Sunday, July 18, 2010

Is there law in Israel? -- הלכו לתרבות הרעה

Two examples of disregard of the law in Jerusalem that I just encountered tonight, and about which I'm still fuming:

I was walking in Gan Sacher [a big public park where people play soccer, run, ride bicycles, etc.] with friends, and we sat down to watch a soccer game. Suddenly, behind us flames shot up in the air. It turned out to be a group of young, irresponsible men from a yeshiva, who were building a bonfire inside a ring of trees, without any circle of stones to indicate that this was a legitimate place to build a fire. It's the middle of the hot, dry summer in Israel and very dangerous to light a fire anywhere near possible tinder. My friend went and called the police and the fire department, but the fire kept burning higher as the yeshiva guys put more kindling on it.

I went over and started to talk to them. Another woman had preceded me, one of the people who was involved in the soccer game. I heard that they were speaking English (they were Americans) and started to talk to them in English to tell them that it was illegal and dangerous to make a fire in this place. One of the younger, even more irresponsible yeshiva kids said, "there is no law in Israel!" I yelled at him and told him that of course there is law in Israel. His friends got involved in the argument. Finally, one of the supposedly adult staff came over, and conceded that they should not continue to feed the fire. He said that they would go and get water bottles to put it out.

I continued to yell and ask them what did they learn in their yeshiva - didn't the Talmud talk about "loving your neighbor as yourself" and "be careful for your lives"? One of the adult staff said to me - "Don't start talking about the Talmud."Apparently, the Torah and Talmud only belong to the haredim, and not to any other Jews. As of when we left, no one was bringing water bottles, and neither the fire department nor the police had arrived.

My friends and I hailed a taxi to get home (from Panorama Taxis) - it dropped them off first, and then came to my street. I was looking at the meter, and suddenly in was 4.5 shekels more than it had been. I protested and the cab driver said - "this is for the third passenger." I protested that I had never heard of such a thing. He called his dispatcher and said - "Isn't it true that it's more for the third passenger?" The dispatcher said yes. I then looked at the receipt, and it didn't say anything about a third passenger - instead it said "telephone" - as if we had ordered the taxi by telephone (which does in fact cost more). The driver said, "Oh, it's the same amount of money." I paid him and then got out and told him that he and his company were thieves. He drove off. I just looked it up and saw nothing on the official site of the Jerusalem municipality about a special extra fare for three passengers.


  1. But Rebecca -- getting hosed by a taxi driver is universal. Yet I don't hear you complaining about unethical cabbies in America, or North Korea, or Iran. This is just another example of the reckless double standard that Israel is exposed to every day yadayadaya....

  2. Thanks for the comment, David :) I needed a laugh. I know, I've been defrauded by cabbies in several countries, but this instance happened here, in the supposedly holy land....

    I wonder if you can even take a cab in North Korea?

  3. What's the official jerusalem municipality site? We always get charged for a third passenger (when I travel with my husband and daughter) and would be interested in finding out whether this is the law or just the norm.