“It might have been the timing of the discussion circles a few hours after the difficult words of one of the rabbis against the gay community [see here for more about that], or maybe we’re talking about pent-up anger since the terrible murder of Shira Banky [at the 2015 Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, by a Haredi man], but my first impressions were, ‘wow, they really hate us.’
Us. These nice young people beside me see the Haredi community as an inciting herd that seeks to drown out their entire fabric of life. Even I wouldn’t want to live beside a group so grotesque.’
But then I remembered the apathy in which my friends dealt with the Parade and the municipal Sabbath-breakers, I really felt they cared about us, and that legitimacy from us has a real significance, much more from that of a discussion about rights and obligations.
And then we talked, we discussed the challenge of liberalism in complex situations such as those we’re in, and we argued about people and religions. We shared what challenges us, and we learned how to prove that love, between brothers who live so close together but think so far apart, can exist.
And maybe the learned person was right, he who told me this week that just the act of learning about the problems, and focusing one’s viewpoint on them openly and honestly – that is the main part of the solution.
This is how Shmuel Drilman, a Haredi activist who participated in the evening of discussion and learning that took place in Zion Square last Thursday night, commemorating International Tolerance Day (November 16). The event was organized by Speaking in the Square (which we’ve written about here and here and here), the Yerushalmim Movement, and the Beit Midrash Rechov. More than 200 people, from the entire spectrum of Jerusalem’s population, participated.
For Speaking in the Square, it was important to note International Tolerance Day with these other two initiatives. The evening included discussions about tolerance and its importance in our daily lives. But the most important part of the evening was that it took place in Zion Square. Everyone sat together – Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, and talked about their shared lives in Jerusalem, and about the importance of considering the needs and feelings of one another. But not only did the participants in the discussion circles learn about tolerance, everyone who passed through Zion Square saw a live example of the advantages of creating an open society that includes and respects its different groups.
Our assistance to Speaking in the Square and other groups during the week commemorating International Tolerance Day is being generously supported by the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jerusalem Foundation.
Here’s the Facebook post (in Hebrew) written by Speaking in the Square:
Here is Shmuel Drilman’s Facebook post about the evening: