Tag Archives: Jerusalem

Brothers and sisters, stop yer wailing!

Tomorrow marks 50 days since young Ethiopians set up a protest tent at the top of my street.

I walk Stuey and Dexxy past the tent – situated outside the Prime Minister’s Residence, on the same spot that the Shalit tent stood for three and a half years – with its “Stop Racism” and “Apartheid 2012” signs, most mornings. And, if you ask me, there are just some people you can never please.

Admitted, Israel’s 120,000 Ethiopians suffer institutional racism and discrimination, and enormous economic, employment-related and educational hardship – unemployment is over double that in the Jewish population as a whole, nearly three-quarters of Ethiopian families live below the poverty line, and their children are forced to attend separate kindergartens and schools but, hello-o, would Ethiopians prefer to still be living in Africa, with its famines, droughts, human rights abuses and civil wars, rather than in Israel, with Big Brother and The Voice?!

Many passers-by clearly also have difficulty understanding what it is exactly that that the tent-dwellers want . . .

“My parents and their 17 children walked here from Morocco in 1955,” one woman told me. “We lived on leaves and grass,” she continued, “but we didn’t complain.”

And an elderly gentleman, born in Yemen, said: “We are also black . . . I mean, lighter than them, but still black. And it wasn’t easy with those bastard Ashkenazim, I can tell you! But we succeeded. And we did it through hard work, not charity.”

And, while we are on the subject, my aliyah wasn’t easy either. I had to share the ulpan/absorption centre with at least two dozen French, and – with the exception of the half-wit who walked around screaming “You fuck my wife?” (the only sentence that he knew, having apparently spent all of his high school leçons d’anglais memorising the script of Raging Bull) – the swines refused to speak a word of English.

And not all the new olim came with cash in the bank. Indeed, one of the Russian lasses was even said to have run a knocking shop from her bedroom (tragically, I only tend to discover such things when it is too late).

So, Ethiopian brothers and sisters, in the prophetic words of (your) Bob, you’ve gotta be “iron like a lion in Zion”: see your Israeli cup as half full . . . and stop yer wailing!

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Spitters and splitters: what have the charedim ever done for us?

Everyone’s been talking charedim here, this past week, after ultra-Orthodox Jews spat on a 7-year old girl as she walked home from school in Bet Shemesh (The Independent). And I am not going to hide behind the journo’s favoured “allegedly” because, even if this child has been telling tales, such incidents have been regular occurrences in the city – 15 miles west of Jerusalem, and with a large, modern Orthodox, Anglo expat community – over recent years.

And, the thing is, I just don’t buy the spurious, disingenuous even, “It’s not all of them” defence employed usually by more moderate, but still observant, Jews – for whom such extremism perhaps poses uncomfortable questions – as a smoke screen to conceal the fact that it is most of them. While having little time for the arrogance of so many of Israel’s chilonim (see Doss vs. Chiloni, Parts I and II), I couldn’t help but ask myself this past week: What have the charedim (unlike the Romans) ever done for us? (Suggestions by comment, please, below.)

As a (peculiar perhaps) child, I owned more black-hatted, long-bearded and sidelocked figures – collected on frequent family holidays to Israel – than Action Men. In fact, I was enchanted by chassidim, and – attending Orthodox schools, and possessing a precocious fascination with the “Old Country” (as well as grandparents who would relay the more juicy details, unfit for a child’s ears, in Yiddish) – they seemed the closest link to my matrilineal Galician forebears (to whom I was more drawn than the rather more clinical Litvak misnagdim on my father’s side).

Easily the most memorable aspect of our fourth year Hasmo Israel Trip (see fifth bullet point here) was the Friday night tishen in Mea Shearim and Bnei Brak, at which I had been mesmerized by the spectacle of thousands of chassidim gathered around the table of their Rebbe. And immediately upon making aliyah, I trained as a tour guide at Yad Vashem (Holocaust Memorial Museum), largely because – as well as allowing me to look the Teuton in the eye as I presented him with a less palatable account of his recent history than that fed him by Germany’s postwar educational system – it enabled me to really ‘touch’ this past. And, in 2000, I visited the south-eastern Polish city of Ropczyce, and its satellite towns of Radomyśl Wielki and Sędziszów Małopolski, which at least some of the Reiss Dzikówer chassidim had the vision and/or good fortune to abandon in time.

