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More Provocations

Ha'aretz's "Anglo File" has an article in its weekend edition on Anglo (i.e., American, pretty much) opposition and discomfort with Modi'in's policy of barring non-residents from Anabe Park.

The article is here. Here's the bit where I'm quoted:

When Baltimore native Elli Fischer drove past Modi'in's Anabeh Park during the Sukkot festival this week, he witnessed firsthand an ultra-Orthodox couple being denied entry due to a controversial new policy that restricts holiday admission to local residents.

Fischer, himself a Modi'in resident, stopped his car and arranged to have the family of five admitted as his guests - but not before arguing with park officials.
"The policy is nothing but thinly veiled anti-Haredi bigotry," Fischer, a writer, translator and ordained rabbi, chided the park officials.

Last week, before the onset of the seven-day Sukkot festival, the Modi'in-Maccabim-Reut municipality decided to close the popular park to nonresidents of the three communities in its jurisdiction, citing "overcrowding." It's the latest volley in a saga that has pitted the municipality against the mayor of the neighboring Haredi community of Modi'in Illit, Yaakov Gutterman, who recently announced that its archaeological sites would be closed to non-Haredi visitors.

Fischer, 36, suggests the new policy is linked to an incident that occurred in the park during this year's observance of Passover, when a female performer at a concert was asked to step off the stage by Haredi members of the audience.

Nothing, he says, can justify the exclusion of citizens - a principle to which many among Modi'in's burgeoning Anglo community are particularly sensitive, he explains. "Americans in particular grew up with the legacy of the fight for civil rights as a part of our cultural DNA," said Fischer, who invoked the images of separate water fountains for blacks and whites in the United States. "I think it very much affects the way that we relate to issues of discrimination and bigotry, whether it's against Haredim, Arabs or African migrants."


ADDeRabbi, Agent Provocateur

For those not following along at home, my fair hometown of Modiin has barred non-residents from visiting its spacious and beautiful Anabe Park during vacations and on Hol Ha-Mo'ed. This is a result of a pishing contest between Modiin's Mayor Haim Bibas and Modi'in Ilit's Mayor Yaakov Guterman, plus it plays into a strong anti-Haredi (and occasionally anti-religious) sentiment amongst a minority of Modiin residents (a political party, Modiin Hofshit, ran on an anti-religious platform and got only a few hundred votes for city council).

The new policy upsets me greatly, and I wanted to see how the policy was being implemented generally. As I got in line to enter the park, I could see that a few cars ahead of me the line was being held up by a Haredi family insisting on entering the park. Since the new regulations allow for Modiin residents to bring guests, I went and invited the family in as my guests. After a while, the guards let us in on that basis. Serendipitously, a reporter from Haaretz was there at the time. Her report is here (Hebrew) and here (English - paywall). The paragraphs relevant to my story are:

As the argument continued, a Modi’in resident, Eli Fischer, decided to see whether everyone was really being barred from the park, or only those in ultra-Orthodox garb.

“He’s my guest, let him in,” said Fischer, in an effort to help Tirnauer, at first without success. The guards checked Fischer’s identity card, and then started questioning Tirnauer and his family about their relationship. One of the ushers called a municipal security guard to help.

“He’s not really your guest, he’s here to make a provocation,” the security guard told Fischer. But Fischer persisted after the getting approval of his superiors the security guard allowed Fischer and his new acquaintances into the park.

“The park is empty, and I wanted to see what would happen, since according to the instructions that were publicized, [the park] is reserved for Modi’in residents and their guests,” said Fischer. “I don’t know why they were questioning me.”

The municipality said that the confrontation involving Tirnauer and Fischer was the first to occur since the instructions were issued, claiming it was a planned provocation by the media.
“During all the days that entrance to the park was restricted, there wasn’t a single incident, except for one in which a visitor who isn’t a city resident came with a reporter to create a provocation and get a headline,” the municipality said.
 The Hebrew version also includes a Gemara that I cited for the benefit of the reporter, from Sukkah 27b:
"All Israel are fit to dwell in a single sukkah."