Saturday, November 20, 2004

Secular flight to Modi'in

One of our Friday night dinner guests brought with her one of the councillers of the city of Modi'in, in London for a couple of weeks. When I asked him about the development of the city (where many of my friends live), he started going on and on about how worried they were that Chabad, which is apparently trying to buy a plot of land in order to set up a mikveh and a shul, was going to try and 'convert' the entire city. Or -- just as bad for many of the city's residents who have fled from an increasingly haredi Jerusalem -- they might become a large presence in Modi'in themselves. At this point I asked him which party he represented, to be told, of course, 'Shinui.'
What was striking, however, was that this man, who on the surface of things was so anti-religious, made sure he went to shul that night, put on a kippa for kiddush, and quite happily recited birkat hamazon with us. He also told us that his family has a Friday night meal each week. This backs up what many Shinui voters have told me -- that they are not necessarily anti-religious, simply anti-religious establishment, and anti-religious coercion. I find it absolutely tragic that because of the mixture of politics and religion in Israel, even people who themselves are traditional, or sypathetic to tradition, have reached a point where they are so suspicious of haredim, and where relations between the different streams are so fraught with tension.

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