New Yids on the Ramat Hasharon Block

I have real issues with all things Ramat Hasharon: I don’t care for the place, much less its residents.

My contrariness (admitted throughout melchett mike), however, is rarely totally lacking in reason or cause, and this small city – situated between the swanky suburbs of north Tel Aviv and Herzliya – is a sterile, soulless, not especially attractive, haven for largely rich, chiloni (secular) and “white” Israelis.

And whenever I learn that a potential date grew up in Ramat Hasharon, the negative stereotype (though one reinforced by experience) that springs to mind – of a stuck-up, high maintenance Ashkenaziya – always preempts any thoughts of a loaded father-in-law (unless, of course, his daughter is a “9”). Indeed, give me a Rosh Ha’ayin Yemenitess over a Ramat Hasharon heiress, any day!

Just to be certain that I am not being unduly harsh here, I asked an Israeli friend, Yuval, for his general impression of the women he has encountered from Ramat Hasharon. “Af kashur le’tachat shel Elohim” – nose attached to God’s ass (the Modern Hebrew equivalent, apparently, of nose in the air) – came the immediate reply.

Shkoyach!” was, therefore, my instinctive response on reading the following by-line to an article, New kids on the block, in Sunday’s Haaretz:

“An ultra-Orthodox, right-wing yeshiva set up on the grounds of an old synagogue in Ramat Hasharon is prompting protests from the neighborhood’s well-heeled residents.”

Now it is not like me to celebrate the establishment of “an ultra-Orthodox, right-wing yeshiva” – I am far from “ultra-Orthodox,” and JDate has my “Political Orientation” as “Midway Moderate” (a claim I justify by the roughly equal number of people who consider me left- or right-wing, respectively) – though when that yeshiva is in Ramat Hasharon . . .

The synagogue in question is behind the home of Avi Adler and Sigal Barak, who are clearly determined to prove what a decent, liberal, “mainstream” (their word) couple they really are: “We’ve never had any problem with it. They have celebrations there, and there’s some praying on Saturdays and Yom Kippur. It didn’t bother us.”

How tolerant of them not to object to prayers . . . especially on Yom Kippur, when the comings and goings of worshippers might interfere with cyclists.

But then, three years ago, Sigal says – sounding every bit the English bigot who has discovered that, horror of all horrors, Asians are  moving in next door – “Different sort of people showed up at the synagogue, people who looked different and weren’t typical of the neighborhood . . . We’re not used to having people like this here on a daily basis.”

Ooh no! Different sort of people? And who look different?! Ooh no! You don’t want that.

After they complained to the Mayor of Ramat Hasharon, the director of the yeshiva – who, according to Sigal, “had this sort of permanent smile on his face” (apparently a crime in Ramat Hasharon) – tried to talk to them, even offering to pay for double-glazing for their home. But to no avail: the couple have now issued court proceedings (in progress) to shut the yeshiva down.

I guess that Avi and Sigal are not too dissimilar from the self-hating Hampstead Garden Suburb ‘Jews’ who launched a dishonest, hateful media campaign against the North-West London Eruv in the early nineties, spreading fear that it would create a “ghetto” (“changing the neighborhood’s character” is the preferred language in Ramat Hasharon) rather than just admitting that they didn’t want black-hatted frummers as neighbours (would they have demonstrated the same steadfast opposition against a new church?)

An old Hasmo friend and I were so repulsed by one particularly virulent and vocal opponent of the Eruv that we masterminded (though, sadly, never executed) a campaign of stuffing greasy, used Bloom’s paper bags – the most heimishe symbol we could come up with – through his letter box!

Last week, I had coffee with a journalist friend in Jerusalem. On asking him whether he thought Israel would still be here in fifty years’ time (the subject of a forthcoming post on melchett mike), Matthew replied that prevalent attitudes amongst chiloni Israelis – increasingly large numbers of whom now get out of serving in the IDF (remarkably, just two of the 120 fatalities in the 2006 Lebanon War came from Tel Aviv) – really make him wonder.

