Antisemitism in Israel?

Is there antisemitism in the Jewish state? The answer might be “yes” judging by a video that has sparked heated debate in Israel.

By Dov Eilon | | Topics: Antisemitism
Demonstrators clash with ultra-Orthodox Jews during a protest march in Bnei Brak against the billions in state budget allocations made available to ultra-Orthodox parties. Photo by Flash90
Demonstrators clash with ultra-Orthodox Jews during a protest march in Bnei Brak against the billions in state budget allocations made available to ultra-Orthodox parties. Photo by Flash90

Antisemitism in Israel? Does that even exist? Or am I exaggerating here with my headline? I do not think so. The situation in our country has never been so critical. The country, the citizens are divided.

There has always been tension between non-religious and religious Jews here in Israel. The primary concern is the observance of the Shabbat and the requirement (or lack thereof) for Orthodox Jews to serve in the army. There were repeated demonstrations. On the one hand, there are the Orthodox Jews, who took to the streets whenever a member of their community was arrested by the Israeli military police after refusing to report to the recruitment center. And on the other hand, there are the non-religious Israelis who also want to shop and use public transport on Shabbat. A status quo that has been in place for years is intended to ensure that the current situation is not changed.

But just recently, tensions between secular and Orthodox Jews have increased. Since when? Since the victory of Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition and the formation of a particularly right-wing government. For the last 24 weeks there have been nationwide demonstrations against the new government and especially against the Orthodox community every week, even if the official purpose is “only” to protest against the judicial reform planned by the government. Rallies in the Orthodox town of Bnei Brak have shown that the demonstrations are not really just about protesting judicial reform. The protest marches through Bnei Brak were aimed directly at the Jewish Orthodox community.

Israeli reserve soldiers and activists protest in the city of Bnei Brak on May 4, 2023 against the Israeli government’s planned judicial reform. Is it just about that? Photo by Flash90

Unfortunately, this “anti-Jewish” sentiment is fueled by opponents of the government. The chairman of Israel Beitenu, Avigdor Liberman, once suggested throwing the Orthodox Jews in the trash. The well-known TV presenter and former fashion model Galit Gutman said in front of the camera that the Orthodox Jews are bloodsuckers.

In Israel, reports are mounting of Orthodox Jews being harassed on the street simply because they are Orthodox Jews. In Tel Aviv, the city is cracking down on Orthodox Jews who offer passersby the opportunity to put on tefillin and pray. Unbelievable. I sense this anti-Jewish mood in my city of Modiin, too. There were calls on social networks to boycott restaurants that follow Jewish kosher laws and are therefore closed on Shabbat. Even the excursion of an elementary school class from Modiin to the Western Wall, where the children received the Tanakh, was criticized by many parents. I found this event with my children to be very beautiful and emotional. Today such a thing is referred to as “religious coercion.”

A video that has been circulating online since yesterday shows where the current agitation against the Orthodox Jews can lead. The video shows an altercation between an Orthodox Jew and a secular woman during a bus ride. The woman confronts him with the assumption that he never served in the army, a common stereotype about Orthodox Jews in Israel. What the woman didn’t know is that the Orthodox Jew, Yisrael Hirsch, is an IDF reservist and works as a lawyer in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Legal Department.

Hirsch replied: “Why do you assume I never served? Because I’m wearing a kippa and a white shirt?”

When the woman confirms that this is exactly what her suspicion is, Hirsch replies: “You can’t just judge people by their looks.”

“You should serve in the army just like my brothers did,” replies the woman.

“I have. And I bet I’ve been in the army longer than you,” Hirsch replies. “I’m an officer in the Reserve Forces.”

When the woman then asks him why he is wearing a kippa if he has served, Hirsch replies: “That is my belief and my right. It’s amazing that I face such hostility every time I ride a bus in Hod HaSharon, the city where I live.”

This video has caused a lot of discussion. The woman was later interviewed on television. It turned out that she wasn’t quite right. She is said to be suffering from manic depression. Still, the video shows us where this anti-Jewish sentiment in Israel has led us. The non-stop protests against the elected government seem to be fueling the situation even further.

Can one call it antisemitism when secular Jews develop an ever-growing dislike for their religious brethren? Perhaps in the sense that the dislike is directed toward the religious lifestyle of the Orthodox. While the secular want to be a nation like everyone else, the religious try to fulfill their Jewish commission from God. This is probably also the reason for the antisemitism of many non-Jews.


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One response to “Antisemitism in Israel?”

  1. Disciple 1978 says:

    Looks like the rubber is hitting the road now. The Lord is joining the two sticks of Judah and Israel and making them one stick. (Ezk 37:19) It seems to be an uncomfortable experience for both of them. Israel will have to learn to worship God in their everyday life. Judah will have to learn how to have an everyday life.

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