Disrespecting Others

Disrespecting Others

I went to a town meeting last night. The mayor of our amazing city, Maale Adumim, has put his heart and soul into creating a flourishing city. In our small city of just under 50,000 people, we have a Cultural Center where entertaining productions are regularly brought to life on an impressive stage in a beautiful building. We have a music conservatory, a public library, a modern emergency medical center, three gas stations, cafes, several malls where you can buy pretty much everything, and soon we’ll even have a four-room movie theater. We have many schools, including one where two of my grandchildren plan to attend in a few weeks, a school that has existed and grown over the last few years and now simply needs permission to expand into an area that was promised to them several years ago by the mayor. We have many parks, flowers and trees that grow, seemingly unaware that we are in a desert.

Last night, he spoke of a new road that they plan to build which will enable traffic from our small religious neighborhood to exit the city quickly, rather than get embroiled in traffic from the huge skyscrapers they plan to build in another neighborhood. We learned about the security situation, plans for more services and more hours. In short, this city has almost everything, lacks almost nothing. Or so I thought after the first hour or so of the meeting.

What we don’t seem to have lately, however, is enough respect for others, and that saddens me greatly. The meeting lasted almost four hours – we were assured from the start that the mayor and his impressive team of department heads would stay as late as necessary, that no question or issue would go unaddressed. No issue except the one that I came to ask about, that is. What bothered me more than waiting three+ hours and then not being given a chance to ask my question in full, was the manner in which my issue was handled. I was cut off in mid-sentence and then treated to a 10 minute monologue about the mayor’s opinion not only of the school and the school administration, but also about the people who send their children there.

It was a blatant attempt to ridicule a small minority – only 100 families who wish to educate their children within the lifestyle that they themselves live. It’s something we all have a right to do – unless you are Haredi and living in Maale Adumim, apparently. The city prefers to tell these 100 families that there is nothing available and they should, essentially, dismantle their school system and send their children to another system in town which the mayor deems to be identical…except for politics, ego, and the issue of having one particular item in their homes.

My grandson comes to my home for Shabbat and recites whole passages from the Mishnah. He can recite the names of many of the weekly Torah portions read on Shabbat, learned Hebrew letters and reading easily and tackles math problems when asked. He can say the entire grace after meals, knows nearly all the blessings for types of food, and builds the most amazing things out of all sorts of developmentally appropriate toys.

Each week, his school and his father, teach him of a world enriched with gratitude to God and our faith. As a tiny child, he would put his hand on top of our heads and give us blessings. This is a child blessed with both a keen mind and a kind heart. He is loving to his parents, his brother, his grandparents, aunts and uncles. He deserves the best the city can offer him, not the mayor’s disdain – not on a personal level, not on a religious level, not on a cultural level.

Maale Adumim is an open city with a huge variety of people coming from different cultures and countries. We have from the most secular to the most religious – and all are accepted…unless you are Haredi, of course. All that my grandson learns has been reduced, in the mayor’s short speech, to the fact that his parents do not have a television set. Fact is, from what I can tell, a rather large portion of the population in my religious neighborhood don’t have television sets either, but the black hat that his father wears to synagogue apparently changes the dynamics of this child’s rights in this city.

I haven’t had a television in about nine years, and I love the fact that I don’t. I didn’t get a chance to say that. Nor did I get a chance to say anything. I could see in those first two minutes as I began to explain, that the mayor was respectful and trying to understand my question. As soon as he realized that I was talking about that particular school, he cut me off and began literally a very loud argument consisting of only the mayor himself. No one was allowed to speak, to question, to ask, to comment. My son-in-law was there and attempted to address some of the issues, he was cut off every time and his voice overshadowed by the louder voice the mayor used.

I came to ask the mayor about a wonderful school that has 140 students, a principal, teachers, materials, desks and chairs and all they need…except the land and building promised to them by the mayor. So I raised my hand and began to speak about my grandchildren, one who is two and will attend nursery school in a building not designated for this purpose, and a second who has attended this school for four years and is now going into first grade. The mayor’s reaction was unfair, undeserved, unwarranted. And, as bad as that was, perhaps as offensive as the mayor’s rather brutal handling of the question I never got to ask, was the reaction of the religious people in the room. They are not Haredi, but part of the “national religious” camp that I myself am proud to call home. They laughed along with the mayor’s comment and in doing so, encouraged him to repeat his “joke” several times.

To the mayor of Maale Adumim, the difference between one school and the other has nothing to do with education (it does); nothing to do with the community that attends each school (it does), but rather comes down to the ridiculous idea that one community has televisions in their homes and the other has radios. The reality is that one school has some children from homes that are not strictly observant but want their children to be educated in a stricter environment and one school focuses on admitting children whose parents “practice what the school preaches.”