To you, too, mate!

Something, however, has changed in me – perhaps I have lived here for too long – because I just don’t see charedim in the same light anymore: I no longer see warm, charismatic, spiritual guardians of our wonderful religion. What I do see are ridiculously anachronistic, lazy, chutzpadik, and in many cases (as in Bet Shemesh) violent, spongers and parasites, who threaten our democratic, tolerant values differently, but no less meaningfully, than our Islamofascist cousins in Gaza, Lebanon and Iran (see The Good, the Sad and the Ugly).

Following a Friday night dinner, last year, at my cousin’s home in the ‘normal’, Anglo part of Bet Shemesh, we took a late night wander up the hill into the charedi area on the other side of the valley. Stuey and Dexxy were on their leashes, and I didn’t let them get close to any of the ‘penguins’ whom we passed on the road. But the intimidation to which we were subjected – one particular nutter following us and muttering “noshim ve’yelodim” (women and children) as if he had never seen a dog – made us beat a hasty retreat. And how I resented that: these leeches, the overwhelming majority of whom, neither paying taxes (can someone please explain why they are allowed to vote) nor serving in the army, contribute nothing to this country, telling us – like the skinheads and “yobs” of our boyhood in England – on which of its streets we could and could not walk.

One lad who'll never have a problem with indecent girls

Sikrikim, a splinter group of Neturei Karta – the scum whose distinguished roll of honour includes kissing up to the little brown Hitler in Tehran (can any Jew ever have witnessed anything as sickening as this?) – are believed to be behind recent events in Bet Shemesh (see the darlings in action here). But they, to my mind, are just the worst of a generally bad lot. Charedi discrimination against women (it goes without saying that they are also viciously homophobic) – closing roads to them, forcing them to the back of buses, and even defacing female faces on advertising hoardings – has become commonplace in Jerusalem. And why would a secular Israeli choose to visit his capital on Saturdays when ultra-Orthodox pressure has succeeded in virtually closing it down (it is well-nigh impossible to even grab a cup of coffee in most areas of the city)?

Chassidic sects are also, on the whole, extremely exclusive – with the notable exception of Chabad Lubavitch (one of the main reasons that it is viewed so suspiciously by the others) – with frequent outbreaks of violence between them (the most recent just a month ago). While the rest of us may joke about our tendency to factionalism – “splitters!” – we also cherish our common brotherhood. Seemingly not so, however, charedim. A chassid of the Gerrer sect (considered amongst the more moderate), living in Tel Aviv, informed me that he considers secular Israelis “goyim”. And after helping constitute his struggling minyan – even dragging in reluctant “goyim” from the street – during my year of kaddish for my father, I was only once invited to any of their homes . . . and then only on the morning of Pesach for that evening’s seder (sure enough, though, at the end of the 12 months, I was asked for a donation!)

Ayatollah Ovadia

I exclude the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox from much of the above, though their Shas party is a toxic mix of religion, political patronage and social welfare, led by a small-minded twerp, and formerly by corrupt demagogues such as Shlomo Benizri (in jail) and Aryeh Deri (out of jail), all backed by a loose-tongued, rabble-rousing lunatic posing as a spiritual leader (should be in jail). Hamas without the virgins, if you ask me.

If charedim wish to live in the past, rather than in a modern, democratic Jewish state, I suggest that we ship them – or, at the very least, those amongst them who refuse to abide by the law of the land (and I would make all of them pay taxes and serve in the IDF) – back to eastern Europe. Let them see how their shenanigans are tolerated there.

One thing is for sure, though: we would be better off without them.

Happy (Goyishe) New Year!

Meidlech Power: Women protest against discrimination in Jerusalem, last week

Walk on by: Tea and cake with Noam Shalit

Strolling up Jerusalem’s Rechov Aza (Gaza Street) with Stuey and Dexxy last Wednesday teatime, I passed a tent which (from news coverage) I immediately recognised  to be that set up by the family of Gilad Shalit.

