I much prefer covering the news to being part of it.
And yet part of it is exactly the position I found myself in a few days ago when I was in Jerusalem, sitting in a taxicab for two hours, not moving an inch while dozens of angry Ethiopians sat in the street blocking the cab and all other vehicles traveling on a major Jerusalem highway, while other Ethiopians surrounded the cab and angrily shouted at me, their faces contorted with rage.
I’ve always liked Ethiopian Jews, always felt they were a good influence in Israel with their gentle natures and soft spoken ways, gentle and soft spoken not being features one normally finds in your average Israeli.
They added a much needed sense of civility to the society. But I guess they’ve now been in Israel long enough to have turned into real Israelis. Which, I know it’s harsh to say and will enrage many of you, is not a good thing.
Let me begin by noting I love Israel, have indeed spent quite a bit of time there the last few years, first went to Israel in 1975 to spend a year volunteering on a kibbutz. But true love isn’t blind and doesn’t mean failing to notice the shortcomings in the object of your affection.
Among the so many things I despise about right wing Jews is that they believe that to be a real Zionist, you can never ever question anything Israel ever does. Unless, of course, the prime minister is one they don’t care for like Rabin, in which case it is okay to kill him. But in general, the attitude of right wing Jews, and too many American Jews, is that it’s Israel never wrong, and we are never to utter a negative word, even if to do so would be constructive.
One result of that is that Israeli politics are rotten to the core, corrupt beyond belief. Another is that Israeli culture is one that not only tolerates but teaches rudeness, aggressiveness, obnoxious behavior. The Ethiopians seem to have learned that lesson well.
I could write about the rudeness one encounters everywhere all the time in dealing with Israelis, but I have other things I need to get to and the fact is that most American Jews simply can’t understand, since if they visit Israel at all, it’s for a week or two every couple of years where they stay in a nice hotel and take tours with an Israeli guide who turns on the Israeli charm with the aim of getting a big tip at the end, so they think all Israelis are as polite as those who serve them in the hotel and as cute as those guides.
But though one store clerk once told me that rudeness is “our culture,” I was still shocked when I was confronted by those angry Ethiopians surrounding my cab, seeing them feeling totally justified to literally close Jerusalem down, not caring they were snarling traffic, inconveniencing thousands, not hesitating to scream and curse at random people like me just trying to get home.
They had a beef and that was all that mattered, the hell with everyone else, any means was justified, their concerns were paramount and they would protest in the most disruptive way possible to make their point.
I asked an Israeli who has lived in Jerusalem for 40 years why they did that, and he said “that’s how you get things done in this country, by making life so hellish for so many that you get what you want.”
The Ethiopians were so mad because a couple of days before a young Ethiopian was killed by a policeman. They immediately assumed it was on purpose, part of a pattern of how they are treated like garbage in Israel. And in that they have a point. Jews in this country and in the Jewish country can deny it all they want, but the simple hard truth is that most Jews, not all but most, look down on black people or ‘shvartzes’ as they are obscenely often referred to – even if those black people happen to Jewish. And so it’s understandable the Ethiopians saw the killing as just part of the discrimination they have suffered from since they first got to Israel.
But the bigger truth is that they simply didn’t trust the police because most Israelis don’t trust the police. Indeed, most Israelis don’t trust anyone, not the politicians or the government or big business. How sad it is that in the Jewish state where Jews are the politicians, Jews run the government, Jews are in control of the big businesses, that they are held in such low esteem, are seen as crooks, caring only about themselves and ripping off anyone and everyone.
And there is much truth in that. Israeli politics is corrupt beyond belief. We have recently had a former Israeli prime minister and a former Israeli president and a former Israeli chief rabbi doing jail time. The current prime minister’s wife has a criminal record. The current prime minster is almost sure to be indicted on fraud charges very soon. All kinds of members of the cabinet and the police and the army have been charged with or found guilty of all kinds of crimes from sexual abuse to financial shenanigans.
Israel is a country of monopolies where literally about 30 families control about half of the economy, thus prices are far higher than they should be and consumer protections are non- existent. Thus the very people the people should be looking up to, are prime examples of the self-dealing that pervades the society. And so it was only natural that when the Ethiopians heard a cop had shot one of their own they had every reason to be believe the cop did it intentionally.
