Tel Aviv's flagship Tel-O-Fun
bike rental initiative is moving full steam ahead. This is not about the White Night cultural initiative or the restoration of the port, this is about turning Tel Aviv into a city that has no connection to religion and Judaism.
The first Hebrew city is aware of the threat to the secular lifestyle within its limits and understands the repercussions of forcing a free person to commit a religious act against his or her will. This is why it is fighting so hard for public transportation on Shabbat and for all the other initiatives that may keep the "negative effects" of the yarmulke-wearing community at bay (including the removal of
Chabad members from the Ramat Aviv Mall to prevent them from 'attacking' innocent civilians and spreading their faith).
For a moment there is seemed as though the great project was at risk of being shut down, and a Tel Aviv Municipality official suggested that the Tel-O-Fun service be suspended on Yom Kippur, but over the weekend we found out that nothing has changed. The capital of the seculars is not in danger, Tel Aviv will not turn into Bnei Brak - we can all rest easy. But not really.
Suspending the bike rental service on Yom Kippur does not constitute capitulation to the religious community, and it has nothing to do with religious coercion. Why? Because Yom Kippur is not a religious day; it is an Israeli day. It is one of the state's symbols.
You do not have to observe the Torah and the mitzvahs to deem Yom Kippur a holy day. Even avid seculars fast on Yom Kippur. Even those who regularly eat bacon with cheese feel uncomfortable upon hearing that an Israeli who plays for a European basketball team took part in a game that was held on Yom Kippur. Eat falafel, go to a barbecue but also fast one day a year – this is what it means to be Israeli in modern times.
Israeli identity is made up of several elements, and some of them, even many of them, originate in the religious world.
It does not really matter where a certain component of Israeli identity originated from. What matters is that is was adopted by the majority of the public, completely or partially, and earned a central place in the pantheon of our national symbols – alongside the anthem and the IDF.
The city officials who decided to continue operating the Tel-O-Fun bike rental service on Yom Kippur
(free of charge) have crossed a line in the religious-secular battle. Yom Kippur is an integral part of the cultural world of many Israelis.
The debate is relevant not only to Tel Aviv's residents, but to residents of Kfar Saba, Afula and Eilat as well. Because if secular fanaticism will threaten to uproot the religious components that have become part of the Israeli common denominator, it will eventually spread and erode all of our national identities. If this unnecessary campaign succeeds, we will eventually reach the point where the definition of "Israeli" will continue to exists, but it will be devoid of any real meaning.
If Israeli society wants to preserve its national assets, it must be aware of the danger of becoming an overly-lenient, unrestrained society in which nothing is sacred. Except bicycles, of course.