Not since the Ark of the Covenant in the book of Samuel I has there been so much commotion in Bet Shemesh, Israel.
Now, unfortunately, the bitter fight over gender segregation between the national religious (modern Orthodox) and secular communities versus some extremists in the haredi Orthodox community has made international headlines. After The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR and CNN, now it is in The Denver Post.
My first reaction was sadness in seeing Israel’s “dirty laundry” aired all over the world. On second thought (although I still would have preferred that this not to have shown up in the news or, far more important, not to have taken place in the first place), for a democracy like Israel I suppose these are part of the growing pains.
Israel has no segregation laws.The extremist minority promoting them are just that, an extremist minority. Just as the US had Kent State, which has come to symbolize political and social division in America, maybe that is what this Bet Shemesh ruckus is all about — Israel dealing with its natural growing pains.
That said, I am very upset and worried about this turn of events. I have been following it for a while now, and it seems to have all crescendoed this week. There is obviously never anything good about seeing adults taunt, abuse, shout at or, sickeningly, spit at a young, innocent girl walking by, in this case on her way to school. It’s even worse when it is in the name of religion.
And when it is your own religion, there are no words.