My heart goes out to the young residents of Kiryat Shmona who, perhaps having no other choice, continue to live in the city, while carrying on their backs the stereotypes and deep troubles which were the lot of the veteran immigrants, the patronizing workers of the surrounding kibbutzim, and which we thought had already disappeared from this world. The racist animal, it turns out, is still alive and kicking within them.
I recall an intolerable and racist English teacher from Kiryat Ata, who wrathfully burst out at one of the students in class, who was born in Morocco, and called on him to "go to Jabotinsky." She was not referring to Ze'ev Jabotinsky, but to a street named after him, which in the 1960s was inhabited with immigrants from Morocco and was considered one of the toughest and underprivileged streets which was part of the ongoing Project Renewal program.
And here, last weekend, four young Kiryat Shmona residents who are about to enlist with the IDF wanted to spend a night out at a pub in Kibbutz Neot Mordechai in the Upper Galilee. They sat down at table No. 8, and at the end of the evening paid the requested NIS 142 (about $40). But when they glanced down at the bill, they were shocked. Under the guest's name, the waitress wrote "light Arsim" (derogatory Hebrew slang term for the Israeli stereotype of a low-class young man).
Yes, right there on the invoice. That’s the nickname given to four young men who are soon going to defend the borders of Neot Mordechai as well. The kibbutz spokeswoman, who of course expressed her regret over the incident, said the novice waitress was fired on the spot. Over but not done with.
Treated worse than shoesA lot of water has gone down the Jordan River, mixed with bad blood, since the Kiryat Shmona residents' uprising against the surrounding hedonist kibbutzim, while the northern town, which is accustomed to Katyusha rockets and suffers from a serious shortage of workplaces, groans under the burden of daily life.
The emigration of the community's young residents most of all worries their parents, some of whom are not concealing their plans to move to other communities in their children's footsteps. The children, who have grown up, are abandoning Kiryat Shmona in favor of studies, work and a better quality of life than their parents. But, and that's the big but, the young people are fleeing Kiryat Shmona mainly because of the image and stigma attached to the town and its residents, as a forgotten ill-fated peripheral city in which one cannot even catch a proper movie.
The expression "light Arsim," in the spirit of the time, only emphasizes the feeling of rage and frustration carried by both veteran and young residents. "I was personally annoyed seeing it," wrote Yossi Tzadok, one of those who were called "Arsim," in a Facebook post. "I was annoyed seeing that the stigma continues, and that people disregard the customers who pay for their livelihood, and categorize them using all kinds of derogatory terms without even known them."
The kibbutzim have changed too. "The millionaires with the swimming pools," as the late Menachem Begin referred to them, are not such millionaires anymore. Some of them have collapsed a long time ago, some have gone bankrupt and become beggars, suddenly opening their gates to everyone to enrich their coffers. Yet the stigma remains – Arsim, as they are called, have been rejected more than once at the entrances to kibbutz clubs, for no fault of their own.
This time it happened in Kibbutz Neot Mordechai, which treated the young men from Kiryat Shmona worse than the shoes it produces: It also took money from the four of them, and also spat in their faces.
Herzl Ben Asher, 60, who was born in Kiryat Shmona, is probably right calling for a boycott against the pub. "We must hit them in the pocket," he said. "That's the only way to teach them a lesson."