Yom Kippur service disruptions in Tel Aviv ‘shocking,’ say immigrant attendees

Some were told to ‘Go back to America,’ an experience they never thought they would have in a Jewish state.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Immigrants from English-speaking countries were among those most disappointed and even distraught over the noisy demonstrators who disrupted the public prayer services in Tel Aviv squares over the Yom Kippur holiday, The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday.

The pushing, verbal confrontations, rain of boos and concerted cries of “Shame!” and “Go home!” was more than disconcerting to those who wanted to connect with the holiness of the day in places other than traditional synagogues.

Some told the daily that they never thought they would experience Jewish antisemitism in Israel. In addition, the anti-immigrant ugliness they heard was outrageous.

“It was really shocking to see this especially in Tel Aviv because usually it’s a very accepting atmosphere in the city,” said G., who had been a lone soldier.

“This event made it feel like people are saying there’s only one acceptable way to live in Tel Aviv. Like a ‘my way or the highway’ situation,” she added. “I heard two different protesters say anti-Olim things which was very sad and unjust to hear. One said ‘I served in Lebanon, what did you do?’ and another said ‘you guys aren’t even speaking the language of the country, what are you doing here.’

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Shlomo Wiesen, who was at the service outside the Habimah Theater, was shocked at what he heard as well.  He said the worshipers were called many epithets, including “racists,” and “missionaries,” and were even told “Go back to America.”

He said he felt he actually had to protect the rabbi leading the service, who was being verbally assaulted, as well as the prayerbooks, which he feared the demonstrators were ready to damage in their anger.

Native Israelis who came to the service in Dizengoff also expressed disappointment, anger, and incomprehension regarding the protestors’ behavior.

“I am no different from those who came from the other side,” one secular woman told Walla. “I went down to join the prayer and now I’m helping to fold up [chairs] here. The feeling is that we are hated, that Judaism needs to be humbled. It’s sad.”

Several religious young women burst into tears, with one crying out, “What have we come to that you can’t pray on Yom Kippur?”

Another participant went as far as to say that it was the beginning of the end of the State of Israel.

In one of the many arguments that broke out between worshipers and protestors that was uploaded to social media, one young man faced off with an antagonist saying heatedly, “Every Saturday I’m at [Tel Aviv center of anti-government protests] Kaplan [Street], I’m a high-tech guy, secular, I live here in Tel Aviv. When you say “you people,” what do you mean? Skin color? The skullcap?”

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“Come, explain to me, you enlightened leftist, who is “you people”? I’m at Kaplan every week, just like everyone fighting for my democracy and one day a year that I decide to put on a skullcap, suddenly I’m “you people?” he continued, waving his arms in the air.

Lilach, who came with her nine-year-old son, told Israel Hayom, “I live in the area and have never been in synagogue with my son, I thought it would be nice. I don’t particularly care for [gender] separation, I would have stood together with him, but if there are those to whom it’s really important, I don’t understand why we can’t allow it.”