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 Recently I was in a taxi as I had to go to a town approximately 45 minutes from Jerusalem. I am not by nature a very gregarious person or a constant conversationalist. I usually am a silent passenger when in a taxi, especially since the driver is a stranger to me, though I am very appreciative of his efforts and skills. As it happened, this taxi driver was determined to discuss with me all his personal problems, and the problems of the community in which he was living. After 45 minutes of this, I finally arrived at my destination, the taxi driver was paid and I escaped.

For the entire trip, the taxi driver complained about the religious community of the city in which he lived here in Israel. Every failing, shortcoming, and callousness imaginable was ascribed to this community. It had no redeeming features in his mind, and it was solely responsible for all the challenges and deficiencies that are part of our national society today.
I did not interrupt his harangue, because I was not interested in debating any of the factors he was raising, and I soon realized that there was nothing that I could say that could or would change his mindset. He had found the perfect scapegoat for all his problems, and he was perfectly relieved to use it to vent his frustrations regarding family, domestic, community, national government and society in general. In short, in his view, if we only got rid of the religious community in Israel, everything would be perfect, and there would not be a cloud in the Israeli sky.
The nature of human beings is to always search for a scapegoat on which to place the shortcomings that are part of human life. The Jewish people generally have served this role as being the scapegoat for much of the non-Jewish world…for its challenges, misfortunes and difficulties. Nevertheless, in the eyes of many Europeans and others in today's world. the Jews remain the ideal scapegoat for all problems that beset human society currently.
Even though Europe no longer possesses a large or significant Jewish population in comparison to its Jewish population of a century ago, anti-Semitism in Europe is still rampant, and oftentimes turns to violence. Life is frustrating and there have been never-ending problems for many centuries. The motto of the Nazis in Germany was that ‘Jews are our misfortune.’ In other words, once we got rid of the Jews, the misfortunes would disappear. Well, Europe pretty much got rid of their Jews, as there are really no major Jewish populations in most European countries today, but Europe did not get rid of its problems, its challenges, its inherent weaknesses and misfortunes.
Instead of looking for a new scapegoat, it has continued to use the old canards. So, anti-Semitism in Europe is still very prevalent and often turns to violence and even murder. I do not advocate that Europe or anyone else should look for another scapegoat. I merely point out how the habit of scapegoating Jews is so ingrained in European society that even when there are no Jews, at least not in any sizable numbers, the Jews remain the favorite scapegoat that many turn to in order project their frustrations upon. Clearly, one of the major faults of all of human society is its necessity to always find a scapegoat.
There are many serious deficiencies and problems within religious Jewish society here in Israel. But there are also many serious issues, perhaps even greater in number and more dangerous, that affect the future of the country, and that exist within the nonreligious section of Israeli society. Scapegoating the religious society for its ills may make many in the nonreligious society feel better about their own shortcomings and failings. However, it will be of little avail, for even if, God forbid, the religious Jewish society no longer existed in the country, none of the major problems that Israel faces will in any way be eliminated. We should concentrate on trying to fix our own houses, families, communities and societies without projecting ills and blame on other sections of the population of our country.
Experience has shown that just as charity begins at home so too does any societal improvement begin with the individual and personal family. The rabbis phrased it correctly when they said first decorate yourself before you attempt to decorate others. This is an inconvenient truth, but like all truth it has the ring of eternity attached to it. The taxi driver should concentrate on himself and leave the religious community alone to deal, as it should, with its own internal problems and failures. There are no easy shortcuts, and scapegoating is really a false idea and a dead end as far as any social accomplishments that can ever be realized from it.
Shabbat shalom

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