Expecting only to find a handful of hard core activists inside – perhaps students and/or OAPs with too much time on their hands – I was amazed to see a seated Noam Shalit, the father of the kidnapped Israeli soldier.

I was taken aback. And seeing Mr. Shalit in the flesh for the first time brought home to me – in a way that none of the “Free Gilad” campaigns could or, indeed, have (see Why Gilad must not be freed “at any price”) – the desperation of a parent to be reunited with his child.

I continued walking past the banners unfurled across the perimeter walls of the Prime Minister’s official residence (outside which the protest tent was set up in March 2009) – including one showing that the 24-year old had been in captivity for a staggering 1,641 days (he was captured on June 25, 2006) – but wondered whether it would be more menschdik to pop in and pay my respects. After all, doing nothing is easy; and this was the very least I could do.

Noam Shalit at the offending table

So, having made an about turn, I nervously entered the tent and, finding myself face to face with Mr. Shalit, reverted – as I always do under the slightest pressure (though usually under rather different circumstances, chatting up totty on Rothschild) – to my mother tongue, babbling some incoherent platitudes at him. (I have always been crap at the shiva visit. And while this is not a shiva house, it very much has the feel of one.)

Mr. Shalit looked up at me with the tired expression of the mourner. And his English was much poorer than I would have imagined, after years of interviews by the foreign press.

“Are you here a lot?” I enquired of him, enunciating each word as if for the hearing impaired.

“I live here,” came the terse reply.

“Oh,” I said. Derrr. I had missed that nugget.

“Anyway,” I continued, desperate suddenly for the exit, “I just wanted to say that I hope Gilad gets released soon.”

But before Mr. Shalit had finished mumbling a cursory “Thank you,” Dexxy was up on the visitors table, swiping a large, particularly inviting-looking slice of chocolate cake off it.

My host looked even less pleased than usual.

“Err, sorry, Mr. Shalit,” I muttered, reverting to naughty Hasmo boy mode, all the while trying – and failing – to wrest the cake from Dexxy’s jaws.

And then I was out of there.

Even with the best of intentions, it is sometimes wisest just to keep on walking.

As though chocolate cake wouldn't melt in her mouth

If I were a Jewish man: the Arab fiddler on the roof

The rape (by deception) conviction, last month, of an East Jerusalem Arab who posed as a love-seeking Jewish bachelor in order to get into the knickers of an Israeli Jewess prompted me to recall some of the more spurious yarns I have spun, over the years, to get my wicked way.

One summer, for instance, on a road trip across the US (during our break from Manchester University), I scored – with a Smiths-obsessed frat girl – with the whopper that Morrissey was our next door neighbour (a claim to fame which left her with no choice).   

In fact, the absolute ludicrousness of both the recent conviction and the 18-month prison term (appealed) handed down to Sabbar Kashur – a married, 30-year old, father-of-two who introduced himself to the complainant as “Dudu”, an Israeli nickname – caused me to do the unprecedented (forbidden?) and concur with Haaretz’s Gideon Levy: see He impersonated a human.   

“If she hadn’t thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship,” ruled Jerusalem District Court Judge Zvi Segal, “she would not have cooperated.” 

After approaching Kashur as he exited a grocery store in the capital, that fateful midday in September 2008, the “serious romantic” Israeli – in her late twenties – clearly did not need an awful lot of persuading to accompany “Dudu” for a quickie on a nearby roof (it is not only the Tel Avivit, it would seem, who possesses the Subtle Art of Seduction).   

Sabbar “Dudu” Kashur in his East Jerusalem home

And Kashur maintains that he “didn’t pretend” anything. “I said my name is Dudu because that’s how everybody knows me. My wife even calls me that.” (The penny perhaps dropped for our nice, naive yiddishe girl with Kashur’s cry, at the height of passion, of “Allahu akbar!” Okay, I made that bit up.)

