Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bully at the Bus Station

A young woman named Noa Raz was assaulted in the Central Bus Station last Tuesday for bearing the imprints of tefillin on her arm.

Here is the news story at JTA.

From Ms. Raz’s own account of the incident:

A few minutes after I got to the station, I noticed an older man, in Haredi garb, standing and staring at my arm. A few more seconds went by until he realized that his stare was not transmitting his message clearly enough. He leaned over towards me, pointed to the ruddy stripes on my arm, those that linger on the skin after taking off tefillin, and asked, “Tell me, is that from tefillin?” I ignored him, but he asked again: “Is that from tefillin?” Again, I ignored him, but he moved in on me, stood right in front of me, and again asked, in a loud voice: “Is that from tefillin?” I couldn’t ignore him anymore, so I looked at him and replied, “Yes. What do you want from me?”

To be truthful, I was sure that as soon as I would answer him, he would spit out some curse, turn around and leave. But I was mistaken, he had just started. He forcefully gripped my left arm and simply began kicking me. Of course, he didn’t forget to scream out a concoction of words such as “woman, abomination, desecration,” and more.

At first I just froze. I didn’t understand what was going on. But after a few moments I came to my senses. I struggled with him to free myself and ran for the bus that had now arrived. I felt completely alone. The place was not busy, but there were some people around. Some looked on with interest, others turned away. Only one woman shouted back at him, "Leave her alone, already." I don’t want to think what might have happened had I not managed to get away.

This is yet another example of the highly troubling, and increasing, trend of Haredi extremism here in Israel. I hope that the police are looking for the perpetrator, and that he will be prosecuted for his actions—just like anyone should be prosecuted for attacking someone else unprovoked. (Sorry to say, I’m not holding my breath.)

Since I can’t arrest that despicable bully myself and bring him to justice, here is my answer to him and to all who are like him:

A woman's hand 2

A woman’s arm wrapped in tefillin straps, and her hand holding tzitzit, touching the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest accessible site. (Come to think of it, a can of pepper spray or a Krav Maga logo might be more appropriate, but I don’t have a picture of either.)

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