Turns out he didn’t. The actual story, we learned shortly after those screaming, selfish Ethiopians blocked roads all over Israel, is that an off duty cop saw a couple of Ethiopians acting suspiciously. He identified himself as a cop and told them to stop. They responded by throwing stones at him. Fearing for his life, he fired a warning shot into the ground. Tragically, the bullet ricocheted off one of the stones and into the chest of one of the Ethiopians, killing him.
An accident. And yet instead of waiting for the results of the investigation, giving the authorities the benefit of the doubt, protesting in a constructive way that would get people on their side, the Ethiopians erupted in self-righteous anger, took to the streets to screw up traffic and make life miserable for thousands. They did what they felt like doing and to hell with whomever it hurt.
That is the Israeli way. It’s a tactic also employed by the charedim. When there’s talk of drafting young super Orthodox Jews into the army, as all other Israelis 18 years old, male and female, are, they take to the streets, setting garbage cans on fire, blocking the roads, screaming at people. I have never understood how they think that brings people to their side or how it increases respect for the Torah way of life.
Seems like the Ethiopians have been in Israel long enough now to think that the way to make a point is to disrupt as many lives as possible, to put your interests above those of all others, to think only what you care about matters, which to me is the exact opposite of how those blessed enough to live in the holy land should behave.
Okay, I got so much I wanted to cover and now I’m almost out of space. So I can only quickly note how interesting it is that Bibi was so desirous of killing the Iran deal that he convinced Trump to pull out of it, and is now getting exactly what he did not want. The Iran deal, all agreed, was being scrupulously observed by Iran, and its nuclear program was frozen. Now, thanks to Trump and Bibi, Iran says it is free to resume its program and so is getting closer to having a nuke.
Next. I have talked over and over about how many Jews have been shown to be perverts ever since Harvey Weinstein kicked off the #metoo movement. Since then, it’s been one Jewish name after another bringing dishonor upon us. And now all over the news we have Jeffrey Epstein, very Jewish name, who makes Weinstein look like a boy scout. Epstein has been charged with engaging in sex acts with young girls during naked massage sessions and paying them hundreds of dollars in cash. During a search of his fancy New York townhouse, investigators seized photographs of nude underage girls. And oh, one of the other fancy houses where he engaged in his disgusting behavior is one owned by his only client and very good friend, Leslie Wexner, a major Jewish philanthropist. And another big time Jew, Alan Dershowitz, has been said to have taken part in one of Epstein’s underage girl sex parties.
Epstein, Wexner, Dershowitz. More shanda for the Jews.
I’ll have to get to my other subjects next week. For now, just one more thought about the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who I wrote about last week on the 25th anniversary of his passing. I have found that his yahrzeit has emotionally affected me very much, bringing back the sadness I felt the day he died.
The reason I think is because of just how extraordinary he was and how much we don’t today have anyone like him. I told you about how he somehow knew I had stopped praying for years. In the yeshiva world, which unfortunately too much calls the tune in today’s Orthodox world, one of its super rabbis would have only cared about me doing that if I was in his yeshiva. And if I was, he would have either screamed at me or kicked me out.
The Rebbe, who never met me, but who cared about all Jews, didn’t scream at or shun me, but rather embraced me, helped me. You don’t see in that today’s yeshiva world. Their leading rabbis are afraid of the world and afraid of world knowledge. The Rebbe embraced the world, embraced knowledge. He attended the Sorbonne, for instance, met with scientists, authors, philosophers, scholars.
In today’s yeshiva world, they are afraid, contemptuous and dismissive of all Jews not exactly like them. The Rebbe embraced all Jews, no matter who they were. Indeed, the Rebbe taught his followers to embrace all humans. When there is a tornado or hurricane in a city anywhere in the world, the local Chabad rabbi is always first on the scene to provide aid and comfort.
In today’s yeshiva world, yes, they have all kinds of organizations to provide help for those in need — as long as those in need are exactly like them. They help only themselves. The Rebbe saw to it that there is a Chabad House everywhere in the world there is a Jew, for he uniquely loved and cared for all Jews.
I and the Jewish world miss him so much.
In a week when I was surrounded by screaming Ethiopians doing so much damage and so not caring for their fellow Jews, I even more missed the Lubavicher Rebbe, who helped all Jews, did all he could to make things better for all Jews.
With him in this world, there was someone showing us the authentic Jewish way. Now we have out of control Ethiopians showing us what today is increasingly the Jewish reality.