Monday, February 8, 2010

Hardcore Haredi Hypocracy

Most of us were raised on lofty concepts such as “kol yisrael arevim zeh lezeh”, that each Jew has a responsibility to another Jew. Hillel’s golden rule, that if one were to have to sum up all of torah’s wisdom into a few words so that torah can be learned while “standing on one foot” would be “v’ahata l’reacha kamocha”, one should love his neighbor as himself. These and other ethical dictums gleaned from the wisdom of the ages crafted us into a people. It’s peoplehood above anything else that has guaranteed our survival over the ages.

It is this same sense of ethical treatment of our brothers and sisters, inculcated in us from time immemorial, which we have extended to others outside of the tribe with the same love and dignity that we extend tour own. It is no surprise that Jews have always been in the forefront of social issues, charity and fighting for the rights of those less fortunate than us. It was this state of mind and this sense of ethics that prompted the American Jewish community to join arms with Martin Luther King and other human rights activists to demonstrate, lobby and challenge a racist system. It is these teachings and values so entrenched in the psyche of the Jewish people, so fundamental to the core of Jewish teachings that has set off red lights and deep concern over an issue that has been going on for some time, but only coming to light recently.

The fervently orthodox Bais Yaakov School in Immanuel isn’t taking any measures against parents who are refusing to send their children (daughters) to school as a result of an order of the High Court of Justice to integrate Ashkenazim and Sephardim. Imagine that this school system, originating back in 19th century Poland, in the heart of anti-Semitic Europe where a Jew had no chance of an “even break” has been running hteir schools along a racial fault line, keeping the Sephardim (mizrachi descent) separate from the pristine Ashkenazim. To ad insult to injury the Independent Education Center had instructed the principal of the school, Rivka Stern not to take measures against those parents resisting the court decision. The basis for this was that doing so would render Rivka Stern a “moser”, which is a status rendered to a Jew giving up another Jew to a non-Jewish system. Imagine, they consider the High Court of Justice a gentile court system!! It appears that something is fundamentally wrong with these so-called Jews.

The twisted logic of the parents is that it isn’t as though they were racist but rather it was really a question of levels of religious observance. The hassidic girls were at a different level than the Sephardic girls and the parents wanted to keep them separate. This is a flimsy excuse because what does personal religious practice have to do with studying the same curriculum in a classroom? According to this logic there should be universal discrimination in Israel thus ending the fiction that we are one people in spite of our differences. The parents themselves underscore their racial bias when they admit as one parent put it “that Mizrachi students don’t feel a connection to the Hassidic track…the High Court and the Education Ministry have to recognize that these are two different worlds”.

No they are not two different worlds. They are no different than whites and blacks studying in the same classroom in the states. They are no different than Ethiopians studying with Ashkenazim in the same class or serving in the same army unit. There is no difference in the color of blood between a hassidic girl or a Mizrachi or an Ethiopian or a Yemini. To say anything else is racist – but worse than that it undercuts the notion of peoplehood, am echad, one people, one country.

“Lofty ideas like “am kohanim v’goy kadosh” really have no currency in Israel if left to the machinations of these truly twisted and sick minds. There isn’t much of a future for the Jewish people if this kind of discrimination becomes normative practice in Israel. Its bad enough that Jimmy Carter and other yeffe nefesh have accused us of running an apartheid state. Leaving education in the hands of these people would enhance this hitherto undeserved reputation.

Many years ago as a student, I lived in a neighborhood in the heart of Jerusalem that was decidedly a Sephardi enclave. When I wanted to enlist their cooperation in a project that would have enhanced our neighborhood they spray-painted on my wall the word “ashke-nazi”. When I asked them why they have so much hatred in their hearts they responded: “atem dofaktem otanu paam, achshav anu nidfak otchem”. Roughly translated it means “there was a time in the beginning of statehood when the Ashkenazi establishment screwed the Sephardic immigrants. Now its our turn to return the favor”. That was twenty-five years ago. Where are you today Hillel, when we need you!!