Photo: AP
Are Arab bagel peddlers being expelled from the Old City as part of attempt to 'Judaize' Jerusalem?
Photo: AP

'Kedoshim': Racism in the name of religion

Arab bagel peddlers expelled from Jerusalem's Old City during Passover – allegedly as part of law enforcement, and a secular kibbutz uses a 'Shabbat goy' – allegedly in name of religion. This is both ethically and halachically twisted.

Chametz left over from Passover, part 1

In the municipal council of my city, Jerusalem, there is a member named Arieh King, a racist sinner who leads others into the sin of racism, and who has the offensive campaign slogan "Cockadoodal-doo Minaret" (that is too say, "I will prevent the early morning Muslim call to prayer from mosques' minaret from waking you").



The first few times I saw these divisive posters I was sure that this was some sort of bad joke. After that I realized that he was serious, but believed that legal officials would rush to determine that this election slogan on public posters would be offensive to the sensibilities of the religious because of its racism and incitement and clean Jerusalem of this leprosy that has spread in it.


After that I realized that no one was doing anything about it, but I believed that this person and his party would remain as only a small stain in Jerusalem's past and that he would not be elected to the municipality.


After that I discovered that he was actually elected to the municipality, but I believed that the mayor (who I did vote for) and the representatives of the liberal factions would leave him in the opposition.


After that I learned that Mayor Nir Barkat and the Jerusalem Movement were taking his hand and marching with him to sit together in the ruling municipal coalition, but then I hoped I would ignore it and it and the racism would disappear.


Jerusalem Municipality vs. Arab bagel peddlers

After that Passover arrived, and like many other Jerusalemites I went to walk in the Old City. I walked through the narrow alleyways. Completely by chance I joined a beautiful mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I bought spices and tasted hummus. I drank coffee. I blended into the magical mosaic that is Jerusalem's Old City on Passover and was reminded why I love Jerusalem.


On my way out of the Old City, next to the Jaffa Gate, I noticed that I did not see the bagel peddlers' carts, but I preferred not to investigate what was beyond me and painful to me, shrugged my shoulders and continued on my way.


After that the Facebook post arrived that put in my face the truth from which I wanted to escape. One of my Facebook friends sent me the arrogant and racist advertisement written by Arieh King, a member of my city council, on his Facebook page, and the walls starting pressing in on me and I no longer had anywhere to escape.


This is what Arieh King wrote: "Thanks to my Facebook friends and the intensive and direct cooperation with the inspectors of the Jerusalem Municipality, the Municipality has prevented dozens of (Arab) peddlers, who usually position themselves in and around the Jaffa Gate, from selling chametz. We promised to address the Judaization of Jerusalem and we are attempting to fulfill our obligations to those who elected us."


And there are those who still refuse to see

No one has denied the expulsion of the Arab bagel sellers from the Old City's gates. But some of the City Council members denied that this was the work of Arieh King, and further denied that there was an attempt to "Judaize" Jerusalem.


They claim the Municipality simply decided to enforce the law and clean the city of peddlers and that this was standard procedure before holidays. They even mentioned Easter as if "Operation Expelling Bagel Sellers" somehow benefited the Christian population.


What can we say in our defense?... I indeed fully endorse the rule of law, but unlike Arieh King and his cronies, the equal, consistent and fair enforcement of the law as well. In the heart of the city, for example, in the neighborhood the mayor himself lives in, peddlers have been selling clothing, flowers, and books for decades on a regular basis. They are there during holidays, festivals and intermediate days of long holidays, and no has said or done a thing about that.


A further example: Soon the days in which we celebrate Israel's independence will arrive and dozens of the peddlers will risk our and their lives by standing in the middle of bustling roads selling Israeli flags, and then the fact that this is right before a holiday conveniently won't be a problem and the anti-peddler laws will not be enforced.


This pains me, my friends. This greatly pains me. This is not law and order in Jerusalem. This is Arieh King. While we shut our eyes to the poor and kept our mouths shut, Arieh King became a member of the City Council. If we agree today to believe the excuses of the City Council, then we will wake up and find that Arieh King has become the mayor of Jerusalem.


Chametz left over from Passover, part 2

The picture of a decorated sign, hung comfortably by the side panel of the elevator at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel's hotel was sent to me by people who were shocked and disgusted to see it there during their Passover vacation.


It reads, "The holiday and Shabbat elevators are only for those who have difficulty going upstairs and are accompanied by a non-Jew! Thank you, the mashgiach (kosher supervisor)."


Will money solve everything?

I don't even know where to get started addressing this sign. Perhaps by asking if it is appropriate for a secular kibbutz to choose to advertise halachic rulings as instructions for behavior in its hotel? Perhaps by asking if it is appropriate for a secular kibbutz to want a kosher certificate so much that it allows the kitchen's kosher supervisor to become its general religious supervisor? Perhaps by asking if the kibbutz's encouragement of the use of a "Shabbat goy" is twisted both ethically and halachically.


How many more times will we have to say it? It is written in the Torah (Exodus 23:12 and similarly in other places as well): "Six days thou shalt do thy work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest; that thine ox and thine ass may have rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the foreigner, may be refreshed."


The biblical "foreigner" is a non-Jew from outside of Israel. Therefore it is halachically forbidden to use a "Shabbat goy." It is forbidden from a halachic perspective... But wait, this is Ramat Rachel and they aren't really interested in Halacha... Or perhaps I should begin with the fact that the hotel of a kibbutz associated with the socialist movement chose to differentiate between Jews and non-Jews, and recommended to use non-Jews as a part of serving God?


And a general question: When you privatized the Kibbutz, did you privatize its values as well? And another general question: How will the disciplined guests experiencing a difficulty know how to identify a "non-Jew" to use? Do you mark your "goyim" or do you have a different tactic with which to identify a non-Jew?


I don't want to think about it anymore. I don't want to picture it any more. I don't want to. I don't want to. I don't want to.


But the successful rise to power to date of Arieh King with his party "Jewish (Yehudit) Jerusalem" (a play on its official name 'United (Meuhedet) Jerusalem') teaches that me that what I refuse to conceive today will be become reality tomorrow. So it seems I have to think about this....


Religious laws come down to the street

This week's Torah portion is "Kedoshim," and it seems to me that both of the "biur chametz" (removal of leavened foods) scandals

mentioned above violently detract from the values contained therein. I managed to count at least five biblical laws that are grossly trampled on underneath the Jerusalem "chametz" mentioned above.


There is no need to add anything to the laws in the "Kedoshim" portion, and I will let these five injunctions speak for themselves:


  • "Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them: You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy" (Leviticus 19:2).
  • "And when you reap the harvest of your land, you will not wholly reap the corner of thy field, neither will you gather the gleaning of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, neither will you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you will leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:9-10).
  • "You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment; you will not respect the person of the poor, nor favor the person of the mighty; but in righteousness will you judge your neighbor" (Leviticus 19:15).
  • "And if a stranger sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger that sojourneth with you shall be unto you as the home-born among you, and you will love him as thyself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:33-34).
  • "Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, you shall have: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 19:36).


And why am I writing what I am writing? Among other reasons, in order to fulfill the mitzvah from the weekly Torah portion:


"You will not hate your brother in your heart; you will surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him" (Leviticus 19:17).


Shabbat Shalom!


Translated by Uzi Bar-Pinchas


Click here to read this article in Hebrew


פרסום ראשון: 04.25.14, 18:05
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