Tali Farkash
Photo: Gabi Menashe

What about secular intolerance?

Seculars expect haredim to respect their lifestyle, but refuse to extend the same courtesy

The municipal elections in Jerusalem gave the ultra-Orthodox public a reputation for being an overbearing sector. Much was said about the public's inability to be tolerant towards other minorities, and its lack of respect for the feelings of its secular neighbors. These legitimate and democratic demands, it was said, were a little too much for those "black primitives." Even I was almost convinced.


In light of this, dear readers, you can imagine my astonishment at the struggle launched by the haredi residents of a northern Tel Aviv neighborhood against a Tiv Taam branch which was opened near their homes.


It's not that someone there has something against supermarkets. What bothers them is the one specific product that the chain is known for: Pork.


The residents of the small neighborhood, a haredi enclave at the heart of secular Tel Aviv, are having trouble getting the same understanding, tolerance and consideration from the city's progressive and enlightened residents. They are a small minority, no more than 300 households, and someone is trying to infringe on their lifestyle. They are ultra-Orthodox people who discovered that a "piggish store" has been opened opposite their home. How can they not be angry and upset?


But even open-mindedness and respect for the other have their limits when it come to selling pork. The Tel Aviv District Court rejected the "primitive's" arguments and refused to issue a temporary injunction against the branch.


If only they were green

If the residents had the sense to protest against the noise and environmental pollution caused by this profit-making monster, they might have enjoyed a more sympathetic treatment. Who knows? Perhaps local green groups would join the blacks' efforts to stop this nuisance. Actually, any excuse would probably have been sufficient if only they sent their representatives to city hall dressed up as "true" Tel Avivians - plus the earring, minus the beard - to plea for their cause.


It's infuriating to see how each time the disregard for the other's feelings goes one way. For years Tel Avivians have managed to systematically obliterate Jewish life from the city center.


The haredi residents of Tel Aviv have already realized a long time ago that they were being pushed out of the city. If other hints were not clear enough, a sea food restaurant under your building worked to clarify where things stand.


The haredi abandonment of Tel Aviv continued uninterrupted. No one seemed to be disturbed by the deserted synagogues. On the contrary, this was portrayed as an achievement – keeping Tel Aviv "free," or to put it more accurately – free of those "annoying minorities." Because what is considered legitimate for Tel Aviv's seculars isn't so for Jerusalem's haredim.


The story of the struggle against Tiv Taam is in fact the story of the fight to preserve the last haredi stronghold in Tel Aviv. This is a struggle over the right of the neighborhood's residents to stick to their lifestyle without being pushed with their back against the wall. It is a test for the progressiveness of the non-religious public in Israel. Will they be wise enough to enable the other living among them to live his life, like they expect Jerusalem's haredim to do? Or is this the first step in the abandonment of the last haredi neighborhood in Tel Aviv?


פרסום ראשון: 11.18.08, 19:58
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