Monday, September 10, 2007

Suddenly people over here are shocked about the 'discovery' of a neo-nazi cell in Petah Tikvah. Officials either call for tough measures or try to downplay the whole thing as an isolated incident that should not be taken too seriously. Foreign media make a meal of it. When people ask me about anti-Semitism in Europe I always say that the worst cases of anti-Semitism that I experienced personally were here in Israel, during my basic training. You only had to know a handful of words in Russian to understand what some of the soldiers were saying, and most of them were not ashamed to say in Hebrew what was on their minds. Besides, their actions spoke for themselves: many of them clearly hated everything Jewish and/or Israeli. Much of their hatred was a result of anger and frustration, I am sure. Of the 100+ men from the former USSR whom I did my basic training with, about 20 could be categorized as hardcore anti-Semites ( Jews and non-Jews ), about 10 were very brave and did their best not to be associated with the majority, and the rest just ran with the anti-Semitic pack. When I tell people about my experiences in the army I mostly meet with unbelief and shock. Even when we ( most of the non-Russian immigrants in basic training ) complained to our commanders, they often brushed aside our complaints and told us to just get the whole training over with and move on. They appeared to have received clear instructions not to confront the troublemakers. All this is definitely not " the Russians' " fault, this is a problem that should have been dealt with long ago by every official - in the army, in schools, in absorption centers, etc. - who had dealings with the phenomenon. Instead, many if not most of them acted like the three monkeys who keep their ears, eyes and mouth shut. For the record: I have nothing against immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Some of my best friends are 'Russians'. :-) No really, that is true. The interesting thing is, by the way, that some of the worst anti-Semites whom I served with were Jews according to Halakha. All Russians that I did reserve duty with after I finished basic training were wonderful people, two of them were among the best, most serious and most loyal soldiers who served with me.

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