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Respect the other
Photo: Dudu Azoulay
Respect a 2-way street
Op-ed: Israel's religious community demands respect, but what about respecting the seculars?

My first Shabbat-related childhood memory goes back to age 4. I turned the light on in my room and then looked up to the heavens and said: "Forgive me God for turning on the light. I just can't find my pajamas, ok?" I felt so terrible to be desecrating the holy Shabbat that this was the last time in my life I turned on the light in Shabbat.

 

Two years later, my father returned from his Jerusalem synagogue and said the rabbi asked worshipers to come out and protest against the intention to run buses that will travel through our neighborhood on Shabbat eve. I felt deep regret in my heart over my precious Shabbat, which was about to be spat o by heartless seculars. Along with other synagogue members we marched to the designated bus station following our Shabbat meal and chanted "Shabbat! Shabbat!" to protest the trampling of our day of rest.

 

Ever since these childhood memories, enough years have passed for me to realize that what I see from my point of view is not necessarily what other people see. What is perceived by me as an amazing, holy day does not excite others. What I see as desecration is perceived by a regular secular family as a lovely family day where everyone travels to the beach together. What I perceive as overly permissive is seen as free by others, and what I see as modest is perceived as stifling over there. Each person has their own point of view.

 

Am I being considerate?

Given the fact that most of my life is spent with people who are not religious, I often encounter conflicts that feature a clash between my point of view and others' views. For example, on the issue of kashrut. On various occasions I was invited in the framework of my job to eat at a restaurant with colleagues. It was clear that because of my presence, everyone will be going to a kosher restaurant. It was obvious to me as well.

 

However, at times I was also invited to blatantly non-kosher restaurants. It's hard to explain how it feels to spend a whole evening where 30 people devour plates of shrimp and calamari in your face while you can't even ask for a glass of water, because it disgusts you. My automatic thinking was that I feel like crying. How could they disrespect me like this and eat in front of me the entire evening while I'm forced to watch them and starve? I hated anyone who sat across from me and discussed professional issues while eating.

 

Yet one day I realized that while I see this as inconsideration, it may not be true necessarily. To me, as a "professional religious woman," it was obvious that 30 people would agree to eat at a kosher restaurant for the sake of spending time with one woman, yet does this really show consideration? Or is it in fact a case where I, a minority, coerce 30 people who would be forced to compromise on the food they dreamed of? The entire team will have to forego the pleasure of shrimp for the sake of respecting me? Suddenly I realized that it is in fact I who cannot show consideration for them.

 

Insulted for no reason?

The State of Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, and hence, on issues pertaining to the public sphere it is customary to respect the Shabbat. This is so obvious to us that we forgot to ask about the thousands of people who for hundreds of Saturdays were forced to forego all the things important to them, such as traveling to the beach and spending time at the mall, while being forced to pay for a cab every time they wished to visit their parents. After all, they have to respect us, right? And what about our ability to respect them?

 

It's clear to us that our Shabbat, our kashrut, our modesty and our education must be respected, but we forget that the respect we seek sometimes crudely tramples the dignity of others.

 

We are insulted if the wedding we were invited to serves non-kosher food, even if we are the only religious Jews there. We are insulted to hear proposals for buses that would allow teenagers to return home from their outing in the big city Friday night, even if we don't live in Tel Aviv ourselves. We are insulted when female soldiers sing in order to entertain the troops or when girls wearing a tank-top pass by us innocently on a warm summer day.

 

Indeed, there are rules that must be adhered to for the sake of the state's character, and I agree with that. Yet is the land truly full of greater love for God when the minority enforces its view on the majority and forces it to honor laws that do not pertain to it? Is the name of God indeed being sanctified every time the religious scream out "you don't respect us"?

 

To be truly respected, we must know only one thing – how to first respect the others, or at least show them that we understand their point of view.

 

Full article published in Makor Rishon's Motsash magazine

 

 

 

 

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