Cowardice and bullying

by Maskil on October 27, 2007

According to this JTA breaking news item:

A religious woman and a male Israeli soldier sitting next to her were assaulted on an Israeli bus.

Five fervently Orthodox youth asked the religious woman to move to the back of the Beit Shemesh-bound bus and she refused, according to Jerusalem police. The haredi youth then began to assault her and the soldier.

When police arrived at the scene, several dozen fervently Orthodox men attacked them and punctured their tires before escaping.

The item went on to mention that “The fervently Orthodox, or haredi, community in Beit Shemesh has demanded a special bus line where men and women sit separately.”

This is one of those episodes that is just so wrong on so many levels, that I don’t even know where to begin in writing about it. Instead, I’ve just put down a few bullet points, in no particular order:

  • Call me old-fashioned (or whatever), but in my book anyone (Arab, Jew or other) who raises his hand against a women or a member of the IDF (or any of our uniformed or security services) should have his arms broken. I remember a time when this would have been the consensus.
  • If this particular route is already a known trouble spot, why is more not being done to protect the public from this sort of intimidation, whether by the bus company, the police or both?
  • In most parts of the world, those demanding something like a special bus line would make a case to the relevant authorities, pointing out (for instance) the potential profitability, high usage, the special needs of the community, etc. (Here in SA, they would simply burn the bus and stone the police and emergency services, but that’s another story.) Never would I have imagined this kind of behaviour in the Jewish State, and this from the most observant sector of the population (at least by their own definition).
  • The phenomenon of Haredi law-breaking (in all its various forms) needs to be addressed at the highest levels of government and the police, before it becomes a permanent feature of the Israeli environment, and before we become just another “(whatever)istan” in the Middle East. This community needs to understand that they are not above the law of the land, even if this involves a heavy handed approach on the part of the police until the message gets across.
  • Cowardice and bullying are two sides of the same coin. In the time of the Ottoman Empire or the Mandate, this particular community would never have dared to act in this way. So, while they may despise Zionism and the Israel, they seem to be happy to take advantage of their status as “royal game” to look for opportunities to put the proverbial boot in. This transformation from cowardice to bullying is no doubt an interesting sociological phenomenon, and will probably be studied by students of sociology in the future…
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