Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Orthodox Shock With Holocaust Image

The friction between orthodox and secular Jews concerning public street behavior has hit a new high yesterday. Orthodox Jews, feeling intruded upon and even humiliated by indecently dressed women, took to the streets. But they did it with flair and a symbol deeply disturbing to Israelis and Jews around the world. They used small children dressed as Holocaust death camp survivors straight out of a camp liberation photograph. One Israeli commentator says the images on newspaper front pages and TV news programs look disturbingly similar German soldiers' photos of Warsaw ghetto uprising captured children. Israelis take images of the Holocaust seriously, this is exactly why orthodox protesters use them. Except this time the tactic backfired.

Orthodox communities have been complaining about closeness of women to men in public places, considered a form of temptation to men, therefor disturbing. This, from men (a small minority of ultra Orthodox Jews) who simply see interaction between women and men in public immodest. The friction between orthodox and secular Jews has come to a clash the last two weeks with secular women told to sit in the "back of the bus" in routes mostly serving orthodox neighborhood (with Israelis exaggerating once again and comparing one rider to Rosa Parks in the American civil rights struggle.) Until last week, when orthodox men put up a sign for women to go to the "other side of the street" in Beit Shemesh, a mixed orthodox and secular town just outside Jerusalem (see also a description on the Wikipedia page) spirits were relatively calm. The protest with Holocaust refugees dressed children changed all that.

The secular extreme see orthodox Jews gaining power and taking on "Taliban" like values. The idea of separating women, having them covered up and dressed in conservative manner and complete separation of men and women in public is as humiliating as the orthodox feel about women in revealing dress. Yet for most Israelis this is not a common view. The number of orthodox Jews who call for extreme separation of women is very small. Most of the orthodox population lives a modern and integrated life with everyone in the community. The areas where orthodox communities separate themselves from others are small and for the most part are not in any way forcing their behavior on others. The friction between opposing value holders keeps escalating, but it is a small part of the population which cares to be part of this. The call for "anti Taliban" laws disallowing women to be separated in public, like buses and trains, is not a concern of most Israelis. So don't let the international news outlets stir you spirits to blog and tweet for one side or the other. We got bigger worries like cost of energy when the Egyptians stop supplying gas and where is the water going to come for greener cities. Thanks for reading, keep up with the news in Israel and tell your friends to comment (here and everywhere else.)

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