Many readers might remember that this past October, the city of Modiin closed the spacious and beautiful Anabe Park to out-of-town guests during Hol Ha-mo'ed Sukkot. The background was a minor incident the previous Pesach and an ongoing pissing contest between the respective mayors of Modi'in and its Haredi neighbor, Modi'in Illit.
To make a long story short, I went to the park on Sukkot and invited a Haredi family that I met at the entrance into the park as my personal guests (guests of Modi'in residents were allowed in). A Haaretz reporter happened to be there, and so I was in the Israeli press. The municipal spokesman even called me a "provocateur."
All of this information appears in news that appeared around that time, and I wrote two blog posts on the subject.
The story did not end there, nor did my (indirect) involvement in it. In the first place, the stupid exclusionary policy was lifted before Pesach. I'd like to think that my actions, the involvement of several Israeli civil rights groups, and the opposition of a majority of the city council contributed to the mayor seeing the error of his ways. Alas, according to local blogger Yaki Beja, it seems that the real reason for the change was the fact that the park's concessionaires were losing considerable business (ironically, it turns out that the park's upkeep was funded through the concessionaire dues, which means that a Haredi who came and bought a popsicle was in fact helping to fund the park). Whatever the reason, I'm glad that the policy was reversed, and I'm happy to have been on the right side of this one.
It gets better, though.
A week after the Haaretz article, a local paper ran a column by one Koby Or, which smeared a local attorney named Eli Fisher. Or assumed that the "Eli Fischer" in the article was this somewhat well-known local personage, and then he drew all sorts of wild conclusions about what Adv. Fisher was trying to accomplish by conspiring with a Haaretz reporter to manufacture a headline (it should be noted that Mr. Or, by his own admission, was in Eilat for Sukkot, far away from the action).
Although Mr. Or apologized in print the next week and made some modifications to the online article, Adv. Fisher, being a lawyer, sued Mr. Or and the publication that ran his article without editing it, checking facts, or asking for a statement from Adv. Fisher (or me, for that matter). The verdict was handed down a few weeks ago: Adv. Fischer won 36,000 NIS in damages from Mr. Or and the paper. Additionally, Mr. Or - who seems to be an old-school secularist type who is grumpy about anyone not like him coming along to do things differently - stopped writing for this or any other local paper. It is explained in the court protocols that Mr. Or quit the paper after it became clear that he would now be subjected to annoying little things like editing and fact-checking. To be honest, he's not that much different from today's armchair journalists who fact-check on Wikipedia, but whatever.
This has been summarized from a long blog post by Yaki Beja on the issue. He's got all of the courtroom drama. I'm just happy that a small battle in the fight against bigotry has been won. In any event, I'm going out for coffee later this week with my new friend, Eli Fisher.