Apparently the strain of having to repeatedly vote to uphold aspects of the religious status quo, due to coalition agreements, threatens the sanity of Shinui's leaders.
Last week Tommy Lapid saw a photograph of a Palestinian grandmother in Rafah searching through the rubble of her destroyed home and was reminded of his own beloved grandmother, murdered by the Nazis. After a lifetime of manipulating images in both journalism and politics, he has become victim of his own tricks. He is unable to think beyond the immediate image and place it in context, to ask what preceded and followed the freeze-frame before him or, as Evelyn Gordon pointed out, to contemplate alternative images of slaughtered Jewish mothers and daughters.
Even as Lapid showed more empathy for Palestinian grandmothers than for the Jewish women and children who would be the victims of Katyushas smuggled into Gaza via Rafah - and in the process handed haters of Israel a propaganda bonanza - his fellow Shinui Knesset members were demonstrating more concern for Israeli pets and farm animals than for Jewish children.
They introduced a 69-page bill specifying the requisite social and psychological environment for different animals, including appropriate "furniture" to encourage them to satiate their curiosity. Shinui can run its next campaign on the slogan "Shinui, a pig's best friend" on the basis of the bill's requirement that swine be provided with appropriate "environmental enrichment."
Some might think it odd that Shinui Knesset members show more concern for the environmental enrichment of pigs than for the educational enrichment of children, or even for the basic sustenance of the latter. (Shinui has been the most ardent supporter of cuts in child subsidies, even as the level of Israel's child allowances sinks to the lowest tier in the Western world.)
But fanatic zeal on behalf of animals and a disdain for humans have long gone together. On a visit to inter-war Berlin, Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz of Mirrer witnessed household pets dressed in pants and sweaters. He commented: "Where they treat animals as humans, in that place they will slaughter humans as animals," and he quoted the verse "Those who slaughter men will kiss their calves" (Hosea 13:2).
Usually zeal on behalf of animals and disdain for humans go together with equally zealous environmentalism. Here, at least, Shinui departs from the familiar pattern. Interior Minister Avraham Poraz recently told a group of Greens that if they want a nice environment they should go abroad; and if they can't afford that, they should buy a video.
Perhaps the reason that Shinui shows so little empathy for Jewish children is a lack of experience raising them, or at least so one might conclude from the proposal Poraz recently pushed through the cabinet for daylight saving time all year around and double time in the summer.
Parents of young children will not relish trying to put them to sleep with hours of sunshine left in the summer, or waking them up in the pitch dark in the winter. No country in the world maintains a schedule of daylight saving remotely approaching that proposed by Poraz. Israeli politicians, however, see Israel's unique approach as proof of our superior intellects.
The US experimented with year-round daylight saving time in the middle of the 1973 Arab oil embargo, and abandoned it after one year due to popular discontent (not because of the haredi lobby in Congress). The National Bureau of Statistics found a statistically significant increase in fatal morning traffic accidents involving school children going to school in the dark that year.
Poraz seems to have reasoned that if half a year of daylight saving time is good, a whole year is twice as good. He has never heard of the law of diminishing returns, or seen a bell curve. And it did not occur to him that the cost of morning heating of offices and businesses in the winter will increase.
In any event, the savings he projects - NIS 60 million - are so minuscule as to suggest that his only purpose is to make life miserable for religious Jews. After all, if haredi Knesset members squawked so loudly over daylight saving on Yom Kippur, let's see how they like sitting down to Shabbat meals at 10 p.m. in the summer and not being able to pray much of the year before 7 a.m.
Daylight saving time, of course, is not Shinui's only opportunity to wreak havoc with religious life, despite coalition agreements. The justice minister is at work on new regulations to limit funding of kollels to those in session from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., thus providing married Torah scholars with the longest "work day" in the country. That day will not only prevent them from ever seeing their children during the week but also from taking nighttime vocational classes. The proposed regulations would also terminate all funding of post-high school seminaries for women, despite the fact that these seminaries provide college-level professional training for all those haredi women Shinui wants to see in the work force.
Hatred, say our Sages, leads people to behave madly. Shinui is the proof.