That afternoon, I was standing at a Jerusalem shtiebel (a small, informal synagogue) waiting for a quorum to gather for public prayer so I could say the Mourner's Kaddish prayer. We were already a full quorum of 10 men, but nine of them were haredi, and it was clear to them that I — a guy with the knitted kipah — didn't count. When I told the story to one of my relatives who lives in Jerusalem, he responded that I shouldn't complain. "They don't count you just because you wear a knitted kipah. Me, they don't count twice, because I am also Sephardi."
This is a relatively common scenario among those people who are currently threatening to cause a rift. Over the years, they have specialized in voicing hatred, ridicule and contempt for anyone who didn't belong to their camp. Some of them threw Sephardi girls out of an Ashkenazi school in Emmanuel, and then escorted the Ashkenazi parents, who boycotted the school for admitting Sephardi students, to jail with singing and dancing.
To them, secular Jews are "rabbit-eaters" and "sexually impure." Many rabbis who don't wear the traditional ultra-Orthodox black kippah have never been called "rabbi" by them. The ultra-Orthodox press refers to national religious Jews by the initials N. R., which also means "light-weights." The national religious party Habayit Hayehudi, which means "Jewish Home," has gained the unflattering nickname "home of the goyim." Women have been sent to the back of buses, and in some places it is customary to spit on women who are not deemed modest enough by their guidelines. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Now they are threatening that if they are not invited to join the coalition, it will cause an "irreparable tear." Oh, really?
A beggar arrived in a village and entered an inn, asking for food.
"There is nothing in the house" the innkeeper said.
The beggar became filled with rage and began briskly pacing from side to side, all the while muttering to himself: "If that is the case, I will have to do what father would have done."
The innkeeper heard the beggar and became frightened. She immediately served him a nice meal. After he ate his fill, she asked him "won't you tell me what your father would have done?"
The beggar replied: "Father, may he rest in peace, was also a beggar. On days that he didn't find any food, he would go to bed hungry."
What is really on their minds
The real problem facing prominent political figures in the haredi community is one that no one talks about. For years, they walked around with the misguided notion — a product of self-persuasion — that most of the Israeli public viewed them as the real representatives of Judaism. In reality, the overwhelming majority of Israelis never even entertained such a silly idea. But the political figures and the haredi press convinced themselves that it was precisely what most Israelis believed.
Now they are beginning to realize that they were the only ones who actually believed it, and it is a very difficult realization. Therefore, this is quite a complicated crisis. These political figures are now learning a lifetime's worth of lessons — lessons they earned through years of hard work.
So now Shas, in whose name the Oslo Accords were added to Israel's résumé, is threatening that if they are not invited to join the coalition, they will no longer vote with the Right and begin supporting the evacuation of settlements. United Torah Judaism have also announced that if they are relegated to the opposition, they will end their support for the settlement enterprise. In between announcements, they are actively wooing the national religious public, whom they usually don't count.
Houston, we have a problem: Analysts say the coalition needs the haredim to round out a rightist bloc. But the haredim are only right-wing when it is profitable for them, it turns out.
Which reminds me of a story by Alter Druyanov, found in the third volume of his writings:
Once there was a poor man whose relatives had forsaken him, and no one ever visited him, not even once a year. After some time, the poor man became rich, and immediately all his relatives began visiting his home day and night. He observed this behavior and made a decision.
He placed a big metal money box on the table in front of them, turned toward the wall, and said nothing. His guests wondered what was happening, and a particularly articulate one asked: "Are you standing like that to be polite? So that none of us can speak to you and ask how you are?"
The man replied, "Did you come here to visit me? You came to visit the box on the table. Talk to it. Ask it how it is doing."
A vegetarian organization placed cow heads inside a number of Tel Aviv fountains this week. As a vegetarian myself (since I was four years old), I'm not entirely sure who the beasts are in this story.
This takes us back with nostalgia to the glory days of communism. The priests of that religion used to argue that Marxism is a science. In those days, the first lady of Romania, her highness Elena Petrescu Ceaușescu, visited an elementary school in Transylvania, and the principal arranged for her to sit in on an especially bright class.
Mrs. Ceaușescu stood proudly before the students and asked: "Tell me, please, is Marxism a science?"
One of the students raised her hand especially high, and Mrs. Ceaușescu called on her: "Please, answer."
"Of course Marxism is not a science," the girl said.
Mrs. Ceaușescu became crimson with rage. "And why is that?" she demanded.
"Because scientists test their ideas on animals before they test them on humans," the girl replied.
Passover is the main holiday for organizations that help the needy. As the holiday approaches, these organizations start the traditional ceremonies of counting the number of poor. Without casting a shadow of a doubt on their good intentions, if we add up the number of poor people that each of these organizations help over Passover, we will arrive at 25 million.
Thus, it is important to recall an important event in Jewish history that could teach us something about the true nature of some — a small part — of these organizations.
Shmaya, a bum, saw that Passover was about to arrive and he had nothing for the holiday. He decided to write a letter to God, saying, "Our Father, our King, please be merciful and give your servant Shmaya son of Faybush the Levite enough money to buy food for Passover."
The author of the letter signed it with flourishes — "Shmaya, son of Rabbi Faybush the Levite Segal" — and threw the letter skyward.
The wind did its duty and brought the letter to the Baron de Rothschild. Rothschild read the letter, and replied: "The Lord has heard your prayer, and sent you five gold pieces, by way of me."
Shmaya took the gold and brought it to his wife.
The wife looked at him and saw that his face was sad. "Shmaya," she said, "why are you sad now?"
"Who knows how much Rothschild kept for himself as a brokerage fee," Shmaya said.