by Yosef Ben Tzion (Joel Busner) – January 2001
Not so long ago after a terrible personal tragedy I made aliya to Israel. After being here for a while, my friends and I came up with an idea. Why not start an organization that if successful can mend the deep wounds of division between Jews here in Israel and hopefully elsewhere as well? After some thought we opened up our organization. Things began slowly as we began the process of building an organization from the bottom up. Unfortunately the beginning was a little tough for me. I wasn’t sufficiently motivated until I became involved in a spontaneous argument in the street, in the fine city of Ra’anana.
As was my habit in those days, I took my late night walk along the main street, Achuza. Nothing seemed out of place. The various people did their various things. It was past the shopping rush as most stores were closed for the day. That meant that the taxi drivers hung out with each other and waited for some business, as the youth of Ra’anana ‘hung out’ at the local fast food establishments. While the cab drivers were basically one group with little to distinguish one from the other, the youths were a different story.
I couldn’t help but become upset as I walked past the local Subway Sandwich restaurant. Once again, sitting by the tables outside the restaurant along the promenade were 2 groups of youths. On one side sat the modern religious and on the other side sat the non–religious. It amazed me that these young men and women, the future of our country didn’t speak to anybody from the ‘other’ side. I had seen this situation too many times, but today the little man inside of me, called my conscience was looking for me to do something, to say something. I didn’t know what to do, but I couldn’t move. So, I stared. Suddenly it appeared before my eyes. A message, on a T–shirt was my signal.
There it was clear and bold: “Yesh Lapid L’Chilonim” (There’s Lapid for the secular). I walked up to the young man and asked him if I could have a word with him. He looked at me with suspicious eyes like I was about to rob him of something. I told him that I was a recent immigrant from America and I was wondering if he could explain what his shirt meant (I understood the message but was dying to hear his explanation). He told me that the message was referring to Tommy Lapid who runs the Shinui Party (Party for change). He explained that Mr. Lapid was for secular citizens. I asked him if that meant Jewish secular citizens? He replied, “of course”. I then asked how I could purchase a T–shirt and join the party? He replied that I couldn’t because I’m religious. I told him that I’m not religious. He pointed to my Kipa. I told him I wear it because it makes me feel Jewish but I’m very far from a tzadik. He said I wouldn’t be welcome because I’m religious, that the party doesn’t like religious people. I asked him if that meant religious Jews? He said yes. I asked him how his party felt about religious Christians and Moslems? He didn’t have an answer. He was becoming very annoyed with me, as were his friends. They told me to go home. I told them that I was bored and was trying to acclimate myself with my People. At this point the mood became more and more interesting.
Suddenly, almost all the youngsters from both sides were standing on either side of us, watching us debate. I then asked my new ‘friend’ with hate in his eyes if he was Jewish? He replied that he was. I asked him if his mother was Jewish? He again said, “yes”. I told him mine was as well. That in fact we are both Jews. He said, “Nu, so what’s your point?” I answered like a Jew, by asking him a question. I asked everybody there a question. I said, “Let’s say a guy named Mohamed walks by here and opens fire with an M16 machine gun in this direction with the sole intention of murdering Jews, who would he shoot first, the guys with the kipas or the guys without?” I then made the sounds from the American television game show ‘Jeopardy’, tick tock, tick tock, etc. Then I made the buzzer sound and said, “times up we all lose”. One still unimpressed youngster said, “you’re not realistic”. I said, “ok, let’s say he plants a bomb here in a briefcase, who will blow up 1st the guys with the kipas or the guys without?” They looked at me then at each other, then down towards the sidewalk. I had just scored a point.
Suddenly I felt a surge of energy; my Jewish pride was back. I then belittled both sides for shunning each other. I asked them somewhat rhetorically if they understood the stupidity and national weakness caused by us simple Jews hating each other for nothing? That Arafat and his henchmen are laughing at us. I admonished the so–called religious Jews for not saying Chag Sameach to less observant Jews when walking past them during religious holidays. I begged the non–observant ones to at least learn “who you are and where you come from”. Then I closed my lecture by telling them that we are one nation and every one of us is his brother and sister’s keeper. An attack on a Jew is an attack on a family member, is an attack on oneself.
Soon after, we began to do more and more activities here in Israel. We had a message: “B’Ahavat Yisrael, One Nation with One Heart”. As we grew the same old sickening questions would come through to the office: “Are you a religious, haredi, or secular organization?” We replied as we still do, “we are a Jewish organization”. One soldier who we picked up asked us the same sort of question. We asked him if he was Jewish? “Of course” he replied. I asked him if he was in our vehicle getting a lift? He said, “obviously”. I asked him to remind me if we had asked him his level of observance when we picked him up? He replied, “no”. I told him we picked him up because he is a brother, a Jew, and we are a Jewish organization. This message is the one we feel the country must adopt immediately if we are to survive.
A lot of things have occurred recently, which have shattered certain myths. We no can no longer buy time. Israel is undergoing a tremendous test to her right to exist as a safe haven for the Jewish People.
Yasser Arafat and Ahmed Tibi have an agenda. Left wing, right wing, religious, secular, Ashkenaz, Sephardi, they feel that we are one and the same. They feel that our Nation is an impediment to their self and national interests. I couldn’t agree more. Now it’s up to us, the Jewish People to unite as one strong nation and affirm our claim to statehood in Eretz Yisrael.