Amid Growing Social Tensions in Israel, a Moment of Unexpected Solidarity

March 27, 2023
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In the intense controversy currently raging in Israel over judicial reform, those opposed to reform are often motivated by fear of the growing political power of Ḥaredim, whose parties are part of the governing coalition. Thus the decision last week of anti-reform protestors to march from cosmopolitan Tel Aviv into the adjacent ḥaredi enclave of Bnei Brak seemed like it might fan the flames of conflict. It did not, as Michael Selutin reports:

It was expected that the demonstrators’ rainbow flags, as well as their aggressive demeanor with left-wing slogans, would provoke the residents of Bnei Brak. Police had prepared for violent clashes, while urging the demonstrators not to enter the Orthodox city.

What happened next, however, nobody expected. Instead of allowing themselves to be provoked and reacting to aggression with aggression, the . . . city’s Orthodox Jews greeted the demonstrators with drinks and warm cholent, a Jewish dish prepared for Shabbat. Jewish music was played, people danced, and the demonstrators’ aggression subsided immediately. . . . It was probably the first time for many of those present that they had met people who were so opposed to their own lifestyle. Orthodox and progressives finally spoke to one another.

In the event, neither anti-ḥaredi sentiment among the protestors, nor anti-secular sentiment among the Ḥaredim, won the day.

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