Photo: Yoni Hamenachem
"You hate haredim."
It was a statement, not a question.
"Who said so?"
The young haredi man had a brown-reddish beard and he was quivering with anticipation for a confrontation. I've been familiar with this phenomenon for a while now. Haredim – and mostly the younger ones – feel an uncontrollable need to engage in such conversations with me. For them, it's like talking to a porn starlet or to Hanin Zoabi. Later they return to their yeshiva and say that they really let Lapid have it.
I was just filling up gas at the large station at the entrance to Bnei Brak, so I had a few minutes.
"I don't hate any Jew in the world."
That confused him.
"Everyone knows," he said again.
"I think you need to join the army," I said. "I think you need to get help in order to integrate into the job market, and I think your children should study math and English. I also think that if, instead of doing this, you wish to study at the yeshiva, there is no reason for me to pay your salary. What does that have to do with hatred?
"The Torah protects the people of Israel."
"You didn't answer me."
"Didn't answer what?"
"What does that have to do with hatred?"
"The great rabbis ruled that we need to study at the yeshiva."
"So the great rabbis are wrong."
"See what? I think that my wife is wrong all the time, yet nonetheless I love her."
He chuckled contemptuously. "So now you love me?"
"I don't think our relationship has progressed that much." My joke went over his head, by a mile. But by that time I finished filling up my car. "Have a good day," I said.
"Stop hating haredim, Lapid. If you don't stop hating haredim, it will come back to haunt you."
In other words, we made no progress whatsoever.
"Why do you hate settlers?"
"I don't hate settlers, it's personal against you."
I have to stop with the jokes in such conversations. Nobody gets them.
We were sitting on the balcony of a settlement located near the Green Line. The speaker was the 19-year-old son of one of the guests.
"You wrote that the whole idea of disengagement was about teaching the settlers a lesson," he said in an accusatory tone.
I sighed. I'm a little tired of clarifying that column.
"That's not what I wrote," I said. "I tried to explain why the public supported the disengagement to such extent, and the article analyzed the prevailing attitudes among Israel's secular public at the time. Someone pasted three sentences from the article and distributed them through synagogue leaflets as if those were my statements."
"So you don't admit that the disengagement was a mistake?"
I started to lose my cool. I have no patience for educational lessons from people younger than my son.
"Why do you stop there," I said. "Let's just get to the Oslo criminals and that's it."
"They really were criminals."
"What does that have to do with hatred? I asked him. He apparently forgot his opening sentence, because he seemed confused.
"I'm allowed to think that we need to reach a two-state solution," I told him. "I'm allowed to think that we should evacuate settlements. I wrote more than once that I have deep, fundamental disagreements with you, but never once did I write one word of hatred against the settlers. Yet nonetheless, you informed me that I hate you. Why do you think that anyone who doesn't agree with you automatically hates you?"
It wasn't fair. I'm older than him, I was a guest, and he didn't want to be the one who ruins the evening. He just muttered "that's not what I meant," and we let it go.
In other words, this time too we made no progress whatsoever
Much has been said about the Israeli discourse of hatred, yet one thing has never been said about it – the fact that it's so easy.
When you engage in genuine dialogue with someone who thinks differently than you, regrettably you are also forced to listen. Instead of the common Israeli conversation style (talking, waiting for the other person to stop moving their mouth, and then talking again,) you sometimes have to hear things you don't like. Some of them may even be true.
Unless you believe the other person hates you.
In such case, if he speaks politely and respectfully, it must be a trick meant to fool everyone. If he makes note of facts, they must be bogus. If he says that it's a principled rather than personal dispute, it only proves that soon he'll personally screw you up.
Because he hates you. All problems are thus resolved. You're allowed not to listen, you're allowed to fight him with all means at your disposal, and you're mostly allowed to hate him back.
The fate of the territories, just like the fate of hundreds of thousands of haredi children, is a charged and painful issue as it is, even without bringing hatred into the equation. The discussion on hatred is in fact a veiled threat (or perhaps a not-so-veiled one): "We know your real motive," the tell us. "And we'll fight as is customary to fight haters. With all our might."
I tried on more than one occasion to understand what prompts people to argue that they are hated. Paranoia? Anxiety? Misunderstanding? A cold cost-benefit analysis? I have no clear answer, mostly because I was never able to talk to them. Every time someone express views that are different than theirs, they immediately charge him with hatred, and at that point the discussion draws to an end.
Our sages said that hatred is blind. They were wrong. It's deaf.
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