Monday, June 14, 2010

The shekel drops / Missionaries in Ramat Aviv

The battle raging Ramat Aviv isn't just about the neighborhood's character. It's a battle over Israel's image.

By Nehemia Shtrasler

The sight was elevating: 800 neighborhood residents took a break from what they were doing and went out to demonstrate. Their goal: to protect their homes. They weren't asking for much: just to maintain their way of life, the character of their neighborhood, their values, dignity and right to educate their children as they see fit.

Nobody was paying them. They had no political party or foreign sponsors. They collected the money to fund their demonstration themselves because they knew that if they didn't, the missionary group Chabad could continue to slowly take the neighborhood over, just as is happening in Migdal Ha'emek, Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem.

A few people set up a counter-demonstration against the 800. They believe that the people in question are merely "good Jews" who just rented a few apartments to preach Torah there. All they want is for us to put on tefillin a little, to light candles on Friday night. What charming simplicity.

They don't realize that it's a well-organized plan to take control of the neighborhood. They aren't even aware that a yeshiva opened in the neighborhood staffed by "messengers" who are prepared to sacrifice their souls for their Rebbe.

These "messengers" have one explicit goal: to return the people of the neighborhood to Judaism. The more Jews keep the Sabbath and follow the mitzvoth, the faster the Messiah will come. Though actually he already did come, in the form of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, according to Chabad. The Rebbe has died in the meantime, but he lives on - their belief system is a mystical, un-Jewish thing, about which the Rabbi Shach commented: "Chabad is the cult closest to Judaism."

As in every neighborhood, here too they identified the most vulnerable point: the young. That's why every Friday they ply the grove by the Alliance school, trying to persuade the children to put on tefillin and drop by the Chabad House for a "conversation." At night they lurk among the trees and on benches for the teens, offering refreshments and sweet talk. They cunningly tell these kids, "You have the soul of a righteous person," and don't cavil at saying that their mothers and fathers are sinners. They even whisper that people who don't honor Shabbat are doomed to hell.

Puberty is a vulnerable stage and some of these kids, who want to rebel against their parents anyway, listen. The nice people of Chabad have no problem taking in a youngster and destroying a family in Israel.

Where are the police and the municipality as strangers badger children among the trees at night?

The Chabadniks understand that the middle class is groaning under its burdens. So they opened a few kindergartens in the neighborhood that charge little and give much, including a hot meal. Some parents succumbed to the temptation - and lost their children. This neighborhood sorely lacks kindergartens without religious affiliation. But the city allows Chabad to open one kindergarten after another, even at the expense of a building that had been a cultural center until two years ago.

These Chabadniks with their butter-wouldn't-melt smiles have no problem flouting the law. They rent apartments and turn them into studios. They build without permits, establish hostels and mikvas in violation of municipal ordinances, but the city doesn't block them. Mayor Ron Huldai did denounce Chabad in Ramat Aviv, saying they were harassing the residents. But his job is to stop the harassment, not just talk about it.

Imagine what would happen to me if I went to Kfar Chabad, rented an apartment and dared to open a class to teach a modern interpretation of the Bible, or women's rights or Darwinism. In the evening I'd go out and roam the neighborhood, trying to persuade their children to visit my home on Shabbat to see what a nonobservant Jew does on the day of rest.

Soon enough you'd have to visit me at the burn ward at Ichilov Hospital, if not worse.

And if all that happened, the good souls among us would say: Why did he have to interfere in their way of life? Why provoke them?

But when they come from Kfar Chabad to Ramat Aviv, these same good souls say, in the name of an artificial, suicidal liberalism, "We should understand them," and, "We mustn't oppose others because that is unenlightened racism."

Only they are allowed to sell their rotten goods, rife with ignorance, superstition, terrible discrimination against women, bottomless hatred of Arabs and Gentiles, and nonsense about the Messiah. We may not even protect our values of humanism, education, rationalism, equality, literature and the great inventions of science that changed the face of mankind.

The battle in Ramat Aviv isn't just about the neighborhood's character. It's a battle over Israel's image, and the 800 residents who got up and left their homes and went out to demonstrate last Monday are just the harbingers.

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