In the Israeli children’s book “A Strange and Puzzling Story about a Small Island” by Ephraim Sidon and Yossi Abulafia (run out and buy it) there’s a small island, far far away, with a small minority that believes that man is descended from scarecrows. Spoiler: This minority manages to force the majority to walk around with onions in their noses and spinach in their ears.
Of course this is an amusing fable about the gray area between preserving the rights of the minority and forcing things on the majority. The plot of the book is as strange as it sounds, and it indicates quite clearly which robe-wearing Israeli minority is the real subject. But even stranger, far stranger, is the plot of the entirely true story, “The big boycott of the yeshivas against blood donations.”
It all began when in a small country in the Middle East, which every year brags about hosting the largest gay pride parade in the region, the Magen David Adom national emergency service was kind enough to acknowledge the existence of the country’s gay community: When Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz assumed his post, gay people were allowed to donate blood, and the wording on the registration form for donors was changed from the longstanding “father” and “mother” to say “parent 1” and “parent 2.”
Because what can you do, not every Israeli has a father and mother at home – that’s a fact. That fact really doesn’t prevent anyone who actually does have a father and a mother from noting that on the new form – that’s also a fact. And certainly these two facts don’t force anyone to actually give up his father and mother, to start a family he doesn’t want, or to shove onions up his nose and spinach into his ears. It’s only a recognition of the fact that some people don’t have a father and a mother.
In other words, the previous form was offensive to anyone who doesn’t have a father and a mother, because that’s not how their parents are classified, but the new form doesn’t prevent anyone who does have a father and a mother from listing them. The new form includes everyone. And that’s the ultimate test of democracy: Equality comes first, and no real harm is done to others.
Of course this logic escaped a group of extremist Hardali (ultra-Orthodox Zionist) yeshivas – including Ateret Cohanim, Eli and Har Hamor. They decided to boycott blood donations, in revenge for what they call the “progressive madness,” until father and mother are immediately restored to the form. MDA panicked, and as a cowardly compromise removed the entire controversial section from the form.
And here’s the really bizarre thing, which proves that the craziness is actually on the conservative side: Even that didn’t appease the Hardalim. According to the Kippa website, which caters to the religious Jewish community, blood donations were cancelled in the settlement of Eli to protest this compromise. They are standing on principle: We won’t donate blood until the hetero-familial unit is restored to the form.
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It is therefore clear that the extremist Hardalim find the battle against the gay community more important than saving lives. Therefore, MDA must stop toadying to them. So they won’t donate. They don’t need to. Nor do they need to serve in the army, if the condition for that is the exclusion and humiliation of women.
Enough threatening us that dubious contributions to the general good will be halted every time we don’t align ourselves with offensive values. During the Meron disaster, when many ultra-Orthodox Jews were injured, Rabin Square in Tel Aviv was flooded with secular Jews who came to donate blood, without presenting preconditions to the injured Haredim.
In a liberal democracy, as Israel purports to be, the attempt to reach a consensus is not at all costs. There are also values in the heart of the system that we must defend. Like equality. In this case, preserving the rights of the minority is reserved for the LGBTQs who were previously excluded – and not for the Hardalim who were not effectively harmed at all. What needs to be fought is the “conservative craziness.” So we won’t end up with onions in our ears.