President Moshe Katsav is mistaken, but not completely. On Sunday he defined the secular as "children who were taken captive [and thus deprived of a Jewish education], who had not been given an opportunity to choose." But the truth is that the secular are not children taken captive but adults taken captive. Taken captive in a benighted country in which the president thus defines the only public that is ethical by choice and by personal decision, and not by the power of the fear of God and hell fire.
They have been taken captive in a country in which they cannot choose whether to marry in the presence of a rabbi or a municipal official, and some of them (an estimated 300,000) cannot marry in their country at all. Taken captive in a country in which tunnels are built for removing spiritual impurity, just because an ancient grave was found on the route of a highway, and olive trees are plundered in the name of Halakha (Jewish law) and rabbis do not halt this despicable act.
They have been taken captive in a country in which 200 people die every year due to a shortage of organs for transplants, because the rabbis have ruled that transplanting is murder and not the prevention of death.
It is right and proper to accept with acquiescence the Knesset's democratic election of his Excellency, President Katsav, but there are still moments when it is very hard not to longingly remember Shimon Peres. When the president defined the secular as "children taken captive," he clarified precisely why the MKs from Shas voted for him, and why he suits them and they suit him, and also why some 385,000 secular votes gave their ballot to Shinui.
There is so much arrogance in that seemingly forgiving statement - "children taken captive" - and so much ignorance. This statement is based on the assumption that religiosity is a wagon full of values, and that secularism is devoid of them, so the religious person can choose the empty secular way, but the secular cannot know the religious way, overloaded with righteousness. His Excellency the President, I beg his pardon, does not know where he is living.
In religious schools, theoretically attended by children who have not been taken captive, the Internet is perceived as something dangerous that must be kept at a distance. In religious schools, biblical legends are taught as if they were history that cannot be questioned and as the word of the living God. In religious schools children are taught that a woman who wears pants, exposes her skin or even just tries to accentuate her beauty, is a sinner who is dangerous to herself and her environment. The pupils also learn there that the secular are children who were taken captive, meaning they are dangerous by their very definition.
The ultra-Orthodox are so convinced of their proper path that they built an educational track that prevents their children from knowing that something else exists on the other side of the fence. That educational track includes a long school day for young children, dormitory schools for teenagers, marriage at a young age and, of course, evasion of army service. All this so that the children should not encounter, heaven forbid, the way of life followed by the "children taken captive."
Twenty-two percent of elementary school pupils today learn in the track for children not taken captive, which educates toward evading the army and earning a living. Since His Excellency the President gives the impression of having no idea at all of what secularism is, I offer him a guide, on one foot, to liberal secularism.
Unlike modern Judaism, which neglects the commandments between man and his fellow man in favor of rites between man and God and commandments between man and Judea and Samaria, modern liberal secularism believes in exactly the same things that Hillel the Elder summarized as representing the whole Torah: "That which is loathsome to you, do not do to your friend." In the language of secular rights, this translates as, "My rights end where they encroach on your rights."
No secularists are made religious, but it is reasonable to assume that if His Excellency the President really wanted to, he could register for a seminar at which he would be taught a little about man's freedom and about tolerance for the beliefs of others (even secular beliefs).
Perhaps it might even be possible to organize a secular weekend for him, to show him how Shabbat is really enjoyed.
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