Greetings from Jerusalem. I am so busy learning that I have had little time to reflect and write as I often do when I am here! Yesterday we had an amazing field trip to the town of Beit Shemesh. This town has recently been in the news in Israel with a clash between the far right wing Charedi Jews and Modern Orthodox Zionist Jews. The Charedi are in fact Anti-Zionist and have moved from Mea Shearim in Jerusalem to this very mixed city about 25 minutes away from Jerusalem. Ethiopians dwell there as do those from N. Africa. Secular Israelis as well as those we would call Modern Orthodox, a strong group of Anglos (which mean English speakers–both from the US, England and South Africa). These folks are Zionist, serve the army too. But the Charedi have tried to exert a turf war against others in the town although they are some of the newest residents. It is a complex situation which sadly has been played out against young girls at a school. The charedi have been spitting on these young girls, verbally assaulting their mothers as well. The girls school just opened in September after 10 years of planning and backs up against a few buildings where the residents are of this sect of Charedim who want the world to bend to their type of Judaism.
I will write more about this very complex situation in the coming days. It is a window into the increasing divide within Israel between those who come from Western, Democratic backgrounds and those who remain ensconced in pre-Enlightenment and medieval worlds.