It is their right to choose to live the lifestyle they want and the level of religious observance that meets their needs. These are 100 Haredi families who are very community oriented. They volunteer to help each other and the community and city as a whole. Despite what the mayor implied, close to 90% of the parents are long term (most third generation) residents of Maale Adumim. The majority of the fathers have served in the Israel Defense Forces, all work and pay their taxes.

The Knesset has already ruled that a solution has to be found that respects the choices these parents have made. Regardless of that decision, what happened last night was a bad lesson for all. It is a very sad situation when a mayor chooses to lash out at a citizen for attempting to ask a question. Our mayor had more patience for two women who asked the same questions numerous times than he did for me even attempting to ask mine once.

I am hurt and angry that the mayor chose such a disrespectful way to represent and frame a situation about which I was hoping to have a calm and rational discussion. I came with ideas – but was never given the chance to voice them. I came with hope  — which was brutally squashed.

And I am disappointed in my neighbors who laughed at the comparison of the choice between a home with a television and a home with a radio. Framed in other words, the mayor’s comments were nothing less than an attempt to ridicule Torah observant Jews. There are two elementary schools in our town. One is known to be more strict. When attempting to belittle the differences between the schools, there are those who will say that the only difference between them is whether the girls wear socks or not. Such a comment is disrespectful, as was the mayor’s comments last night.

Today is a sad day for me as a resident of Maale Adumim. For the first time in 16 years of living here, I am truly dismayed that the city could behave in such a way against 100 young families who have chosen this city, love it here, and are intentionally being forced to consider moving because the city refuses to offer them what they offer all other residents – a reasonable educational system that teaches and encourages their children to live according to the lifestyle and wishes of their parents and basic respect that should be given to all.


  1. Esther Revivo

    Paula, Paula, I am so angered by your post. I must humbly suggest your mayor take a few lessons from Netivot’s long-time leader, Yehiel Zohar. WE have a population of more than 35,000. And, Netivot has every type of Jew you can imagine: Anglos; Russians; Seharadim; Ashkenazim; Ethiopians and EVERY KIND OF JEW RELIGIOUS-WISE! (I abhor labels but here goes: We have ‘masorati’; irreligious Yidden ; Dati Leumi – indeed a strong ‘gareen Torani’ as well as a large Charedi population living in several neighborhoods- not a ghetto.) WE live in a piece of Gan Eden!!! We have school systems that cater to the needs of EVERYONE! There is NO polarization here. (Indeed Ethiopian friends of mine say that nowhere in the country has the same warm atmosphere that we have here.) When HATE is the motivating force for the exclusion of 100 families from ANY community, something must be done and bless you for fighting this injustice! It sickens me that davka NOW when we need ‘Ahavat Yisrael’ in our country, Ma’ale Adumim has a mayor lacking this attribute.

  2. John Jacob Jingelheimer-Schmidts

    When you refuse to learn Hebrew. When all your friends are only Americans. When you don’t have a proper job but either spend your whole day in front of a computer dealing with your business in the US. When you still work in the US and fly off to spend 4 days a week there. When Yizkor on Yom Kippur that is said in the local Shules is just not good enough so you gather in a so-called “Rabbi”s apartment to resay the prayer. After all that and you say everyone else is speaking “the wrong language” you wonder why other people – former Americans and the native born – ignore you and your opinions and you are surprised??? Wake up and smell the Humus.

    1. I have no clue to what you are referring. This has nothing to do with English or Hebrew (I speak both). This has nothing to do with having only American friends versus Israeli (I have from both and many other countries as well). I don’t work in the US (haven’t been there in 20+ years even for a visit). In short, I’m wondering whether you read this article at all and/or whether you were perhaps referring to something on another blog completely.

  3. Edda

    Believe it or not, Paula, I agree with you on this 100%. The city is officially anti Charedi and purposefully will not all Charedi educational institutions to be built because that is their way of preventing Charedim from moving here. They can’t officially block them from buying houses, so they block them by refusing to build educational institutions. It is a known thing for years – even before I moved to MA I was told about it by bank officials as I was applying for a mortgage! Unfortunately, it is even sadder how our fellow dati leumi members love to jump on the bandwagon.
    On a side note, you mentioned that Tzvia was discussed and I would appreciate if you would share what was said. Thanks.

  4. HaDaR

    And, BTW, I made Aliyah from Los Angeles. I am American. When I lived in France, I made sure to learn French. When I lived in Italy, I made sure to learn Italian. IT IS A MATTER OF RESPECT!

    1. Not sure how this relates to the mayor’s disrespect. The question that I was in the middle of asking was being phrased in Hebrew. There seems to be no connection with the above post. BTW, ALL of the attendees in this school are from Hebrew speaking families (some are bi-lingual) but this was never an issue related to from the US, English studies etc. I have little doubt that if this was about language and not religion, the mayor would have been more positive and respectful.

