Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Lesson from Mohamed Morsi and Israel’s Bus 497

Am I the only one in the world who was not surprised by what happened this summer in Egypt? Really? In “using” the democratic process, the population elects the Muslim Brotherhood to lead a democratic state?!? What is wrong with this equation? Now, I get it. In a democratic process anything can AND DOES happen, clearly! But quickly enough, Egypt was not looking so much like a democracy after all! A few days ago, with charges of inciting murder and many other abuses being levied against Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood a few months after their fall, it looks like this group’s hope for anything approaching democratic leadership have been dashed. And, it appears, appropriately so! So the debate goes another round, ding ding ding! Does the United States have a right (responsibility? Any business?) getting involved with countries like (oh right, don’t forget Syria!) where abuses are threatening internal citizenry, never mind what happens to others OUTSIDE the pale of that country’s political process!

Let us not forget that a mere two years ago, one of our own notorious political hopefuls for President was none other than David Duke, known for his many political runs for office (all of which were unsuccessful, thank G-d and the intelligence of the American people, specifically those in Louisiana). If you did not know this little tidbit of Americana, than this is the greatest success of all in terms of who we are as America! I don’t even want to consider what would have happened if ….. but then this is a democracy, in which all can speak, yell, even be abusive and prejudiced and inappropriate, but when the democratic process is in action, we are ultimately protected, may it always continue to be so!

Not so with Egypt! So once again, its people are in turmoil, going through yet another painful and protracted process of regaining its footing. Sure, there are protests and rebellions, but well, we all know what has happened during the last months in the name of ….. what, I am not sure.

So what does Bus Line 497 in Israel have to do with any of this? Bus Line 497 has garnered a great deal of attention and consternation as the self-appointed Mehadrin Line (and oh yes, there are others!), you know, kind of like the parts of the United States not so long where black people had to enter the busses through the back doors and sit in the back so as not to pollute the white people in the front. Except this time, it is TODAY – approximately fifty years after that battle -- and the protected passengers on Bus Line 497 are men and the pollutant passangers are women. Yes, this is unspeakably horrible. Now don’t get me wrong, IF an individual group or community in say, B’nei Brak or Ramat Beit Shemest want to rent their own private busses and demand such separate seating, go right ahead. BUT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT A PUBLIC STATE SPONSORED EGGED BUS!!!!!!!!

Anyone seeing a pattern of here in terms of what happens with ideological and religious extremism and where it can and does lead!?! So, now thanks to the Israel Religious Action Center under the leadership of Anat Hoffman, the DEMOCRATIC PROCESS is alive and well in Israel, thank you very much. In fact, they have their very own FREEDOM RIDERS, a group of people who specifically go and take short trips on the Egged lines on which individuals are trying to coopt government resources and services for their own purposes. Not only that, but the Knesset has indicated quite clearly that this is illegal and now there are signs on every EGGED bus indicating that each and every passenger may and has full permission to sit wherever they wish!

It is truly terrifying when you consider the abuse and inappropriate behaviors of some of our most religious Israeli (and others for that matter) Jews towards others but, Baruch HaShem, Medinat Yisrael IS upholding and carrying on the legacy of Eretz Yisrael and NOT handing over this wonderful place and space to the extremists that are trying to impose their own code of behaviors on others.

In this season of awe and reconsideration of ourselves as human beings let us remember that religious belief and religion is supposed to make us better people and not facilitate our succumbing to forces of evil, misusing and abusing the beautiful traditions that all of our faiths have given us, whether we are Jewish, Christian or Moslem or any other people of G-d.

Gemar Chatimah Tovah!

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