Saturday, July 18, 2009
“Any attempt to intervene in their affairs, they see as an attack on their society”
The people behind these riots are extreme Ultra-Orthodox Jews, so they're really a very small minority. These people live in another world. Their customs are based on 18th century Eastern Europe. They speak Yiddish, not Hebrew. They live in Jerusalem for religious reasons but they don't believe in Israel - it's a secular state. They don't accept the law. Any attempt from the civil police to intervene in their affairs - like this one - they see as an attack on their society.
Communication between the Ultra-Orthodox and the police/ rest of the community is not good. We simply do not interact with them. They live in an isolated area. They don't go to secular schools or universities, they don't work. They refuse to serve in the army. We don't even speak the same language. We're like foreigners to them.
They suffer a high level of poverty. It's very normal to have 12 - 15 children per family and the husband is a full time scholar, studying in the Yeshiva [Talmudic educational institute] from 8am until 6pm. The wife has a baby per year after they're married at 18 and works full time at the Yeshiva doing administrative work. They live off state funding at what works out at around €800 per month. They have a strong faith that ‘God will provide'. It's a lifestyle that the vast majority of Israeli people just cannot understand.
It will die down - it always does. The mayor will threaten not to collect their rubbish or something, and they'll forget about it. The Ultra-Orthodox go through a period of rioting every few months. Something always sets them off - a gay event, a cinema opening on Fridays..."
Disenfranchised Minority Expresses Frustration
Ms. Goldman comments on a "very small minority", which is the traditional Tel Aviv view of the ultra-orthodox. However, their birthrate plus outreach drawing in others (to their religious ideals) has resulted in over 55% of grade school children in Jerusalem being from this "small minority".
Secular Israeli society's traditional approach to limiting opportunities and history of attempted cultural assimilation has resulted in this massively growing societal segment feeling completely disenfranchised from the system. None of the police facing off against them in these riots is wearing a yalmulkah, sidelocks or religious beard. Nor are the officials in the medical offices, social welfare offices, or city offices.
As such, when this community has a complaint or perceives a major bias, they have no one they trust with whom to speak on the other side. And when the system is taking even what may appear to be a valid action (to protect a seemingly abused child, for example - which is one of the issues in the current riots), those arriving from "the system" to take the action appear to be foreigners and are completely unaware of the sensitivities of the community which they are about to enter.
Because Tel Aviv believes these people to be backward (per Ms. Goldman's statement of "their customs are based on 18th century Eastern Europe"), they consider trampling the considerations of these backward peasants to be perfectly acceptable.
Unfortunately those 'backward peasants' are organizing instant coordinated community responses by cell phone and are growing sufficiently large as a segment of society that their concerns are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.
Oh, and Ms. Goldman, the vast majority do work, you'd be surprised at the number serving in the army, very few women anatomically are capable of having "a child per year" (even starting at 18 the average family size is 8 over a 27 year period of potential fertility) and state funding was reduced to NIS 2,000 over 8 years ago (that's ~$500 per month or ~Euro 363 per month). No family of 10 people is living off of that.
The fact that secular Tel Aviv society believes it can trample this societal segments concerns may very well lead to a US style "long hot summer", perhaps finally opening the eyes of liberal Tel Aviv that their liberalism somehow always ends at the rights and concerns of the Jewish Religious Israeli, and that the doors of accommodation must not only be opened for a gay couple in Tel Aviv but also a religious family in Jerusalem.