Monday, January 15, 2007

Stairway To Heaven



I tried to avoid the EL-AL ban controversy for various reasons, first and foremost because it does not pertain to the purpose of this site, as well as time and energy constraints. I’m a full-time chef, entertainer and psychologist even when on vacation. I sometimes wonder whether heilige Darwin created evolved all those amazing species only to give my dear children another excuse to spend my time and money, or to create more jobs within another arm of the entertainment and bioscience industries. He was a hell of a capitalist, you’ve gotta give it to him.

Some time ago a Moshe Feiglin article caught my attention as being the most witty and interesting among all that has been said and written on the subject. Here’s a short summary of his ideas (but reading the whole article is very strongly recommended):

…"[Y]ou are the one with the greater interest that the State should supply the atmosphere of Jewish identity. Both of us want our children to retain their Jewish identity. But your children will need a generally Jewish environment in order to retain their identity much more than my children."
"O.k., I understand," he said, "but what does that have to do with El Al?"
"The Shabbat is one of the foundations of Judaism," I answered. There is no Judaism without Shabbat. Shabbat is very important to me and that is why I prefer to have the people with the greatest interest in its preservation decide. I don't want to decide if El Al should fly on Shabbat. I want you to decide.
"Me?"
"That's right. You! I don't want religious parties or religious legislation. The more religious parties and religious legislation that we have in this country, the less Jewish identity we have. The majority of the public wants to preserve our Jewish identity. Why turn it into coercion and push the large traditional sector into the waiting arms of the small anti-religious minority? I want to break out of that cycle. I want you to take responsibility for your Jewish identity. We are both on the same side. I don't want the job of coercing you into anything. I completely rely on you. You can decide if El Al should fly on Shabbat.
" …

Despite the strong arguments and interesting angle of presenting the subject, I respectfully digress. Besides for Israel having been created as the Jewish state, and as such having an evident obligation to preserve at least a bare minimum of symbolic adherence to Jewish tradition, the argument itself is fallacious. Applying self-discipline to the legal system is a script for anarchy and abolition of the rule of law. So why not abolish all fiscal laws and penalties in order for people to be able to self-define their moral discipline and integrity? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if theft and robbery were thwarted solely by the people’s honesty instead of the fear of sentencing? Unfortunately, reality teaches us otherwise. And so too, even though within democracy’s parameters we’d be hard pressed to prevent Israelis from desecrating Shabbos, we must however prevent this from happening via something that represents the state which, in the eyes of many –justifiably or otherwise-, symbolizes Judaism.

The true approach came through the lens a Mishpacha magazine reader in the letters to the editor:

“I respectfully but vehemently disagree with your explanation of the El Al issue. You refer to their decision, when they flew on Shabbos, to “slap this community in the face”. You mention their lack of “any sensitivity to our feelings”, and so on. While there’s a lot of truth in your words, I think they slightly, but significantly, miss the point:
The early days of the Battle for Shabbos in fledging Israel, waged in Kikkar Shabbos and at the Edison’s Theater, saw some of “Jerusalem’s finest” fighting with their heart and soul and sacrificing their bodies for kedushas haShabbos. But their screams were more than outrage; they were cries of pain accompanied by tears for
Yiddishe neshamons straying away from hachayim v’hatov. They cried for Hashem’s Shabbos and for Hashem’s children, not for their own sensitivities.
Today, one struggles to hear, under the war cries of “Shabbos!” on Bar Ilan Street, any echoes of those earlier convictions. As in many areas, we mimic the actions we saw our elders doing, but we’re lacking the pnim. That same “
Shaaaabbbooossss!” that once arose out of our ahavas Hashem – and, yes, even out of ahavas Yisrael – today seems to come from a source of pure contentiousness, if not animosity. It’s as if the “struggle for Shabos” has degenerated into a soccer match: Shomrei Shabbos vs Mechalelei Shabbos; let’s see who’s stronger.
Perhaps this is just another manifestation of the unfortunate fragmentation within Israeli society in which everything is seen in terms of “us” and “them”. Perhaps the secular media is to blame for that. Perhaps it’s the inevitable outcome of a system of coalition politics, where everything comes down to
miflagtiyut, party lines. But shouldn’t we be above that? Is it really our Shabbos or Hashem’s?
The attitude of “they can’t trample a community like ours” has a ring of black power ballyhoo. Similarly, the increasingly prevalent attitude of chareidim demanding their rights as a powerful consumer bloc is more is more benefiting a consumer union dedicated to financial benefit than those who claim more rarified ideals.
Did El Al insult us when they flew on Shabbos? Did they disrespect our feelings? Did they “deal a ringing slap in the face of their most loyal customers”? Yes, yes, yes.
But more importantly they desecrated
Hashem’s Shabbos. To focus elsewhere is to miss the point entirely.”
Shloimi Kolko
Jerusalem


© Joseph Izrael 2007

1 comment:

The Anti-Semite said...

I full and well realize that the letter is not perfect - there is a thing or two to say; To blame the media or even party politics for Israel's schism is simplistic at best, for example, but there is a strong point there anyway. The 'slap in the face' isn't that unambiguous either. But the main point being so poignant I just opted to leave it as it is.