The court then heard that Kashur – who has been under house arrest ever since – departed the scene without waiting for his Jewish princess to get dressed. 

But what exactly was he expected to do? To hold her for a few minutes and, looking into her eyes, tell her that she was his best first-date bunk up since his morning coffee break? 

“The court is obliged,” continued Judge Segal, “to protect the public interest from sophisticated, smooth-tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price – the sanctity of their bodies and souls.”   

While Kashur’s oral physiology and abilities are not matters about which I care to speculate, I suspect that his ‘victim’ may not have been quite as chaste as Judge Segal would have us believe. “Sanctity of bodies and souls,” indeed!   

“When the very basis of trust between human beings drops, especially when the matters at hand are so intimate, sensitive and fateful, the court is required to stand firmly at the side of the victims,” concluded Judge Segal, “otherwise, they will be used, manipulated and misled.”   

“Intimate” and “sensitive”?! Shagging a complete stranger on a roof?! 

No. The only thing that “drop[ped]” in this case was a pair of loose-fitting knickers (if, indeed, there were any to begin with). And, regarding our nice, virtuous Jewish meydl, the words that spring to mind are “gagging for it”.   

One thing is for sure: If an Israeli male had nailed an Arab woman by telling her that he was a Muslim, there would have been no case to answer (except, of course, with her brothers). Indeed, this whole sorry affair is an uncomfortable reminder of certain 1935 racial purity laws. And just when one thought it impossible for Israel’s world image to sink any lower.   

Anyway, if you happen to be reading this, you poor innocent thing: I really am a Jewish bachelor . . . and like nothing more than a bit of “serious” rooftop “romance”. 

http://www.justgiving.com/melchettmike

Orthodox to Reform: Losing my neshama?

I attended a bar mitzvah in Jerusalem on Saturday. At Kol HaNeshama, the Reform synagogue in Baka where I used to pray – or, more accurately, join in the singsong and close my eyes and pretend to meditate while other congregants were meditating (or pretending to) – after making Aliyah, 14 years ago.

And it really was very pleasant.

The “bible” Bible for Reform Jews is apparently W. Gunther Plaut’s The Torah: A Modern Commentary (right). And its preface, describing the Torah’s origins, certainly made a lot more sense to me on Saturday morning than any account I ever heard during my Orthodox upbringing, either in Britain’s United Synagogue or (even more certainly) at Hasmonean Grammar School for Boys.

Plaut asserts, I think (an attractive congregant was interfering with my concentration), that while the Torah is neither the word of God nor written by Moses – it is a continuing source of amazement to me that so many, otherwise normal, friends and acquaintances actually believes that it is – its several authors chronicle the Jewish peoples’ perceptions of and relationship with (their notion of) the Deity.

Progressive synagogues – or temples, as they often seem to be called – possess an air of serenity, goodwill and even universal love that, if not entirely absent from their Orthodox equivalents, is far less apparent. The difference in atmosphere is best summed up by the split-screen dinner scene in Annie Hall, in which Alvy Singer juxtaposes the decorum at the Halls’ table with the noisy vulgarity at his family’s (though I do not employ the analogy to suggest either that Progressive Jews are more akin to WASPs . . . or that Orthodox Jews are coarse!)

On Shabbes mornings at Raleigh Close (Hendon United Synagogue) – where congregants would continually approach my grandfather, considered something of a “stag”, for tips on new share issues – I would learn more about the stock market than Torah. And the backbiting and intrigue for which Orthodox shuls are renowned was one of the primary factors in the continual refusal of my father, a constitutional anti-macher (big shot), to accept nominations for its board of management.

Progressive synagogues, on the other hand, have always felt to me fundamentally un-heimish (homely and warm) and – in spite of all the meditating and happy-clappyness – seem to suffer from a deficiency of true neshama (soul). In fact, they cause me to feel a sense of alienation similar to that experienced by Alvy at Annie’s parents.

Indeed, for those of us who are “FFB” – Frum (Orthodox), or in my case frumish, From Birth – the transition from Orthodox to Reform may be fraught with difficulty and discomfort. So, whilst I am far more ideologically aligned with Progressive forms of Judaism these days – even experiencing a sense of dissonance in Orthodox shuls – I have found the conversion process to be far from straightforward.

