Forward Thinking

Jerusalem Protest Breeds Color War, Not Civil War

By Elisheva Goldberg

  • Print
  • Share Share

Settler youth bear signs reading “Girls of Israel for the nation of Israel,” “A king’s daughter doesn’t date a non-Jew,” and “No more assimilation!” / Elisheva Goldberg

Last night in Jerusalem, Arabs and Jews (well, mostly Jews) got together at an event called “Pashut Sharim” or “Just Singing,” a four-year-old initiative funded primarily by Hillel and the Pratt Foundation that brings Arabs and Jews together in song. In practice, given that the event took place in the heart of West Jerusalem’s hippie-cum-hipster Nachlaot neighborhood, there were very few Arabs present. But that didn’t seem to matter to the settler youth who came out to protest the Arab-Jewish mingling. Nor did it stop the liberal-lefty students from counter-protesting. Sure, last night’s protest bears witness to the intense power of political ideology that can cleave a nation in two. But the fight is also…really fun.

The subject of the protest was Jewish assimilation, the supposition being that Arab men, if allowed to inhabit the same space as Jewish women, would either tempt them into intermarriage or simply seize them without a second thought. It was organized by the ultra-right organization LEAVA, whose acronym stands for “Preventing Assimilation in the Holy Land.” It’s a group run by Benzi Gopstein, an outspoken Kahanist and elder statesmen of the Hilltop Youth. He founded the organization with the explicit belief that the purpose of Israel — indeed, Zionism itself — is to keep Jewish people Jewish. His activities to ensure such a state of affairs are as intrusive as they are varied.

Last year, he wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg beseeching him not marry to his long-time non-Jewish girlfriend. One of LEAVA’s fantastical promotional videos shows a Jewish girl being wooed by an Arab man only to find herself caged, beaten, and wearing a naqab (face-veil), though she is eventually emancipated by a smiling Gopstein who leads her back the Kotel. Most recently, he made an appearance on Israeli talk shows where he advised Netanyahu on how to convince his son to break up with the Norwegian woman he’s dating.

Though Gopstein and his posse had no trouble declaring their disdain for democracy last night, pronouncing themselves “proud fascists,” most of the protest wasn’t about the issues. It was about the fun of protesting. When the students from inside the Pashut Sharim event finally joined the protestors (along with the police who separated the sides) much of the seriousness evaporated, and something much less akin to civil war and much more akin to color war began to emerge.

The chants went back and forth. The settler youth would chant, “Kahane was right and you’re the proof!” to which the coexistence singers would answer, “Darwin was right and you’re the proof!” — and then both sides would smirk like they’d won. A good volley might sound like this: [Kahanists:] “Leftists are Satan!” — [Singers:] “Better Satan than a Racist!” — [Kahanists:] “Racists forever!” — [Singers:] “Racists go home!” — [Kahanists:] “Judaism is Racism; no to Assimilation!” There was fun in the air. A friend of mine started my favorite back-and-forth; the settler youth would begin, “Girls of Israel for the Nation of Israel!” and she would scream back, “Girls of Israel for Girls of Israel!” Others riffed: “Girls of Israel for Whomever they Choose!” And so on.

One of the leftist protestors, who had come deliberately as a counter-protester and had even brought a sign reading “No one asked you, LEAVA,” said that “of course” he was having fun — he had “music, friends, and a circus!” Another liberal fellow, who would periodically appear to hawk random Arab food items (“Hot kannafe!” Turkish coffee!”), described the experience as a “nature party without the drugs.”

While none of the LEAVA protestors were willing to admit they were having fun — Jewish assimilation being a very serious issue in the Jewish State, after all — they had come prepared with colorful signs, one of them had brought a kazoo, and their champion, Baruch Marzel, showed up to give them a pep-talk in the middle of it all. They had all chosen to come to Jerusalem from far-flung settlements — some of them on busses arranged by Gopstein — for this, what appeared to be their Saturday night activity. They were clearly enjoying it: the attention, the sense danger, and likely most of all, the feeling of being on a team.

And that’s the catch. While that sense of being in the fight can be exciting — exhilarating, even — it covers up the bigger issues at stake: deeply held belief in inescapable racial hierarchies, an overtly anti-democratic approach to civil liberties and education, and one of Israel’s real problems today — the fact that it’s legally impossible for a Jew to marry a non-Jew on state soil. These are issues that demand remedying, not sniggering. Daphna Ezrahi, a friend of mine who also attended the protest last night, put it this way: It’s easier to laugh and talk about how crazy LEAVA is than to cry at the fact that it exists.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Kahanist, Jewish, Jerusalem, Israel, Arab, LEAVA, Pashut Sharim

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.