Yesterday, 1500 protesters denounced the Netanyahu government, carrying signs reading "Zionism is racism" and wearing yellow stars to emphasize comparison between the Israel and the Nazi state. “What’s happening is exactly like what happened in Germany,” said one man wearing a yellow star. “It started with incitement and continued to different types of oppression. Is it insulting that we wear these stars? Absolutely, and it hurts people to see this, but this is how we feel at the moment, we feel we are being prevented from observing the Torah in the manner in which we wish.” Wait, what? Yep -- the protesters aren't Arabs or latte-sipping Berkeley radicals, but ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, angry about recent TV news coverage of incidents in which haredim threw rocks at handicapped Modern Orthodox children in Beit Shemesh who were using their wheelchairs on Shabbat. The angry crowd was also protesting the jailing of Shmuel Weisfish, a member of the "Modesty Squad" who recently started a 2-year prison sentence for beating and threatening employees of a computer store for selling MP4 players which might expose customers to inappropriate content. As always, Failed Messiah is your (admittedly one-sided) source for bad behavior among the frum. [more inside]
Tzvia Greenfield is the first ultra-Orthodox woman to serve in Knesset, the Israeli legislature, representing the left-wing party Meretz. Her 2001 book Hem Mefahadim ("They are afraid,") an attack on rightism and insularity among the ultra-Orthodox, drew death threats. Despite her sharp criticism of the religious community ("The big issue here is a very delicate one. That is children. Large families thirty years ago was six children; now there's 13 or 14 - from one wife. I believes the glorification of bringing as many children as possible is a definite way of ensuring women can't bring their advantages into effect - subjugation.") she still lives an observant life in the ultra-Orthodox community of Har Nof. "They disagree with my ideas but they know me as religious and halachic person. They cannot see any blemish in my practice except for one thing- we have a dog." At least one haredi denies that Greenfield is Orthodox at all. (The dog comes up.)
"We're not selling here -- we're hunting!" The young man or woman at the mall kiosk who grabs your shoulder and says "Can I have twenty seconds of your time to show you something amazing?" might be a young Israeli saving up for a pre-army jaunt to Asia or South America. The U.S. kiosk trade has become popular enough in Israel to inspire a folk-rock song by musician and kiosk veteran Rami Feinstein. The Wall Street Journal offers a generally admiring profile of the Israeli "natural-born closers." The Capital Times, in Madison, WI, wishes they'd buzz off.