Whilst I haven’t yet concluded whether being able to hug one’s partner or massage his or her back as they recite kaddish (the memorial prayer) – which Progressive synagogues’ mixed seating enables – is beautiful or unnecessary (I am veering towards the former), I am now entirely used to increased female participation in services (which even some Orthodox shuls are now fostering).

But, on Saturday morning, there was the odd appearance of a mobile telephone (perhaps Hashem now accepts text messages), and – just when I had thought that that was as inappropriate as it could get – the woman in front of me pulled out a pen and paper, and started scribbling away frantically (perhaps the winning Lotto numbers had come to her during her meditations).

Whilst a Kol HaNeshama regular later assured me that such behaviour could only have come from a visitor, the same cannot be said of the female congregants who had donned a tallis (prayer shawl) and/or – what, for some strange reason, winds me up more than anything else in Progressive synagogues – a kippa (skullcap). In fact, the latter appears no less alien to me on a female head than a strap-on protuberance does – or rather would (“I have never seen one, Your Honour”) – between her legs.

But who am I, a self-declared and unabashed apikores (heretic), to judge any of my coreligionists? Especially since, at the same time on your average Saturday morning, I can usually be found on Rothschild Boulevard doing nothing more spiritual than indulgently licking the foam off my hafuch (latte).

What it boils down to, I guess, is that while you can take the dat’lash (acronym for dati le’she’avar, formerly religious person) out of Hendon, Menorah and Hasmo (and notionally Gush), it is far more difficult – perhaps impossible – to take the Hendon, Menorah and Hasmo out of the dat’lash (for a recent, interesting article on the dat’lash, see The ties that continue to bind).

And, to all readers of melchett mike – whatever you practise or believe . . . or not – a happy, healthy, and healthily irreverent 2010!

Doss vs. Chiloni: Two Sides of the Same Shekel

“Too many dossim.”

This is the almost universal response I have received from Tel Avivim these past weeks, when I have informed them that I am considering a move to the country’s capital (though many of them probably do not even consider Jerusalem as such).

Dossim (singular doss) is Hebrew slang for the ultra-Orthodox or charedim (though it can also be used, usually less pejoratively, in relation to modern Orthodox dati’im le’umi’im).

Its dearth of dossim aside, Tel Aviv has more to offer than Jerusalem in nearly every department: arts and entertainment, food and drink, nightlife, shopping, sport. It also has the sea. Jerusalem has the Old City (though so does Jaffa), Israel Museum and Yad Vashem.

Tel Aviv nightclub

But the other thing that Tel Aviv has a lot more of than Jerusalem is poza (pose) and bullshit. Big bullshit. And I need a break from this city. And fast.

The faces on the shdera (Rothschild Boulevard) that I not so long ago greeted with warmth now elicit little more than a perfunctory smile. And, as for the regulars at the kiosk who insist on sharing their views on nearly everything – but invariably worth nothing – with anyone sufficiently unoccupied (and kind) to listen, I can hardly bring myself to look at them. Like the Israeli football pundit, each one “talks a great game” in his or her respective field or area of knowledge – real or, more often, imagined – but you can list their collective achievements on the back of a Tel Avivit’s thong.

And I find the Tel Avivi‘s “Too many dossim” verdict more than mildly offensive, sounding, as it does, rather too much like “Too many Jews”. Anyway, it is as ridiculous a generalisation as claiming that Tel Aviv is full of godless chilonim (seculars) who fornicate with strangers in nightclub toilets (most of the Tel Avivim I know would never dream of such a thing, having sufficient respect for their womenfolk to use the back alley).

Whilst I could never be referred to as a doss, my fairly typical Anglo-Jewish upbringing means that neither will I ever be labelled chiloni. And I am very pleased about that. Your average proud chiloni usually possesses a code of values not far above that of the politician or, still worse, real estate agent. And I certainly don’t see anything so wonderful in the chiloni Tel Aviv lifestyle that gives its practitioners the right to look down their noses at their compatriots forty-five minutes down Road Number 1.

