Like many things in life, the State of Israel is a multifaceted and complicated place. It can be beautiful and inviting, but, depending on who you are, it can also be ugly and terrifying. One of the ugliest aspects, in my opinion, is the deep-seated and pervasive racism found there.
One experience that stands out in my mind – and burns my soul – happened on a trip down to Tel Aviv. I took a sherut (small bus) down from Jerusalem one Friday afternoon. The sherut was packed and there was an Arab Israeli family sitting in front of me. The family included a mother wearing a headscarf, a six year old girl, and a boy who was about 14. As the sherut approached the security checkpoint, I saw the boy begin to frantically check all his pockets. He said something to his mother and she became distraught – visibly shaking and on the verge of tears. The boy couldn’t find his ID papers. At the checkpoint, a guard looked in the bus window and then boarded carrying a huge military rifle. He pointed the rifle at the family and told them to get off the bus. There were then interrogated for 30 minutes while the rest of us waited. When they got back on the bus, the mother was crying and they all carried a sense of shame.
That family LIVED in that country; I was a tourist. And yet, I never once had to carry MY papers while traveling in Israel.
Gavi Ruit is a 4th year rabbinical student at HUC-LA. Previously, she worked as a developmental specialist with children and adolescents suffering from a range of mental and developmental disorders.