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January 11, 2012 2:38 pm

It’s Not About the Bus

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This round might have begun with the assault of a sweet and innocent young girl – herself strictly religious – for the ironic crime of not dressing modestly enough. It might have begun with the Rosa Parks style protest of a religious woman refusing to be relegated to the back of the bus. And it might have begun with the secular media running wild with every detail of every loony that just happens to be sporting side locks and religious garb.

However, wherever the finger of blame might be pointed, it only serves to intensify the misunderstanding of this fracas. These are not solitary events, these are not incidents born of recent times or cultural idealisms.  Rather, these troubling images that splash onto the daily tabloids are rooted deeper than we might admit. There is an inconsistency here, a disconnect, and it happened long before there were segregated buses, heck, this malignant isolation of hearts and minds within our people became cancerous long before there were even buses.

Before we step any further, we must unequivocally condemn all violence and such behavior. Contrary to popular pictures of Chareidim in striped pajamas and yellow stars – have they no shame? – we are not in concentration camps. We are not facing an enemy. We are talking about our own brothers and sisters. You don’t fight family. This isn’t some Shakespearian tragedy of familial mistrust, dispute and fatal conflict.  This is the real world, so take off your stone-age blindfolds, blink twice, and learn to appreciate that there is life outside your city block. G-d created a big world. He didn’t just create you.

Notwithstanding, the liberal media have their fare share of condemnation. Having gone to the greatest lengths in covering this mess, they have painted the religious community with brushstrokes of contempt and disgust. Despite wholesale carnage erupting along Israel’s borders, terrorists firing at a vehicle in Samaria, and a whole array of homicides throughout the country (“Israel Has Bigger Problems” – www.YNetNews.com 12.30.11) the headlines were captured with the troubling and foolish actions of a few loonies. And then came the onslaught. There was constant coverage. Every incident; spitting, cursing, and the greatest crime of torching a trashcan, was met with news flashes, damning articles, and fiery editorials. Bet Shemesh became a “flashpoint” town of rioting and trashcan torching (“Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox protesters riot in flashpoint town of Beit Shemesh” – www.Haaretz.com 29.12.11), quite like the Syrian flashpoint city of Homs (“Assad can force end to Syria crisis but wishes to avoid bloodshed, Lebanese official says” – www.Haaretz.com 30.12.11) that plays witness to the unspeakable horrors of murder, rape and constant violence. Replace the tanks with side-locks, the snipers with religious garb, and you almost have a similar struggle.

So, I could enter the fray in criticism of either side. I could congratulate this band of loonies who have forever trivialized the Holocaust, making it fair game in Anti-Jewish rhetoric. I could thank them for tarnishing the semblance of respect for our belief system and ideology with their unabashed ignorance and vile assault of innocence. I could corner them by declaring modesty is not simply a dress code or a seating arrangement, but more a way of life — which doesn’t include violence by the way. Or I could focus my frustration to the Liberalist media who have successfully demonized an entire lifestyle based on the foolishness of a marginal sect. I could laud their efforts in deepening the gulf between our communities by sensationalizing the misdemeanors of a minority to the tune of a general religious perspective.

Indeed, I could do all that. I could take a side and join the many worthless columns already spent on this futile conflict with more words to stoke the flames. Or I could raise my voice in true protest and peel away the plaster that masks the real issue.

And the issue here is one of identity.

In an Op-Ed titled “Time to Say Goodbye” (www.YNetNews.com 01.03.12) the author demonstrates the cult-like nature of the Chareidim, and how their reclusive community must formally separate from the mainstream Israeli society. Although acknowledging the fact that we are family, he nevertheless likens the strained relationship to that of a “married couple who after long years of tension have reached the end of the road”.

And this is where I would interject: We aren’t a couple that needs to separate; we are just in desperate need of some marriage counseling.

What the author has missed is the secret that had eluded Mark Twain and many others before and after him — the secret of the Jews. We are Jewish? True. That the title is highly flexible? Not true. See, Judaism constitutes an infrangible three-part link: G-d, His Torah, and His people. Secular or religious, you are not any more or less “Jewish”. We are brothers and sisters by birthright.

And this is what lies at the core of the issue; there is a blatant misunderstanding of our own identity, and our responsibility for each other. When we recognize that despite our different views and outlook, we are all family, that our marriage cannot simply end, that we must find a way to understand and appreciate each other, then, and only then, will we rid ourselves of titles, labels, and this sickening hatred.

It is not about the bus, it is about us.  Because, after all, blood is indeed thicker than water.

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