A major political issue facing Israel now is the question of whether in Israeli democracy someone has the right NOT to desecrate the Sabbath.
Yes, you read that correctly. No misprint.
There has long been tension in Israel because of the politicized “religion” of the demagogues of the various religious parties who have attempted – not very successfully – to coerce people into religious observance, such as through prohibiting bus operations and movie showings on the Sabbath. I regard this as “nuisance religion” and insist that it is not a legitimate function of the government to pressure people to be observant. I also think it arouses antagonism to religion and drives people AWAY from observance. In any case, the scope of nuisance religion is exagerated and does not affect at all most Israelis; when everyone owns cars it does not matter if buses run on Sabbath, and besides there are taxis. And when everyone has a VCR, who cares if cinemas are open or not on Friday night?
But as I say, all that is not what is now at issue, but rather whether Israelis have the right to choose NOT to desecrate the Sabbath.
The issue has come up with respect to Lev Leviov. Leviov is an immigrant to Israel who has done quite well in the Israeli business world, and is also a “hozer b’tshuva”, someone who became religiously observant. Leviov is the owner of a new shopping center in Ramat Aviv, the yuppie Leftist suburb north of Tel Aviv, in which Tel Aviv University sits, in which people like Shimon Peres and Leah Rabin live.
Leviov has decided that in the shopping center, which is his personal property, the stores and services will not operate on the Sabbath. Sure, he will lose some rent, but that is what he wishes.
But that decision has outraged the Leftist lumpenproletariat of yuppie Ramat Aviv. No fair, they screameth. Ramat Aviv is a leftist secular enclave! They insist that Leviov allow all the shops and services to operate in his shopping center mall, since after all they serve the militant secularists of Ramat Aviv, the same folks by the by who have been demonstrating against polluting the Tel Aviv University campus thru allowing a synagogue to be built there. The Labor Party and Meretz pols have joined in and are also demanding that Leviov be coerced into allowing the mall to stay open on the Sabbath, giving the teenagers of Ramat Aviv some place to hang out and play Beverly Hills 90210.
Then along comes Roni Milo, the mayor of Tel Aviv. Now Ramat Aviv is not even in Hizzohuh Da Mare’s jurisdiction, and Milo is from the Likud. But Milo, whose principles are interchangeable with those of the Labor Party left (he favors Oslo) has come out in FAVOR of the forces of darkness attempting to coerce the opening of Leviov’s mall on the Sabbath. Milo is following in the steps of his predecessor Mayor General Shlomo Lahat, who got elected to City Hall as a Liberal Party (part of Likud) candidate and then became Shimon Peres’ booster and cheerleader for Oslo. Milo wants to ride the fence and play the Leftist-metamorphosis option.
The secularists are threatening to invade religious town Bnei Barak on Sabbath with cars and noise as “retaliation” for the human rights abuse being perpetrated upon them by Leviov in his obstinate refusal to allow the Sabbath to be desecrated on his property.
And have a good Sabbath….
Dr. Steven E. Plaut
Graduate School of Business
University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel
Phone (972-4) 824-0110
Fax (972-4) 824-0059 or (972-4) 824-9194