``Hatred breaks all protocol," our Sages teach. Shinui leader Tommy Lapid and his faithful henchman MK Yossi Paritzky have each recently provided recently classic demonstrations of the principle that hatred maddens a person to the point of losing all balance, self-control, and rationality. At the same time, they have removed all doubt that Shinui is based on pure, unadulterated loathing of the Torah and all those who feel bound by it.
On the eve of the arrival of nearly 400 new immigrants from North America, Shinui leader Tommy Lapid told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that one of the problems with North American aliyah is that it is primarily ``religious" and that ``quite frankly Israel could do without [religious North American Jews]." Those remarks were made in the context of an article on the changing social composition of Beit Shemesh, home to 2,500 English-speaking families, most of them religious, and to which a large percentage of the newly arriving immigrants are headed.
We are already used to hearing Oxford dons matter-of-factly tell the BBC that Jews from Brooklyn living in Israel should be shot, but it is something else to hear a Jewish Knesset member agree that they would stay put in Brooklyn. A period in which 20,000 native-born Israelis a year are leaving the country, those with money are moving businesses abroad and buying up apartments in New York, Toronto, and Europe, and North American aliyah has slowed to a trickle, seems an odd one for Lapid to express dismay at the arrival of new immigrants.
Not a peep has been heard from Lapid about the fact that Jews constitute only 72% of those living in Israel today, in part because over 60% of the current immigrants from the former Soviet Union are not Jewish. He has never uttered a word of criticism about what Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein describes as the Jewish Agency’s policy of turning over every stone in Russia in search of anyone with a drop of Jewish blood. New recruits demanding to be sworn into the IDF on a New Testament; the proliferation of churches; widely reported incidents of Jewish immigrants being taunted as ``Zhids" and cemeteries defaced with anti-Semitic slogans in Russian; the participation of non-Jewish Russian immigrants in Palestinian terrorist attacks; and the impact of immigration on organized crime and other unsavory activities – none of these developments troubles him.
But the immigration of religious Jews, now that’s another matter. No likely Shinui voters there.
The nearly 400 North American immigrants, who arrived Tuesday, were not fleeing for their lives, but rather entering a war zone in which one out of every 25,000 Jews can expect to be killed in a terrorist incident in the next six months. Nor were they motivated by economic opportunity. Most are leaving secure jobs, and many have no idea how they will support their families in an economy in which unemployment is above 10% and rising.
Rather they came for the very reason that classical Zionism appropriated from the Torah: the Land of Israel is the natural environment of the Jewish people. Perhaps Mr. Lapid should ask himself why the arrival of 40 Reform seminarians for a year of study is newsworthy, but more than a hundred times that number of Orthodox students coming every year is taken as a matter-of-course. And why is it that Orthodox Jews, who are only 10% of American Jewry, constitute a majority of new immigrants?
This week’s new immigrants did not expect to be greeted as heroes, but neither did it occur to them that they would be met with a Bronx cheer from a Jewish Knesset member. The arrival of these immigrants-by-choice has given us all a much needed morale booster. No doubt they will contribute in countless other ways as well. Kippah-wearing English-speakers are already the backbone of the Jerusalem’s high-tech sector, and constitute one of the largest potential reservoirs of talent when high-tech rebounds.
But that is beside the point. By questioning the productivity of religious immigrants, as well as their beliefs, Lapid hearkens back to one of the ugliest chapters in Zionist history: the North African aliyah, in which the young and malleable were brought first, while the old people and more religious were left behind.
ANY doubt that all religious Jews are anathema to Shinui was removed by Yossi Paritzky’s letter last week to Ha’aretz, in which he argued that no religious judge should ever be appointed to a civil court in Israel. His proof: an opinion by Chief Judge of the National Labor Court, Steven Adler, in which Adler determined that ``Shabbat" for purposes of the law governing ``Days of Work and Rest," begins at sunset and ends at nightfall. (Judge Sarah Meiri of the Tel Aviv District Court had previously dismissed a complaint against a Ramat Gan kiosk owner for operating at 10:10 p.m. on Friday night on the grounds that Shabbat begins at midnight.)
According to Paritzky, the decision of Adler, who is religious, was based on halacha and not Israeli civil law, and proves that religious judges are incapable of removing the taint of religion from their legal decisions. Paritzky did not explain how Adler persuaded his two non-religious colleagues to join in such a farcical interpretation of Israeli civil law.
In fact, the Labor Court’s ruling was a straightforward act of interpreting legislative intent, devoid of normative content. When the Knesset specified Shabbat and the Jewish holidays as legal days of rest for Jews, it clearly intended the definition of those days as understood throughout Jewish history. The holidays specified in the statute such as the holiday of Shavuot, or the first and seventh day of Pesach simply have no meaning other than the traditional halachic one, and it is ridiculous to think the Knesset intended anything else.
Indeed the Knesset in setting other days of rest not found in halacha – Independence Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day – has chosen to follow the traditional definition of holidays as beginning at sunset and ending at nightfall.
To follow Paritzky’s view that Shabbat begins at midnight would have meant that the Knesset also intended to proscribe all the enumerated activities until Saturday midnight, something never dreamed of over the last fifty years. Paritzky himself admitted as much in an interview with Mekor Rishon.
Following his own logic, Paritzky would have had a better case that no non-religious Jews should be appointed judges. Much Knesset legislation is based on traditional Jewish practice and secular judges, like Judge Meiri, are likely to be driven by their animus to Jewish religion to interpret such statutes at variance with the plain legislative intent.
Paritzky does, however, have one point: Judges cannot be expected to forget as judges what they know or believe as men and women. That is less relevant when discussing technical questions of legislative intent. But it is central when courts, particularly the Supreme Court, are involved in balancing competing interests, without any clear legislative guidelines, such as the interest of religious neighborhoods in Shabbat peace versus that of assuring the free flow of traffic. The value assigned to Shabbat will obviously depend to a large extent on the judges’ own religious background.
But Paritzky’s insight leads directly away from his conclusion. In a society with a wide range of debate over basic norms, it is crucial that courts making normative decisions represent the full range of normative values found in society, and include both religious and non-religious judges.
Paritzky would impose belief tests for judges, all in the name of defending democracy (as Lapid would like to do for immigration.) Such Orwellian inversions of democracy are too frequently found in Israel today, particularly on the Left and the anti-religious fringes. Democracy means that only those who think like me get to vote, or broadcast, or judge.
Just one more reason to be grateful for a few more North Americans immigrants.