Why Did Israel Fall Under the Spell of Mysticism?

When leading politicians tell me to place my trust in mezuzahs and hamsas, it could be time to kiss Israel goodbye.

Michal Fattal

The video clip begins, with soft music playing in the background. “For me, a mezuzah is primarily a protection, a safeguard, signifying that this is a Jewish home watched over by the Holy one,” says Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev. Her eyes shine brightly, her hands wave expansively. Behind her, a huge picture of kabbalist rabbi Baba Sali sits next to a large Israeli flag; this is a government office.

Cut to MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union). The national flag can also be seen behind him. “The mezuzah provides the house with a soul,” he explains. “It affords protection that is both physical and spiritual.” At the entrance to his office is a large framed hamsa hand, warding off the evil eye.

Back to Regev: “With a mezuzah at the entrance, you know it’s a Jewish home, with a believing Jew living there. Ultimately, it’s all in the hands of the Creator.” And Cabel again: “For me, when I enter a place, kissing the mezuzah is like being inseparable from the spiritual essence of the home. It’s an indivisible part of who we are.”

We have a unity government in Israel. Creating coalitions like this used to require extensive political machinations. Now, the mediating agency is the Association of Community Rabbis. Israel is a startup nation, a cyber power. The rabbinical body is also at the forefront of technology, having launched a campaign on YouTube and Facebook that’s already gone viral. It has a sophisticated, interactive website, and offers an application called the “Mezuzon.” This lets the user photograph his mezuzah on the doorframe of his home and send the image for a comprehensive check by the association’s experts. The effort is geared at enhancing the personal safety of Israel’s residents, which has deteriorated following the current wave of terror attacks. The campaign needed promoters. “When I enter and leave, I kiss a mezuzah so that the Lord bestows His blessing on me,” Regev says helpfully. “It’s an inseparable part of who we are,” Cabel says, backing the rabbinical campaign.

The video shows people who act like they’ve been embalmed or stuffed. I don’t believe them. Regev is an opportunist hitching a ride. She left her old family name [Siboni] behind, but is suddenly embracing it again when it suits her to fan sectarian flames and boast that she never read Chekhov.

The current version of Cabel is that of someone assuming the image of his party – a weather vane. Electoral distress burns within him. Everywhere he goes, he speaks of the need to “connect with the people.” I prefer not to believe them – especially as the other option is that my culture minister and chairman of the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee really do view the world like this.

I’m a rational person. Belief in a higher being watching over us, or the Baba Sali, or holy artifacts, is not part of my world. To me, kissing a mezuzah is an irrational act. I once witnessed people avidly kissing a mezuzah at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital at the height of a flu outbreak. From a bacterial perspective, I doubt it helped them. However, I realize that it’s also OK to be irrational. From my perspective, people can believe what they want and kiss whatever pleases them, as long as it does them some good.

It’s a different matter when it comes to publicly elected officials, though. My children’s safety and education are in their hands, as well as my taxes. I can’t accept that, in the midst of a strategic crisis, senior officials in the two largest parties lead a missionary campaign that sanctifies magic and mysticism.

Until recently, people here scoffed at ultra-Orthodox people who had pretensions of protecting the country by studying the Torah. Now, in order to combat terror, the best-selling daily Yedioth Ahronoth is handing out hamsas for coloring. Politicians urge people to kiss mezuzahs. The prime minister claims that Adolf Hitler was only obeying the Palestinians’ orders. Madness is closing in around me. I don’t know how much longer I can live here like this. It would be a very irrational thing to do.