``Immoral enemies make stupid mistakes," old-time labor organizer Saul Alinsky used to say. Over the last two weeks, the leaders of Israel’s rabidly anti-religious Shinui party provided irrefutable support for Alinsky’s dictum. No longer can there be a shadow of a doubt that Shinui is based on pure, unadulterated loathing of Torah and all those who observe its commandments.
First to bat was MK Yossi Paritzky. Paritzky is not a nice man, and certainly no friend of the Jews, but he is not an idiot. Yet two weeks ago, he sent a letter to Ha’aretz, in which he argued that the state of Israel should not appoint any religious judges.
The occasion for Paritzky’s wrath was a decision of the National Labor Court, in which a three-judge panel headed by Chief Judge Steven Adler ruled that Shabbos begins at sundown, and not at midnight on Friday night. Tel Aviv District Court Judge Sarah Meiri had previously ruled the opposite, in dismissing a complaint against a Ramat Gan kiosk owner for operating at 10:10 p.m. on Friday night.
The issue before the Labor Court was not the halachic definition of Shabbos, but rather the legislative intent of the Knesset when they enacted the law governing ``Days of Work and Rest," and included Shabbos and the Yomim Tovim. Did the Knesset mean days beginning and ending at midnight, or did it mean those hours during which Jews have customarily refrained from melachah on Shabbat and the festivals – i.e., from sunset to nightfall the following day?
The answer to that question was straightforward: the Knesset deliberately borrowed the Jewish religious calendar in determining the days of rest. For one thing, ``Chag HaShavuot" and ``Shevii shel Pesach" have no possible meaning apart from their halachic definition. It is ridiculous to think that the Knesset intended a different period of time when referring to Shabbat (which according to Paritzky should be understood simply as a synonym for the seventh day of the week) and when referring to the festivals.
Even more striking, when the Knesset created new days of rest, like Independence Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day, it invariably defined them as beginning at sundown and ending at nightfall. Clearly it did not apply a halachically-based definition of day in these cases and not in the case of Shabbos.
In his frenzy, Paritzky ended up tying himself in knots. According to his interpretation of the law, all those activities proscribed on Shabbos would be forbidden until midnight on Saturday night, something no Israeli has dreamed of over the last half century – or would tolerate. Paritzky admitted as much in an interview with Makor Rishon.
Yet that did not prevent Paritzky from maintaining that the decision of the Labor Court was so absurd that it could only be explained by the kippah on Chief Judge Steven Adler’s head. (Paritzky could not explain, when challenged by Makor Rishon, how Adler persuaded two non-religious colleagues to join him in such a plainly farcical decision.) Paritzky then went on to argue that religious judges are bound by halacha, and not Israeli civil law, and thus unfit to be judges in a democratic society.
In point of fact, Paritzky’s conclusion was convoluted to the point of absurdity. Based on his letter and Judge Meiri’s lower court opinion, it would actually have been easier to make an argument for the proposition that no non-religious judges should ever be appointed in Israel: Much Knesset legislation is based on traditional Jewish sources, and non-religious judges are likely to be driven by an animus to Jewish religion to interpret those sources at variance with their plain meaning.
Paritzky’s would-be ban on religious judges in the name of democracy typifies an Orwellian inversion of democracy that is widespread in Israel today, particularly on the Left and anti-religious fringe. Democracy means that only those who think like me are allowed to vote, or to be represented in the broadcast media, or to serve as judges.
PARITZKY’S letter was the product of someone so maddened by hatred as to have lost all balance, self-control, and rationality. The following week Shinui leader Tommy Lapid demonstrated that this particular form of insanity defines Shinui.
The arrival in Israel last week of nearly 400 North American immigrants provided Israelis with a much needed morale boost. What could be more inspiring to a country under siege, and in the throes of a long-term recession, than 400 Jews choosing voluntarily to plight their troth to Israel’s future?
These immigrants were not fleeing for their lives, but rather choosing to enter a war zone. Most of them left behind secure jobs to come to a country with unemployment at over 10% and rising.
Not surprisingly, their arrival occasioned a great deal of fanfare. But there was Tommy Lapid figuratively on the tarmac blowing a Bronx cheer at the new immigrants. A few days before their plane touched down, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel published an article on Beit Shemesh, the planned destination of many of the immigrants. In that article, Lapid complained that North American aliyah is overwhelmingly religions. He added for good measure, ``Quite frankly Israel could do without [religious North American Jews]."
Lapid subsequently clarified that he did not mean to single out religious North American immigrants. In his opinion, Israel could do without charedi immigrants wherever they come from; indeed it could do without the charedim that are already here. (Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein responded that Israel could certainly do without Tommy Lapid.)
Jews today constitute only 72% of the permanent residents of Israel, and 20,000 native-born Israeli Jews are fleeing the country annually. This would seem a strange time, then, for a Jewish Knesset member to express dismay at the arrival of new immigrants.
Lapid has never expressed the slightest misgivings about the massive immigration of non-Jews from the former Soviet Union due to what Minister Edelstein describes as the Jewish Agency’s policy of turning over every stone in search of anyone with a drop of Jewish blood. Nor has he fretted about the attendant consequences of that immigration – a proliferation of churches, new recruits to the IDF insisting on being sworn in on Christian Bibles, widely reported instances of Jewish immigrants being taunted as ``Zhids" and cemeteries defaced with anti-Semitic slogans in Russian, or the aiding and abetting of terrorist attacks by non-Jewish immigrants.
None of this troubles Lapid. These non-Jewish Russian-speakers are, after all, potential Shinui voters. The only immigration that raises his ire is religious Jews. No potential Shinui voters there.
Rather than lament that the overwhelming majority of Western immigrants are religious, Lapid might have asked himself why that is. Why does the view that Eretz Yisrael is the natural environment of the Jewish people resonate so much powerfully with Jews raised on the Torah? Why is the arrival of 40 Reform ``rabbinical" students worthy of an article in the Jerusalem Post, while the annual arrival of more than a hundred times that number of Orthodox yeshiva and seminary students annually is taken as a matter of course?
Lapid’s hatred of Judaism, however, prevents him from asking such questions. Indeed the mere thought of more religious Jews arriving in Israel completely destroyed his equilibrium. In the recent past, we have heard regulars on the BBC, like Oxford poet Tom Paulin, comment matter-of-factly that Jews from Brooklyn living in Israel should be shot, but it still comes as a shock to hear a Jewish Knesset member shouting that they should stay put in Brooklyn.
Paritzky and Lapid would no doubt be dismayed that through their irrational ranting they proved the truth of Chazal’s observation: Hatred breaks all protocol.
Related Topics: Chareidim and Their Critics
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