Kikar Hamedina: Designer shopping to die for

And it is difficult to be more optimistic: after all, what exactly would such chilonim be fighting for? Their Saturday morning brunch in Tel Aviv Port? The exclusive shopping in Kikar Hamedina? Or, perhaps, their courtside seats at Maccabi Tel Aviv (basketball, of course . . . far too many “darkies” go to the football)?

The recent recommendation by Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, meanwhile, that Israeli school children visit Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs – the burial site of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (and of their missuses) – was greeted with volleys of derision by Haaretz (with this notable exception) and other left-wing commentators.

Indeed, the only thing such folk – and their tzfoni (good-time, north Tel Aviv area) patrons in Ramat Hasharon and Ramat Aviv (see earlier post) – appear to believe in is antipathy towards Settlers, the right, and all things Jewish.

Who then, exactly, is the “extremist”?

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16 responses to “New Yids on the Ramat Hasharon Block

  1. Been saying this for years – the real extremists always come from the left and are usually chiloni.

    Happy Purim.

  2. I’ve covered the Eruv story all over America and the people opposing the eruv’s are *right*: a ghetto is created, the people who move in there create their own systems and usually end up ruining the public schools and have no interest in contributing to the rest of the area. Then the Jews scream “anti-semitism” or in your case “anti-religious,” but let’s be honest: having a yeshiva in a neighborhood changes the quality of that neighborhood. And it’s NOT the same way that having black people move in.

  3. Sorry Amy, but was that last sentence of yours supposed to be in Jive so that we white folk wouldn’t understand your point?

  4. Excellent post, as always. I wish you wrote lengthier articles. And more often. But alas (as you like to say) I understand you are a busy guy so I’ll just take what you give us… Cheers from Canada, Mike

  5. Amy, I, too, covered the Eruv story (as a journalist in London), and my experience, from meeting its opponents – almost entirely Jewish – was that they were a bunch of malevolent, self-loathing so-and-sos. And I actually am “scream[ing] “anti-semitism”” (of sorts).

    How would the Ramat Hasharon yeshiva-goers “end up ruining the public schools”? They would/will, no doubt, set up their own.

    Everything new “changes the quality of [a] neighborhood.” How is a yeshiva different from the influx of an ethnic minority?

    Ramat Hasharon couldn’t be more of a “ghetto” than it already is. Difference , IMHO, is exactly what it needs.

  6. David Kornbluth

    Amy Klein you are clearly anti something. Can u provide any evidence for your bigoted hateful and lets face it racist/xenophobic rant.

    I can name countless neighborhoods which have only benefitted from an eruv or a yeshiva, Like…Hendon or Golders Green or Hampstead that only gained from the eruv. Or Yeshiva placement in areas like hampstead (for +20 years), Rechavia, or any where all over israel.

    What systems are created anywhere for the jews by the jews once they have an eruv – other than a system to check it and maintain it of course.

    Interesting that you talk about america where IMHO no one with a modicum of intelligence would say that religious jews don”t contribute to society.

    What a hate filled young lady you are if you need I can refer you to your local Right Wing Party’s homepage, or perhaps you would be more comfortable in Germany (of the nineteen thirties forties)!

  7. This is a very misguided article. I am Israeli and from an area near Ramat Hasharon. The Ultra-Orthodox families that you are oh-so-happy to see moving to Ramat Hasharon do not serve in the army, are apathetic towards Zionism, and hate you if you are reform/conservative.

    All of my “extremist chiloni” friends have served in the army and some have died to protect the rights of the ultra-orthodox who refuse to serve.

    You ask, What would Chilonim be fighting for? Is this serious? The intifada just a few years ago had suicide bombs going off in our neighborhoods–family members and friends died.

    This is a very offense article.

  8. Hi Idan,

    No “offense” intended (well, a little, perhaps!), but you are barking up the wrong tree . . .

    If you actually go to the link in my post and read the Haaretz article/see the photograph, you will understand that the Ramat Hasharon yeshiva folk are religious Zionists, not charedim (a term I was careful to avoid . . . though it is interesting that you appear to confuse the two).