  5. HaDaR

    Why is it that French only and English only speakers have so much trouble learning Hebrew? Isn’t that, may be, some kind of subconscious feeling of superiority? Why is it that when I moved to Israel 25 years ago at age 33 I immediately went to Ulpan to learn the language for six months, and meanwhile I started listening every day to talk radio in Hebrew for many hours, since that’s the language spoken here, and within six months I was speaking it fluently, I started working in the security apparatus for the army, and within a year they though that I was a native speaker who spoke ALSO army lingo?… May be because I DID NOT hang out with foreigners all of the time, speaking only foreign languages, but I made a CONSCIOUS EFFORT to become PART OF THE PLACE in every possible sense, and started enjoying the sketches of the גשש החיבר, without understanding which you CANNOT be a real Israeli?… 😉 Even Torah learning in English is INCREDIBLY LIMITED even as far as understanding what the Torah says!

    1. Anonymous

      Spanish speakers and speakers of other languages have difficulty learning Hebrew, too. It’s structure is significantly different from ALL other languages. Compound that with the documented scientific reality that human brains tend to lose their capacity to learn new languages after the onset of puberty. Attitudes such as yours are one thing, human frailty quite another.

      You have the blessing of comprehending Hebrew. Spread the goodness by helping fellow Jews who have not mastered the language.

      When you wonder why some Jews fail to make aliya despite the horrors around them and despite HKBH’s imperative to live only in the Holy Land, know that those Jews might feel intimidated by the arrogance displayed by some people who learned Hebrew as a second or third language. Showing off and insulting people are not mitzvot.

      We are commended to build a world of chesed. Do so. Go to appointments to assist olim who need to overcome language barriers. Help passengers to reach their destinations without public humiliation. Shop with someone who doesn’t know how to ask for the items they want or need.

      Guilt trips are not mitzvot. There’s no need to provide them. Chesed olam yibone. Build or restore someone’s self-esteem by treating them with the dignity they deserve. They have likely accomplished goals that would your mouth hanging open.

  6. paulas

    No – Matya is still there and yes, it is a gan building also that they are using for offices instead of a gan (which is not legal and Misrad HaHinuch is not happy about that.

    If you had no choice but to split your kids among locations, you’d do it if you loved the school environment enough. The parents of this gan/school love the school. The teachers are amazing; the administration professional and very hands-on.

    Between using a gan for offices and using it for a school, I believe the “higher calling” is a school.

    But beyond the points of the school issue – which Benny refused to discuss at all, never mind in a kind and respectful manner, is the issue of his behavior in front of the townspeople and was nothing less than a brutal verbal assault against me as I attempted to ask a question and against a community of people who have lived in Maale Adumim for 30 or more years. Most were born here – many became religious and chose to stay close to their parents while still, because of this school, maintaining the lifestyle they have chosen.

  7. Martin Ingall

    Paula, it does not sound like a pleasant evening for you at all.

    I think you should ask yourself, why does the mayor feel this way? Why does he think a charedi presence is a problem? Why does he calculate that that approach is a winner electorally?

    The answers are obvious and substantive. If you know them, you know why.

    If you don’t know them, let me know and I will tell you.

  8. Marion

    I was under the impression that they’d been offered space in an existing building that is half empty…and refused. I do not have the details on the reason for the refusal.

    1. paulas

      I believe that is what the Iriya wants you to believe. In fact, what they were being offered was essentially to end the school and go join in with the school at Yitzchaki – which won’t work because while both say they are “haredi” – the one in Yitzchaki mostly serves a different community.

      They were “offered” to move into the building with the Torani school in Yitzchaki but that school is using most of the classrooms…even if many of them literally only have a handful of students in that grade level. If they gave half the building to the Torani school and half to this school – both would not have enough classrooms. It would be equivalent to telling Amit and Zvia to co-exist in the same building…where Amit and Zvia would then have classes with boys and girls together.

      They were promised the second gan in that area – and now are being told that both are unsafe and unprotected. That’s all well and good, but the city built the ganim there and now the second one is being used illegally for a business in which four old people come and fix books. They asked to use the old Nirim school – which was sitting vacant – but now they are being told the city is using it for something else. There is a gan on Rechov Shofar being used for offices to manage special needs issues (why are they using a gan for that)? And there are ganim that have been given to senior citizens (again, why a gan?) And after using all of these that are zoned for a gan for non-gan purposes, the city is saying it can’t give Chabad a second Maon because the unused space underneath their area is zoned as a club. Now they worry about zoning?

      1. Marion

        Did Matya move? They always had a building on haShofar, no idea if it was a gan building or not but it’s been there as long as I can remember. In any case if they need a SCHOOL a gan is not going to be useful. Even if there are enough empty ganim to distribute as classrooms, as a parent I’d be pretty resentful if I was expected to drop off in 2-3 different locations every day for the same school!

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