Charedi riots, Jerusalem (June 2009)Israel’s charedim, too, are far from perfect. One would like to say that they don’t tell others how to lead their lives, and that they don’t “throw stones”. But, of course, they do both (the latter literally). On the whole, they set a pitiable example, providing ample ammunition to detractors who didn’t require much to start with. (See my earlier post, The Good, the Sad and the Ugly.)

It is quite clear that the overwhelming majority of Israel’s Jews fit into the category of either doss (in the widest sense) or chiloni. Those occupying the sparsely-populated centre ground are, primarily, from traditional (though not Orthodox) Sephardic (North African) families, but extremely few Ashkenazim (Jews of European origin).

Jewish practice in the Diaspora, on the other hand, being far less polarised, works a great deal better. I don’t believe I ever heard an English Jew describe Golders Green, or even Stamford Hill, as containing “Too many frummers” (the Yiddish equivalent of dossim). Anglo Jews display a solidarity – even if out of necessity – that is sadly lacking in Israel, where chiloni and charedi are in a continuous, and perhaps inevitable, scrap over the size of their respective slice of Israel’s political, social and economic cake.

Growing up in London’s United Synagogue, we would often joke about the co-religionist who would come to shul on a Shabbes morning, and then go and watch Arsenal or Spurs (his football team) on the very same Saturday afternoon. And favourite players would often even be guests of honour at bar mitzvah parties!

Such a halfway house would be virtually incomprehensible to doss and chiloni Israelis (though for opposing reasons), for whom its enabling factors and conditions – mutual religious tolerance and respect – is, tragically, as much of a pipe dream as peace with our Arab neighbours.

The Good, the Sad and the Ugly

There have been two stories dominating the news in Israel this past week. While the first demonstrates everything that is good about today’s Jewish State, the second shows it at its most ugly.

18th MaccabiahAnd the good story does not relate to the start of the eighteenth Maccabiah Games. I can’t get too excited about a “Jewish Olympics” . . . which, for me, is about as interesting as an Islamic beer, or Christian Klezmer music, festival.

Indeed, to call the Maccabiah amateurish would be unkind to much non-professional sport. In the men’s 100 metres final (stumbled across whilst channel-hopping), all the sprinters were in their blocks and the starter’s gun raised . . . when this guy appears out of nowhere, unchanged and remonstrating. Not having the heart to send him, un-run, back to Canada (I think that’s where the nincompoop was from), the sprinters were made to get out of their blocks and wait while he changed in front of a ‘live’ national TV audience. The commentator’s observation, that “something like this would never happen at the real Olympics” (in fact, it was pure Hasmonean Sports Day), was more than a little redundant.

Like the role of British polytechnics (now renamed “universities” . . . though everyone knows what you really are) – to enable those who can’t get into a ‘proper’ university to obtain a (worthless) “-ology” – the primary purpose of the Maccabiah is to allow yiddishe mamas whose children could not become doctors, lawyers or accountants, but who had a little sporting ability (a lot for a Jew), to kvell (gush) about something:

“Have you heard?! Darren’s been chosen to represent Great Britain in kalooki!!”

What Mrs. Shepnaches omits to mention is that: kalooki is a card game, Darren is only 37 – and should still be participating in active sports (like lawn bowls) – and he is only going to be representing Great Britain’s 280,000 Hebrews (less than half a percent of its total population).

The Maccabiah is all a bit sad, and perhaps the time has come to question its relevance and its future.

No, the stories that I am referring to are the victory of Israel’s men’s Davis Cup tennis team over the world number ones, Russia, last weekend, and the charedi (ultra-Orthodox) riots in Jerusalem these past few days.

Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich celebrate victory over RussiaFor a sporting “minnow” like Israel – which, less than four years ago, was on the brink of virtual disappearance from the international tennis map – to beat the mighty Russia 4-1 and reach the Davis Cup semi-final (in Spain, in September) is little short of sensational. Indeed, alongside Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team’s five European Cups, it must go down as one of Israel’s greatest sporting achievements (and further poetic justice following Sweden’s spineless capitulation to Islamofascists in the previous round).

