Am Yisrael Chai.
It's one of my mantras, the nation of Israel will live on. The nation of Israel. It's you, it's me, it's all of us. It's the secular, and it's the Charedim.
I believe in unity. I am a big advocator of Jewish pride, Jewish unity, Jewish love, and when other people bash other sectors of our religion I do my best to defend. We're a small nation and at the end of the day, all we have is each other.
I've heard people say they hate the Charedim in Israel. The biggest conversation in the country is why they can sit and learn in yeshiva while our sons and brothers need to go to war. And though I agree that they should be fighting, I can still understand them. They're just good people who want to learn Torah, who want to be closer to Hashem, who think they're doing the right thing. How can you look down on that?
I was at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem tonight, waiting for my bus. It goes through my city but ends up in B'nei Brak, a very Charedi area, and the whole line was mostly made up of Charedi families. I've never seen so many people waiting for a bus before - there were probably over 100 people standing there. We waited for around an hour for all the buses to fill up and leave, and the mood was mostly good natured. Everyone shared their water and cookies, assuring each other that it was kosher for Pesach with no kitniyot and wondering how long it would be until the next bus came. We all complained together, taking pictures of the ridiculous line that stretched all the way into the back of the room and doubled back again.
And then it was my turn to get on the bus. As the bus pulled up, some Charedi yeshiva guys who had been standing by the door for five or ten minutes rushed up to get on. They were stopped by an older Charedi man who yelled at them. "What are you doing?? Have some respect!"
One of the guys, about 20 years old, yelled back "What do you care? Get on the bus and shut up." They started pushing everyone who had been waiting to get on, fighting to get to the front of the line. There were elderly men and women, a few pregnant women, fathers with little kids, a girl with Down Syndrome who was standing behind me. Everyone was yelling at each other, and I was just praying I would get to the bus alive and be able to find a seat. One older woman very calmly told the guys to calm down and wait because other people had been waiting longer. "Do you work for Egged?" one of them spat at her. "Get out of my face and shut your mouth".
At that point I finally reached the stairs and turned around to see one of the guys, my age, pushing forward to get to the door. An old man was in front of him, and he lifted his arm to tell the guy to stop. The yeshiva student grabbed his arm and forcefully PUSHED him backwards. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Until then, I'd been a spectator in this scene, but when I saw that my hands started shaking. "What is wrong with you??" I screamed at him. "What would your Rabbi say about the way you're acting right now? Would your father be proud of your yeshiva education? Have you not learned Derech Eretz yet??" My words came out in a mixture of English and Hebrew, my dikduk completely lost. He looked at me, said "Chatzufah, why are you speaking to me?" and turned away. It was all I could do not to slap him across the face. I had a ridiculous urge to grab his kippah and throw it as far as I could - I've never in my LIFE been so full of rage at a person.
One Charedi father was trying to get on the bus - his wife was already on, and he had been putting their stroller on the bottom. One of the students straight out punched him in the stomach. A fight started, cameras were everywhere, and I somehow paid and sat down, watching out the window. I can't describe the feeling I felt right then. It's NOT the Charedim. It's these students, these guys who spend their lives in yeshiva and never learn manners or how to treat a person with respect.
A part of me wants to forget it happened, not write this blog post, go back to my naïve ideas of love and unity and am yisrael chai - that idea that if we want it enough, we can all just get along. But I know that these guys will marry girls who will have sons who will learn from their fathers and there has to be a way to end this.
I've never really encountered anti-semitism. And although I've have a few altercations, the Arabs and arsim in the country have never brought me to tears on a public bus. But this made me cry, and not only because I feel sad for the Jewish nation, but because I was terrified. Because everything that I believe in, Am Yisrael, the land of Israel, everything that I think is worth having pride in, took a shot to the heart when that "bochur" wearing a black kippah who probably had just davened maariv pushed an old man so he could get onto a bus.
So I ask you - where do we go from here?
What am I supposed to think now?
I don't hate charedim. There are good and bad people in every sect of Judaism - every sect of the world. But something needs to change in the way they educate their sons. I don't want to start a Charedi bashing wave because of this story - I want to make a change. This is not okay. This is not what we survived thousands of years of persecution for. The Jewish people have come a long and painful way to get to the place we are today, and if after all that we can't respect each other, how can we ever imagine that anyone else will? How can we imagine that we're deserving of any kind of geula?