Men In Black

The Cult of the Ultra-Orthodox Jew in Israel

The first entry on our recent trip to Israel.

We started in Tel-aviv followed by Joffa and Masada….but more on those later. On our first day in Jerusalem I discovered a disappointing aspect of this “City of many Cultures” when our guide took us to the fantastic Souk in the Old City for lunch.

Souk Market 3

The narrow stone-arched passages had numerous small shops opening to the central corridor with throngs of people walking hither and yon. Our guide, Roy, was leading, followed by my husband Mike and I tagged at the rear. Ahead of me I saw 2 men spread to 3, all dressed in Black including hats, and heading straight for me. The man in front of me deliberately charged into me (although I did get my elbow into his gut) while the shop keeper grasped my arm to keep me from falling. The man I hit turned, snarled, and spit at me.orthodoxjews

Afterward our guide warned me to avoid these “Men in Black” because some of the Ultra-Orthodox Jews believe they are the “Chosen” and own this country. In my view point it seems that they despise foreign women as being not “Chosen” not male and not dressed in black!

Men in Black


Naturally, being somewhat paranoid, I began to watch for these occasions and develop defense mechanisms. Some of my reactions worked. When seeing several men, in black, heading directly for me, I grabbed my husbands arm and steered for them. That worked.

I did not have this problem with any other Culture, only the “Ultras”. The sounds they made also disturbed me:: when 2 men were behind me trying unsuccessfully to push past, they would snarl and then spit. One such time I turned and said “God bless you.” That also worked.

Israel was wonderful, which I will write about later, but I had to get rid of this “Men in Black” irritation first.

Last, but not least, I relieved some of my frustration at the Tel-aviv airport when we were leaving. While waiting for our flight out, I went to the “smoking room”. As I approached the large, glass entrance doors, there were 2 men standing just inside heading out . They looked at me and stood waiting for me to open the door for them. Smiling broadly and speaking loudly I said “Gentlemen, please let me hold the door for you!” A number of people looked and many laughed. The first man snarled at me but, the second paused and said “Thank you.” A small, but nice step in the right direction, It never pays to “mess” with a retired high school teacher…we’ve seen it all.

Souk Market


About carolinebotwin

Caroline Botwin and her husband Mike are retired educators who have always had a yen for travelling: he with a PH.D and teaching Architectural Engineering plus California wine education, and she having taught high school English, speech and drama. Both wanted to learn first hand about other cultures. While Mike predominately studied buildings and structures and met with winemakers, Caroline hunted for ancient sites and peoples. And kept journals of all their travels.
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