More importantly, however, and as opined by David Horovitz in his weekend Jerusalem Post Editor’s Notes (aptly subtitled “Wonderful things can happen when everybody pulls in the same direction”), it demonstrated how – as we have seen in so many of Israel’s “against all odds” military victories – a spirit of unity and solidarity can enable this miraculous little country to far out-punch its weight.

The riots in Jerusalem, conversely, illuminate the ugly side of Israeli Jewish society and a chasm of as much concern, if not more, than that between Jew and Arab. And it is one which serves to further weaken the country in the eyes of its many, queuing, detractors (see, too, Horovitz’s weekend editorial). Thousands of charedim went on the rampage after a woman belonging to a radical anti-Zionist hassidic sect, and believed to be suffering from mental illness, was arrested on suspicion that she had almost starved her three-year old son to death. Tens of police officers were injured in the clashes, with over half a million shekels worth of damage caused to municipal property. The rioters’ leaders remained silent.

Haredi protesters confront policeThese anti-Zionists do not recognise the sovereignty or legitimacy of the secular State of Israel, and – like other, merely non-Zionist, charedim (for a brief background on charedim and Zionism, click here) – pay relatively little or no tax (the vast majority don’t work), and (with a negligible number of exceptions) do not serve in the military. If I were the parent of an IDF combat soldier, I would want to know why my son has to risk – or had to sacrifice – his young life, when charedi boys of the same age get away with sitting in yeshivot (Talmudic seminaries) all day?

And please don’t insult us with the disingenuous nonsense that learning and praying have been as much a part of Israel’s great military victories as the heroism and selflessness of its young soldiers. I had to suffer more than enough of that from the feebleminded Jewish studies ‘teachers’ of my childhood and youth. We saw how much good prayer did us in Auschwitz and Treblinka. In fact, if charedim had (perish the thought) been leading this country at any one of  its many times of existential crisis, we would all now be fish food somewhere at the bottom of the Mediterranean.

I don’t hate charedim. I am from charedi stock, and most ‘connected’ to my Galician and Lithuanian roots. Indeed, should I ever be viewed as truly chiloni – secular, in the rather extreme Israeli definition of the word – I might consider it time to head back to the Diaspora.

I am, however, convinced that charedim have rather lost the plot in modern day Israel. The hassidic choice of clothing, especially, which had some rationale in Eastern Europe, is positive madness in a country with an average summer high (even in Jerusalem) pushing 30°C. No wonder Stuey and Dexxy bark when they walk past! Even the most sacred and entrenched of Jewish traditions – and the wearing of such garb could never be classed as that – have been adapted to the relevant environment and other circumstances.

There are communities of Ger and Belz hassidim living in in a spirit of peaceful coexistence in my Sheinkin area of Tel Aviv, considered the ultimate symbol of modern, chiloni Israel. I was shocked, however, to be told recently by one of their number that that he doesn’t consider chilonim to be Jews.

Devils' embraceAnyway, my suggestion to all of those charedim who don’t like it here in Israel, do not recognise and respect the country’s laws, and/or who oppose the very basis of the State – like the Neturei Karta filth who demonstrate against Israel alongside the most hateful of anti-Semites, attend Holocaust-denial conferences in Tehran (right), and who, on Thursday, paid a visit to Hamas in Gaza – is that they return to live in the shtetls (small towns) of Poland and Eastern Europe. Perhaps life will be better for them there, where they will be more or less self-governing and left to their own devices.

Charedim such as these, living in Israel, are no better than parasites. And to add chutzpah to injury, whilst considering themselves not subject to the law, they – again, like all charedim (about 8% of Israel’s citizens) – try to influence how the rest of us lead our lives.

They can’t, however, have it both ways. If they expect to enjoy the fruits of Israeli citizenship, they must obey and fulfil the same rules and obligations as the rest of us. If they are unwilling to, I am certain that the Poles, etc, will welcome them back with open arms (or, at least, blades).

Sometimes, I think that they deserve each other.