Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Day in the Park

How low observant Jews have fallen in the eyes of secular Jews. An incident - reported in Ynet - happened in a Jerusalem park which is a disgusting illustration of that. The worst in human nature poured forth on that day when a group of secular Jews insulted and chased out a group of Charedi Jews from a park. Their 'sin'? They wanted to enjoy a picnic on a beautiful summer’s day with their families. The following comment about the attitude expressed by an elderly woman was particularly offensive:

‘…it wasn't nice of us to take up the entire playground for her children’.

That precipitated what seemed to be somewhat of a mob scene as more people started showing up at the park and started yelling at them.

I cannot imagine the hurt these people must have felt by such an insulting and rejecting reaction to their presence. The sight of Charedim trying to have a picnic and children enjoying a playground - and chaos erupted. Children started crying and nice day turned into a horror.

To make matters worse these gentle Charedim decided to just go to another side of the park and not be confrontational. But that wasn’t enough for these secular zealots. They followed them and continued to harass them until they were forced to leave the park.

The behavior of these secular Jews was rude, and disgusting. There is no defending them. They acted like animals. It is reminiscent of the pre-civil rights era in the American South when blacks were similarly treated. These secular Jews were no better than the white supremecists. There was of course no lynching in this case, but the hate and enmity seems to be the same.

My heart goes out to these families. They should not have had to go through this. They are just as entitled as any secular Jew to enjoy a public park on a nice summer’s day. I’m glad to see that the Jerusalem municipality responded. Here is what they said:

"We strongly object to all cases of racism and violence. We hold educational programs aiming to encourage coexistence and a dialogue among the different sectors of society in the city."

But I have to ask why such enmity exists? Why do some secular Jews hate Charedim so much? What do they fear? Was it always this way? What have religious Jews done to make secular Jews go to such disgusting extremes?

Is it that they just hate the Torah? Or is it something else? Allow me to suggest that we do some self examination here.

I believe that coercive religious legislation feuls this hatred. And the incidents like those reported in Ynet - one article by Tali Farkash and another one by Neta Sela - excerbate it.

Those poor families in the park that day took the brunt of years of growing secular anger.

That said those secular vigilantes in the park do not represent all secular Jews. I doubt that most secular Jews would approve in any way of what these - their fellow secular Jews did. I’m sure that any decent human being would sympathize with those innocent Charedi families in the park that day. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they ‘understood’ why their secular brethren did it.

Sound familiar?

It’s going to take a lot to change secular hearts and minds. But in my view the Torah world needs to do something about it. Or the hatred is only going to get worse.

Updated: 8/27/08 - 2:08 PM CDT