Opinion

Religion in Israel Attacks New Mothers

First we get a classic private health system – bypassing the public health system but exploiting its resources. Then the rabbis step in

Moti Milrod

The advertisement I’ll be discussing below wasn’t written as a satire of secular Israel’s foolishness, self-deprecation and loss of moral compass in the face of spreading religious coercion. It’s part of the initiative of the private hotel for new mothers next to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, which lets moms who have just given birth at the hospital stay with their newborns in luxury conditions for at least 1,790 shekels ($490) a night.

Yom Kippur at Baby Lis (a name based on Lis Maternity and Women’s Hospital): “One of the advantages of being a guest at the hotel on Yom Kippur is that the husband can be with the new mother throughout this holy day. He receives a meal before the fast, light refreshments to break the fast, and the meal after the fast. The atmosphere on Yom Kippur in the hotel is special: a blend of excitement about the expansion of the family along with the sanctity of the day.”

So much for the nonsense; now for the reality, as it’s explained in the instructions posted at the hotel before this holy day. “Dear Guests, we would like to inform you that in accordance with the instructions of the Tel Aviv Chief Rabbinate, the food during Yom Kippur will be provided on a limited basis and during Yom Kippur no hot food will be served. In addition, please note that during the holiday there will be no cleaning services.”

A bit more on the meal times for new mothers who are heretics or simply weak: three cold meals that will be served outside the hotel. (“Location – 12th floor. For reasons of safety there is no possibility of coming to this floor with the newborn.”) At the bottom of the page is a last reminder: “With wishes for an easy fast, the hotel administration.”

Here you have a real parody of the depth of the illness. First they establish a classic private health system – bypassing the public health system but exploiting its resources. It has a foreign word in its name, and those who can afford it are charged an exorbitant sum for services that a maternity ward in a modern country is supposed to provide. And finally, the place gives in to fundamentalism and sings and dances before it, while clearly undermining basic individual rights.

The instinctive reaction is perhaps “suckers, you deserve it.” Or at most “sue them for all they’re worth!” Those who deny the strengthening of religion – a growing genre as the phenomenon grows – will downplay the problem or say it’s the exception, not the rule.

But the rule, as usual, is composed of many small instances connected by one black line. Liberals who want to live their lives must simply change the tune. Wailing and complaining are of no use. And there’s certainly no point in attacking the emissaries of ignorance or trying to convince them to change their ways. Fundamentalism by nature is insatiable, it recognizes weakness and understands only force.

Some secular people who use the Rabbinate’s services in their daily lives collaborate with the kashrut mafia, unintentionally observe many religious practices, shrug their shoulders at the increasing encroachment of religious observance in the school system and army, and do without public transportation on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. These people shouldn’t be surprised later on at the intervention in their food, underwear and lives.

If secular people in Israel develop a class consciousness and combine forces, they’re likely to discover that they have economic and even political power. They’ll then be able to bring to their knees those who have lost their moral compass, who tell us how “the Baby Lis hotel will continue to provide outstanding service, with pampering and courteous hotel conditions, for new mothers who so desire on Yom Kippur, as on all days of the year.”