On the fringes of the Jerusalem Day Flag March, with its abundance of ugly violence and incitement to racism, there was one small, not very important incident.
At the Damascus Gate Plaza, one of the young marchers jumped at a young Palestinian journalist, grabbed her cellphone and fled the scene to the sound of encouragement and merriment from his friends. As was the case in the dozens of other offenses perpetrated that day by Jews in Jerusalem, the police turned a blind eye.
The incident was recorded from a number of angles, so there could be no doubt regarding the identity of the thief and his guilt. For some reason I can’t explain, of all the acts of violence and hatred in Jerusalem that day, this particular one drove me crazy. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I have no complaints against the boy as an individual. Children his age are swept away by their friends into far worse acts.
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What bothered me was the fact that the boy and his friends realized that in their circles, there is no problem openly stealing from a young Palestinian woman. They were well aware that dozens of people had seen and photographed him, and in spite of that the boy did what he did with a smile and without making any effort to hide it. He apparently realized that his rabbis, teachers and parents would never tell him that he had acted wrongly.
But I wanted to try to show him that he was wrong. I posted the video clip and called on him to return the lost phone. I hoped, and even believed, that the moment his actions were exposed, I would get a phone call from the rabbi of the yeshiva or the boy’s parents. “That’s not our way,” they would promise me in the conversation I imagined to myself. “Give us an address, and we'll return it.” In certain versions, I even imagined a letter of apology to the victim. How could it be otherwise? But no rabbi called.
With the help of photographers who were at the site I found pictures of the shirt that the boy wore, and that’s how we located his yeshiva. A well-known and respected institution in the south of the country, not among the extremist ones, its protocol is posted on the internet: “The yeshiva aspires to educate the students to moral and intellectual integrity,” it states. “The yeshiva will encourage the students to practice good citizenship while preserving Torah-based values and a Torah-based framework.”
Hours after the video was posted, teachers in the yeshiva saw it. Someone told me that the subject was brought up in a discussion with the students and would serve as an “educational process.” The principal of the yeshiva explained to me that he doesn’t follow social media, so it would take him some time to respond. I should be patient. I waited. But the rabbi didn’t call.
Several people connected to the yeshiva turned to the teachers and the rabbis and asked for an explanation. A friend who lives in the area went to the yeshiva and managed to retrieve the phone – without the cover and SIM card, which were stolen. A letter of apology? Don’t make me laugh. None of the teachers or rabbis even thought that it was his responsibility to give the phone back to the victim of the crime. Only thanks to a few more good people did we succeed, in a complicated chain of transfer, in restoring the device to the owner.
As is the case every year, this time as well there was an exhausting debate over the Flag March and the question of the ratio between the number of marchers who sing “May your village burn down” to those who make do with “Rejoice in Jerusalem.” The small incident of the theft of the phone settles the argument.
If teachers and rabbis in a moderate yeshiva inside Israel did not see fit to operate outside the boundaries of the yeshiva in such a clear case, then it is quite clear where the mainstream of the marchers and of all of religious Zionism can be found. As long as I don’t receive a phone call, I have no other way to interpret this story.