Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Church and state

   The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is bad enough.
   “It’s an opportunity to find other normal people here.”
   I suppose it’s nice to think that Mazya, quoted in the Los Angeles Times while at a folk concert, might consider a guy like me, out shirtless in bib overalls and wearing mismatched high-tops with rainbow laces, to be “normal.” But it isn’t so nice that she is implying some of her fellow Jewish citizens in Israel aren’t “normal” because of their beliefs.
   As the article explains, Mazya is one of many secular Jewish Israelis who are not happy with ultra-Orthodox laws and regulations. These laws strictly regulate what, if any, theaters, shops and other public places can be open on the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest. They are enforced especially in such places as Jerusalem, where there are more religious people.
   Mazya was speaking in Tel Aviv, where there are far fewer religious people and more bars and clubs. But many people are tired of having to drive there for some fun on Friday evening. At a protest on a recent Friday evening at a shuttered Jerusalem cinema, people chanted, “Wake up, Jerusalem! Nonreligious people are equal too!”
   On the other hand, there are people like Daniel Katzenstein, an ultra-Orthodox father of nine who moved to Jerusalem from Brooklyn and who says, “When I see a Jewish person in a car on the Sabbath, it hurts me. Any threat to my lifestyle I am going to protest.”
   No doubt Mazya would say he isn’t “normal.” And as the Times continues, “In recent years, crowds of ultra-Orthodox men have burned down bus shelters featuring images of scantily clad women and have sought to stop construction of a mixed-gender swimming pool. When the owners of Café Bezalel, famous for its mimosas, decided to open for Saturday brunch this year, diners were confronted by ultra-Orthodoxy protesters chanting, ‘Shabbat’ - ‘Sabbath.’”
   What a mess! It is sad and alarming that Daniel is “hurt” and feels threatened by his fellow Jewish citizens going out drinking and dancing on Friday nights. I feel bad that, if I was a Jewish Israeli, he would probably be seriously offended by my clothing or lack thereof. But it is all the worse when laws not only encourages but enforces his beliefs.
   This is the great wisdom of the system of government we have in this country, separating church and state. It always surprises me to hear that America is one of the most religious countries, with many more people attending services than in, say, Europe, where there are magnificent churches everywhere you look. And we do have our spats - sometimes quite bitter ones - over abortion, same-sex marriage and the like, with people being offended, hurt and sometimes worse. But because of the First Amendment, government can’t get involved in religion, and no one belief can be favored or enforced.
   Yes, there are people who would love and are trying hard to see this changed, but, God willing, it won’t be.

1 comment:

  1. Too many times I try to separate the politics and the belief systems, and then find myself squirming and debating why in the campaining does the conservative right always talk about the family values and as if they corner the market on it. I think everybody has values and if the right does want to think they have a moral edge, it is only because of the pandering to the mid west bible belt, where the fundamentalists seem to not care about separation and promote it as well as the candidates.