Opinion

Secular Israelis Are Wasting Time Squabbling Over Shabbat

Instead of thanking the heads of the faith-based parties for exempting us from religious laws and commandments, you secular people squabble over petty matters and risk passing the divine promise’s expiration date

An Ashdod resident demonstrates outside city hall against the so-called supermarkets bill shuttering businesses on Shabbat.
אילן אסייג

Secular Jews are petty and ungrateful in opposing the modest demand of Haredim not to open groceries on Shabbat.

Why petty? Because never before have so many secular pleasures been available on Shabbat, restaurants and movie theaters and the like, and the “supermarket law” doesn’t seal these loopholes. Why ingrates? Because ultra-Orthodox Jews, Zionist and non-, are the earthly intermediaries between us and our God. Their lifestyle and their faith, their devotion and daily prayers are the silver platter holding God’s promise that the land will belong to us, the seed of Abraham. In the absence of DNA, how can we prove we are his seed if we don’t observe Shabbat and kashrut, which always set us apart from the nations of the world?

The Haredim and their party leaders bent the rules for us, and not only on the commandment “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” There are other commandments whose observance they did not make a condition for remaining in the governing coalition or being recognized as the seed of Abraham. “Honor thy father and mother”: In our society old age, especially for women, is cause for shame and for abuse from National Insurance Institute. “Thou shalt not steal”: We haven’t heard our rabbis protesting the theft of private and public land by declaring it state land.

They also generously skipped “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.” This commandment is openly violated in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Baka and Talbieh, Ein Kerem, Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, and in Tel Aviv’s Givat Amal. The holy commandment prohibiting murder is regularly violated here, aided by breaking the commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” We take human life and falsely claim that our lives were in danger. We swear the target was military, and conceal the fact that the victims were civilians.

Have you ever heard of the leading rabbis and the heads of the faith-based parties being shocked at this wholesale violation? Have you heard them agonizing over the failure to observe the commandment to love the stranger, the African asylum seeker, because we were strangers in Egypt?

Instead of thanking the heads of the faith-based parties for exempting us from religious laws and commandments, you secular people squabble over petty matters and risk passing the divine promise’s expiration date. What would be left to justify and reinforce our being here?

You may say, the fact that we were born here and live here, speaking Hebrew and creating culture. To that we will reply: That’s not enough. After all, the Palestinians were born here, and live here, and are creating culture and speaking Palestinian Arabic. All that didn’t help them, and they were expelled and are being expelled from their country and their homeland.

You may say: The United Nations resolution. And we will reply, “Oom Schmoom, a bunch of anti-Semites from backward countries.

You will insist and say: Anti-Semitism. So what have you done? You’ve only confirmed old arguments about the Gordian knot tying Jew-haters, may their name be erased, to the founders of Zionism, of blessed memory. It’s as though you had pointed to the similarity between the disgust felt by the new Jew, Zionist and blond, for the Jews of the shtetl and the mellah (Moroccan ghetto), and the hatred of non-Jews for wearers of shtreimels (traditional Hasidic fur hats), carriers of the virus of communism and owners of banks and media outlets.

You may say: What justifies our existence is the fact that we are a place of refuge for Jews, when hostile regimes in Arab countries and Iran rose up against them to expel them. And we will reply: That’s like saying that Zionism and the settlement of the land depend only on disasters, like the waves of immigration from Argentina and Russia in the wake of economic crises.

The Holocaust, you may say. And to that we will reply: God forbid. Saying that the Holocaust brought us to the land of hamsins and housing projects is like saying that Zionism would not have succeeded without Hitler, and that Jews wouldn’t have been crazy enough to come here in order to expel another nation from its homeland.

The divine promise is the only justification for our existence here, and you’re quarreling over a shopping mall in Ashdod?