Photo: Avigail Uzi
Yael Gvirtz
Photo: Avigail Uzi

Fight the fire of racism

Op-ed: After extinguishing Carmel blaze, we must turn our attention to racism in our midst

The Carmel blaze was barely extinguished, yet we are already seeing the flames of racism re-emerging. After we discovered that the disaster and suffering do not distinguish between Jews and non-Jews, and after both friends and rivals from among the “gentiles” came to our rescue, we could have hoped that the pyromaniacs of racism also internalized something of the lesson about the sin of arrogance, evasion of responsibility and loss shame.


We were burned and smoldered, yet the bearers of the racism torch are not letting off. Just like in a relay race, the match lit by Safed’s rabbi is now being carried by his colleagues. Some 50 municipal rabbis in Israel signed a document urging their followers not to rent apartments to Arabs, threatening the faithful with boycotts and ostracization in the name of “public sin and desecrating God’s name.”


So if the weekend’s smoke covered up the extent of the racism, and if for a moment it appeared that the identity of the dozens of casualties lying before us and the global enlistment to our cause would pour some water on the bonfire of hatred, these pyromaniacs were back to desecrating Judaism’s name and prompting public sins.


As difficult as the failures uncovered by the state comptroller’s report would be, these issues will at least be handled in retrospect. The fire exposed the recklessness that ran wild on this front, and its roots are now visible. Yet what about the other fire, the one that does not have even a basic firefighting force that could contend with it as it spreads through Israeli society?


Blind to wisdom of Talmud

The Carmel blaze also burned quite a few “maxims.” The culture of improvisation, the false sense of power, and the notion that “the whole world is against us” all went up in flames. Our helplessness was exposed, as was the need to cooperate with other nations rather than dwell alone.


The need to seek the world’s help also enabled us to experience a collective lesson in modesty. We could have expected that this scar would also produce a sense of truth in respect to the way our society is conducted and the discourse within it; that the lesson we learned about human nature would not also emerge within the racist-nationalist Jewish camp that veered off course.


The Carmel blaze had to be extinguished as quickly as possible. Now, we must turn our attention to the Jewish ghetto winds blowing through our top government and spiritual echelons. We must not go easy on the racist fire and those who started it.


Before the fire, we were presented with a poll showing that half of Israel’s Jewish citizens would refuse to live next to Arab neighbors, and that 40% would refuse any “other” neighbor, a foreigner or a sick or disabled person. We were told that two-thirds of Jews believe that Arabs should be kept out of the government and that one-third endorse prison camps for Arabs at wartime.


Indeed, we were presented with Judaism that withdraws into itself, ignorant and intoxicated with power. The kind of Judaism that is wholly blind to the wisdom of the Talmud and of Maimonides.



פרסום ראשון: 12.08.10, 18:02
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