Lag B'Omer bonfire
Photo: AP

The battle for democracy

Northern Tel Aviv residents respond to criticism, share their view on religious takeover

Chabad’s large bonfire was still burning in Ramat Aviv Tuesday morning. Yet even after city inspectors arrived and only remains were left of the bonfire, the greater fire started in the neighborhood by the Chabad-Lubavitch movement had not been extinguished, and it will not be extinguished soon.


This fire was not started wisely and it has instigated a cultural war in Ramat Aviv; by now, it is difficult to control the flames.


Yael Mishali wrote about the “campaign to remove the Orthodox from a secular neighborhood,” and immediately she discerned the scent of racism, while resorting to the doomsday weapon while criticizing secular residents: “This didn’t exactly give off a scent of the unconditional love, pluralism, and tolerance that northern Tel Aviv boasts on regular days.” In other words, you wanted pluralism? Well, now you’re screwed. Oh, and also there’s this matter about the northern Tel Aviv stigma. After all, we are allowed to be stigmatized, obviously. When such sentiments are directed at seculars, that’s not racist.


So to set the record straight, the neighborhood in question is not the upscale Ramat Aviv Gimel (not that they should be stigmatized either.) It is a neighborhood of small apartments populated by middle class resident. You will not find jeeps, Filipino nannies, or luxurious penthouses here.


Chabad’s sweet talk is a Trojan horse that serves to hide a thuggish move. This is what’s happening at this time: Ramat Aviv faces the advanced phases of a planned and deliberate takeover by the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement. Only a blind person would fail to see that. Many apartments are being rented on the orders of rabbis, Orthodox families move in, post a “Chabad House” sign on their door, and their neighbors’ lives immediately turn into a hell of noise at all hours of day and night.


This isn’t tolerance 

Meanwhile, Orthodox kindergartens are replacing our social institutes; what used to be a pensioners’ club, a movie theater, a kindergarten, and a camp for new immigrants. All this is done without a permit, by the way. Meanwhile, Chabad’s kindergarten hired a young teacher who in the past was probed on allegations of neglecting a baby; is this what they mean when they talk about “a little Yiddishkite?”


Other things we got as part of this takeover include the following: A neighbor who asked the Orthodox kindergarten to control the noise level was locked in there for four hours. Meanwhile, children are given alcohol at the Shuster Center at night: Cheers! What’s wrong with that? A little Yiddishkite-vodka. Young children are tempted to enter the yeshiva, and more than one resident has already reported hearing “Shabbes” yells on Shabbat.


Thuggery will not enjoy the spirit of tolerance and it must not pretend to come under the umbrella of pluralism. Attempt to sign a Mizrahi kid to an Orthodox Ashkenazi kindergarten, or to bring an Ethiopian girl into a religious school and ask that she not be given special break times so that she doesn’t interact with pure Ashkenazi girls – and after you do that, you can preach to us about pluralism and racism.


With all due respect (and quite frankly, there isn’t much respect left at this stage,) Rabbi Ginsberg is lying and misleading. They do not intend, as Mishali’s article claimed, to open educational institutions to accommodate their children; otherwise, why are buses from Bnei Braq traveling here every day? They come here (and are paid to do so!) in order to fill these educational institutions with children who are not local residents and with substance that neighborhood residents have no need for. They are coming in order to deliberately change Ramat Aviv’s character.


Nothing against religion 

We actually have nothing against religious people, and certainly against religion. We never had anything against it, and we hope to never reach that stage. We taught our children to respect every person. We have synagogues, and on Yom Kippur not even one car can be seen on our roads. There are quite a few believers amongst us, and they too feel uncomfortable with the Orthodox takeover attempt. As opposed to the arguments being raised, there was no attempt to remove the Orthodox from here. We merely asked that they respect the law and our way of life, as well as the harmony that has prevailed here for 50 years.


Yael Mishali writes about a “campaign of hatred and racism.” Yet there is no hatred or racism here, but rather, the exact opposite. When the first Orthodox families arrived here, we agreed amongst ourselves to welcome them. We opened our homes and hosted them, and we invited their children to play with our children.


Yet they do not let their children interact with our children. They do not buy in our shops, they do not enter our synagogues, the God we believe in is not their God, our laws are not their laws, and our flag is not their flag. Our children, who were taught to show tolerance, are not appropriate friends for their children. They show contempt to us and to our values; yes, we do have values.


This is no longer a cultural war. This is a war for democracy and for the values of liberalism and enlightenment – this is a war for the State of Israel’s face. The Israel in whose army we serve (and guess who doesn’t serve in it); Israel whose flag we raise on Independence Day (and guess who among our neighbors doesn’t do it). Those who are sitting on the sidelines at this time and resort to false arguments about the “bad scent of racism” are in fact supporting the elimination of these values.


פרסום ראשון: 05.14.09, 18:40
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