    So, to write that they “do not serve in the army, are apathetic towards Zionism” is clearly wrong. Many of their number, too, have “died to protect the rights of” the citizens of this country. And they are not now, in huge numbers, dodging the army. But, still, people in Ramat Hasharon won’t even accept them in their neighbourhood. I am not religious or a Settler, but intolerance is intolerance (please read this earlier post, too, which is about charedim, in Ramat Aviv).

    My question, of “what exactly would such chilonim be fighting for?”, relates to my earlier one, to my friend, of whether “Israel [will] still be here in fifty years’ time.” My concern – seeing as it seems to need spelling out – is whether we can rely on chilonim to keep this country going in the long-term.

    You also ignore (conveniently?) the phenomenon of the large numbers of chilonim/Tel Avivim opting out of military service. Have I got that wrong, too?

    Shabbat shalom,

    Mike

  9. “Indeed, give me a Rosh Ha’ayin Yemenitess over a Ramat Hasharon heiress, any day!”

    Here! Here! I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Mike, for your next blog post you should write about the different stereotypes of Israelis seen through the eyes of other Israelis…

  10. Paul, that last bit of advice makes you something of a prophet! My WordPress Posts file contains 146 Published pieces and 1 Draft, on the “edot” (various Israeli ethnicities), which has been sitting there for well over a year now.

    As you may know, these things can be a little bit sensitive . . . 😉

  11. Mark Goldman

    Interesting article, but from the perspective of one with no preconceived ideas regarding the neighborhood of Ramat Hasharon or the people who live there (both sound really nice btw), the reaction of Avi and Segal is understandable.

    It wouldn’t occur to me to establish a GLBT center in the middle of Mea Sharim – that would be antagonistic, and a reaction would be guaranteed.

    While enjoying Shabbat with an orthodox community, I’d refrain from openly desecrating the laws which mean so much to those who adhere by those rules and regulations.

    Ramat Hasharon is clearly another defined ‘community’.

    Perhaps the community of Ramat Hasharon would rather not have their children exposed to the indignant gaze of the ultra orthodox as their children ride bikes on Shabbat or listen to music.

    Perhaps, its simply a case of not wanting a gathering behind their home three times a day for services.

    “Live & Let Live”, but also remember “When In Rome”.

  12. “It wouldn’t occur to me to establish a GLBT center in the middle of Mea Sharim – that would be antagonistic, and a reaction would be guaranteed.”

    It’d probably attract thousands of new members, Mark! I’m sure there’s “a lot of it about” . . . even (especially?) in places like Mea She’arim.

  13. This is great! (re the proposed Eruv in Westhampton Beach, Long Island) . . .

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-march-23-2011/the-thin-jew-line

    [Thanks to melchett mike‘s US correspondent, Amy Klein.]

  14. Ben Wulfsohn

    As usual, I am joining the discussion a little too late, but wanted to reprimand David Kornbluth for a mean-spirited response to Amy’s post. While I don’t fully agree with everything Amy said, she is not “hate filled,” and does not deserve references to Nazi-era Germany. David clearly went overboard here. And I must disagree with your assertion, Mike, that there is no danger to local public schools from religious communities moving in. It is in fact, because they “set up their own” schools, that the local public schools tend to collapse in on themselves due to lack of attendance from the local residents. This has happened in many communities in the New York boroughs, such as Lawrence, where my wife grew up. At that time, it boasted a mixed community, including a decent number of synagogues of various denominations. But then the black-hatters started to move in, and before long, the community was taken over. No secular Jew or gentile would ever want to live in Lawrence anymore. They would feel extremely unwelcome; they would have no where to shop locally on a Saturday, and no school to send their child to, as the local public school was forced to bus in students from the projects. Consequently, the school has gone from being a top performing academic institution, to something akin to Fort Knox, with metal detectors and extremely deficient academic standards.

    I personally believe that no community has the right to deny anyone from setting up shop based on color, creed, religious orientation etc. The community you describe, being religious Zionists, who serve in the army, and generally contribute to the state as a whole, should certainly not be excluded either. But that being said, I myself, would personally be alarmed if this same said Yeshiva/community wanted to set up their institution anywhere in the area I live in (Pelham, New York – a pleasant mixed community with a small, but vibrant Jewish population). Not because I don’t like them, or don’t believe they have the right to move in, but simply because the neighborhood I had committed to spending many years living in was in imminent danger of losing its character and becoming something completely alien to what it is and has been. It’s not that it would become a “bad” neighborhood, but that it would become a different neighborhood to what I bargained for when moving in. I have only lived in Pelham around a year. How much stronger would I feel if I had been there for most of my life? Let’s face it, Golders Green is much more like Stamford Hill than it was when we went to Hasmo, and Hendon has become much more like Golders Green circa 1980s.

  15. Adam Green

    I don’t know how many of you Melchetters out there are Matmid members, but those of us who are recently received an invitation to write a message on a online virtual Torah as an expression of Israeli/Jewish unity – or something like that…

    Anyhow, it got right up my apicorus nose, and pasted below is my response to EL AL (by the way, the reason Greenberg and Green are acquainted is that Green had previously expressed to Greenberg his lack of satisfaction regarding the miserly drinks regime on EL AL airliners).

    Incidental, we were out with Israeli colleagues of my wife’s last night in Tel Aviv and I let slip my current preoccupation with the “religiofication” of the State of Israel, which received the usual “but why don’t you move to Tel Aviv???” suggestion…It really makes me want to scream: this passive, lazy, cowardly acceptance of the secular ghettoisation of Tel Aviv. Don’t these people know that the only other countries in the world which have secular enclaves are places like Pakistan (Islamabad – ironically enough). Is that really what we want Israel to end up like?

    On another but related subject – great piece yesterday Mike about the “Palestinian Winter”.

    Dear Mr Greenberg,

    Firstly, my apologies for troubling you again.

    However, as a Jew, a supporter of the State of Israel and a Matmid member, I am puzzled by your current “Torah project”. It seems to presuppose that Jewish/Israeli unity can only be defined through religious symbolism.

    This is rather unfair to the likes of me – and a significant secular minority like me – that have no religious faith, or belief in religious symbols.

    I mean, can you imagine the outrage there would be in Great Britain, if British Airways came up with a similar idea as this, and proposed that Executive Club members could express their unity with their fellow Brits by writing a message on an online version of the King James Bible?

    Since I made Aliyah some 18 months ago, I’ve been astonished by the insidious infiltration of religion into all aspects of Israeli life, almost like a virus. This virtual Torah of yours is just another example; it promotes the concept that “being religious” or at least accepting the symbols of religion as a natural part of daily life in Israel is somehow the way things should and have to be. I don’t know how familiar you people at EL AL are with the philosophies and attitudes of the founding fathers of this amazing little country, but if you are, you will know, that this religious contamination of what was founded as a secular nation (where religious Jews could be free and unhindered in their personal worship) would have them turning in their collective graves.

    Rather than unifying the people of Israel, what you are contributing to, by online postings such as this, is the alienation of a sizeable (if sadly shrinking) chunk of Israeli/Jewish society.

    My guess is that whoever of you gets to read this will think that I’m wildly over-reacting to a well-intentioned, harmless expression (and marketing exercise). And, taken in isolation that would be a fair reaction, but unfortunately when put into the context of Israel’s seemingly unstoppable slippage into anti-secularism, and given the emblematic and iconic status EL AL enjoys both within Israel and in the Diaspora, this little exercise of yours marks a very disturbing development.

    If you were truly serious in your intention of devising a project for defining and strengthening a sense of Israeli/Jewish unity you could have put online a virtual copy of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, a document no patriotic, proud Israeli or Jew could take exception to (the Neturei Karta notwithstanding).

    If, like me, you don’t want to witness the State of Israel end up – at best — like a Jewish form of Turkey, or — at worst — a Jewish form of Iran in twenty years or so from now, you need to remember at EL AL that you are an Israeli “Jewish flavoured” secular Airline, not a Jewish “Israeli flavoured” religious Airline: Or, if that is what you have now become, and it is too late, than please let me know and I’ll take my business somewhere else, where the official sate religion of the country of the carrier does not impinge upon the carrier itself.

    Yours sincerely,

    Adam Green

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