in south Tel Aviv, far from his usual “beat” in Bnei Brak.
Golan, a professional photographer and cameraman, works with several of Israel's newspapers and television stations, and is often sent to film in Bnei Brak and the haredi neighborhoods of Jerusalem on the national holidays – especially Memorial Day for Israeli Soldiers and Terror Victims, which was commemorated Wednesday, and Holocaust Memorial Day, commemorated last Wednesday.
His mission: To capture haredi Israelis who fail to stand at attention when the sirens are sounded on those days.
Standing at attention for the sirens, as is customary among secular and religious Zionist Israelis, is often a matter of contention in some segments of the haredi community. Some follow the strictures of Israeli custom and law, out of conviction, giving respect and spending the one or two minutes standing at attention, halting activities like work or driving, and reflecting on the losses of millions of Jews in Europe, and the IDF soldiers who gave their lives to defend the country. Often, they will utter silent prayers for the welfare of the souls of the departed.
Others, however, are uncomfortable with the idea of standing at attention, as they consider it a non-Jewish custom. Among these people, there is a divergence between people who go out of their way not to appear in public during the siren period – or, if it cannot be helped, to stand at attention, in order not to bring down the ire of the secular public – via the photos a photographer like Golan would take – by conducting regular activities during the siren period. Others either do not pay attention to the clock at all and continue business as usual – usually resulting in condemnation by secular Israelis who are “treated” to images of haredi Israelis ignoring the sirens.
In their defense, many haredim who do not agree with the custom point to the many others in Israel – among secular Israelis, and especially among Arabs and foreign workers – who do not stand at attention either.
To test that theory, Golan decided to take a day off Wednesday from his usual stint, and on his own went to Levinsky Park – notorious for the large number of illegal foreigners who spend many hours, day and night, there.
And the result? “What can I tell you,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “Some of them were lying on the floor, resting comfortably after a 'busy' night taking drugs and whatnot, while some were appealing to the drug dealers for more 'product,' others went about their business, and a few indeed paid their respects to soldiers.”