JERUSALEM (VINnews) — A secular Jew by the name of Guy Dobrowski shared a post on Facebook describing his horrific experience when he went for the first time in his life to participate in Yom Kippur prayers at Dizengoff Square.
“With trembling hands and a heavy heart, I’m sorry to have to describe the experience I had this evening, on the eve of Yom Kippur at Dizengoff Square, less than 100 meters from my home.
“In the afternoon my wife and two daughters aged 4 and 1.5 dressed in festive white clothes to participate in the first Yom Kippur prayers of our life. We conduct a totally secular lifestyle, we have never been in a synagogue, but we wanted to experience the special atmosphere of Yom Kippur and to allow our girls to broaden their horizons. We are a liberal, secular family, against religious coercion and the first to wave the Israel flag and pride flags at the Kaplan street demonstrations.
“Already on the way to the square we heard shouting. We knew that there had been a storm over gender separation and were happy to hear that even though the organizers tried to make an (illegal) separation, people had taken it down and we could now sit as a family. Unfortunately, despite removing the partition which caused the dispute, the event became more violent.
“As we were sitting on plastic chairs waiting for the beginning of the event, the antagonism of those opposed to the prayer service began boiling over- shouting, whistling, drums, verbal abuse, cries of ‘shame’ and demands to find another place for prayer- all designed to disrupt the event.
“Behind us sat an elderly couple wearing a kippah ,and one of the hecklers came up and told them that they are burning children and why are they not ashamed. One woman called to throw the siddurim in the fountain and without compunction, she went over to the table and threw them off it. At this point the mob seemingly received an order and began gathering up all of the chairs in the square, thus preventing those who wanted to sit from taking a chair and joining the ceremony.
“The level of animosity in the air rose to new heights. Girls who came to pray with their families started crying and at this point my wife took my girls home- we didn’t expect this kind of experience. I stayed on the chair- silent and hidden in the crowd, thinking about the wanton hatred and fraternal hatred, how symbolic and sad was the vision I was seeing in front of me.
“I have never prayed. I have never fasted. I have never kept Shabbat, but when a small group of youths- boys and girls – came up to me and asked me to complete a small minyan they were organizing, I immediately agreed. I felt a perpetual solidarity with these frightened but courageous people. I felt tremendous shame for my own, ostensibly liberal camp, which was sowing panic among the young people.
“Despite the ‘kosher’ tag of the minyan, small and without a partition, the mob did everything to disturb and to insult us. We had people coming into the prayer circle shouting and dancing obscenely, e-bikes and other bikes in the circle, a young woman who came with two dogs and said that she wouldn’t attack us but her dogs attacked us as people laughed nearby.
“During the prayers, I stood by them, like a lulav. I didn’t know which page we were on, I didn’t know the movements and words but I experienced everything. I thought about how my ancestors had fought and risked their lives to pray and to perform their Jewish acts and how now it was my turn to undergo this in order to pray.
“Attempts to talk with the crowd were met with loud calls of ‘shame’, they shut me up and prevented me from saying that I am like them but that this time you have exaggerated big time.
“There wasn’t real physical abuse, but as long as I wore the kippah people trod on me, hit me ‘by mistake’ with bicycle handles and I felt that I had been abandoned to the whims of the crowd.
“September 2023. Less than 100 meters from my home I was verbally and physically abused because I wanted to pray with my family on Yom Kippur. I don’t want to blame anyone but if this post makes us look in the mirror and everyone improves a bit himself and his way of treating others- I have accomplished my goal.”