Is Ramat Aviv becoming ultra-Orthodox? It depends who you ask. The Tel Aviv neighborhood’s veteran inhabitants have recently taken notice of a few incidents causing them to fear for their secular lives.
One of the local movie theaters turned into a "kollel" (an institute for advanced studies of Talmud and rabbinic literature for Jewish men), a Histardrut (labor federation) clubhouse on Reading Street turned into a haredi kindergarten, and previously, a Jewish Agency building was transformed into a mikveh (ritual bath). Moreover, the Ramat Aviv mall is closed on Shabbat.
For all the abovementioned reasons, the suburb’s inhabitants turned to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai in a request to act on the subject.
The letter’s initiator, former Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Dan Darin, told Ynet that “you cannot ignore these phenomena in such neighborhoods as Ramat Aviv.”
The trigger for this secular uprising was, according to him, the new kollel established in the neighborhood at the expense of the Tamuz movie theater.
The residents claimed that the site of the movie theater was placed in the authority of an ultra-Orthodox association in order to transform it into a kollel and synagogue.
The inhabitants argued that this completely negates the local lifestyle, not to mention that in the back of the structure there is a store that sells non-kosher food and a coffee shop open on Shabbat.
Darin said, “Recently there have already been clashes between the clientele and the synagogue-goers.”
However, the story of the Tamuz movie theater is just the tip of the story’s iceberg. A few weeks ago, Darin and his friends discovered that the union clubhouse on Reading Street turned into a haredi kindergarten.
Added to these two instances was also the issue of Beit Milman, which was once a Jewish Agency hostel for new immigrants and now functions as a mikveh and a center for religious activity.
“The huge absurdity is that those using the kollel and kindergarten are not even neighborhood residents,” explained Darin. “We see transportation vehicles that arrive in the neighborhood, and apparently this is their way of taking control."
'We will have to defend ourselves'
In his letter to Huldai, Darin claimed that these worrisome phenomena started when the Ramat Aviv mall opened, “when all of the mall’s restaurants were asked to present kashrut certificates.”
The letter also said that there are not enough students to fill the Ramat Aviv religious school, and therefore children are brought from other neighborhoods while Ramat Aviv Gimel’s children are forced to wander to other neighborhoods since there is no room at the local Alliance school.
“In addition, cars with speakers began circling the neighborhood and preaching keeping the Commandments. This has never occurred in the past.
“The haredi invasion is a political and social offense,” wrote Darin in his letter. “We will have no choice but to defend ourselves against the attempt to turn a secular neighborhood into an ultra-Orthodox one, like they did in Jerusalem.”
In light of the complaints, Huldai asked Tel Aviv Municipality Director-General Menahem Leibe to look into the aforementioned religious activities in order to see if the haredi activists have the proper authorization and whether or not they are conducting irregular activity in the neighborhood.
And what does the other side have to say about this? Yossi Ginsburg, a Chabad representative in Ramat Aviv, does not understand what all the ruckus is about. “I am not aware of significant things that happened in the neighborhood as of late.
“Regarding the kindergarten that opened on Reading Street, I can’t say that there is a great shortage of kindergartens in the neighborhood, and this is just a blessing for Ramat Aviv to have such a kindergarten allowing children to study.
“Furthermore, my suggestion to the people who complained is to come and talk to us. This way they will spare themselves the fear. We are not compelling anyone to do anything. Only with the love of Israel will we bring our savior,” said Ginsburg.