Photo: AP

Israelis, live and let live

Op-ed: Last thing Israeli society needs is constant squabbling over religious affairs

Our nerves are raw. We all ask each other to stay out. The women are saying: Stay out of our womb; the rabbis are ruling: Stay out when females sing. The haredim are screaming: Stay out of our neighborhood. And the seculars are demanding: Stay out of our lives. And we haven’t yet mentioned Ashkenazim and Sephardim, settlers and leftists, tycoons and social activists.


In the realm of Torah law we are also seeing great tension. Every minor comment draws impassioned responses. Every thought that is a little different is considered blasphemy, every desire to change things turns into a reform, and every aspiration for more complexity is label un-Jewish.


Rabbis and students, senior officials and low-ranking figures, the loud and the quiet – relax! Just as there is a mitzvah to speak up, sometimes it’s a mitzvah to say nothing. There is no need to issue religious edicts over every matter, thereby automatically turning those who do not adhere to it into infidels and sinners. Not every issue must draw harsh, unequivocal responses, as if there could be no other truth. Just like not every folly constitutes “culture” or “modernism” or “enlightenment.”


Religious tension, within the larger cauldron of Israeli tension, is the last thing we need at this time. The Israeli public often speaks of tolerance, yet in practice cannot tolerate others. We often speak of love, yet in practice we produce hatred. It’s enough to see the style of the various talkbacks in order to understand how much wickedness, pettiness and hatred simmer under the surface and in our keyboards.


Time for compromise

Perhaps this is the right time for a lull, a time-out, a ceasefire, something. The rabbis do not have to respond immediately and decisively rule on everything and at any price. Journalists do not have to blow every minor issue out of proportion in order to draw more readers. Judges do not have to interfere in every appointment and every issue, leftists do not have to intervene every time a new mobile home is set up in the territories, and rightists don’t have to interfere in the repertoire of our national theater.


In the modern world where the slogan “live and let live” is the motto, the individual seeks to find his place and freedom, and to take responsibility for his life. He wants us to stay out of his life. One can debate on whether this slogan is moral, yet one thing is certain: This is the basic human condition most people aspire for, and we should respect that.


I sense that the patience of Israelis keeps on wearing thin. Even though one is itching to attack, show impassioned zeal and prove the others wrong – our trendsetters and leaders must show even more social, spiritual and educational responsibility. Instead of constantly seeking who to keep out, they should aim to bring people in. Instead of radicalization, they should seek compromise, and instead of growing strictness they should seek mitigation. The real wisdom, as always, is not just to be right, but to also be smart.


This is a required mission and no exemptions are possible. In this war there are no good guys and bad guys, only short-term winners and long-term losers.



פרסום ראשון: 12.02.11, 00:46
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