Sunday, October 05, 2008

Modiin and Raanana: Flipping out?

Two Israeli cities, Modiin and Raanana have been in the news lately, due to 2 extremely strange news items. Since many bloggers live in these cities**, I'm interested in their feedback...(I guess Petach Tivkva should be lucky they didn't appear in this post.)

** Commenter Abbi posts here @ The Muqata too... Apologies if I forgot to give you a link...will gladly update the post :)

Story 1 -- Modi'in
A high school in the central city of Modiin forbade a student to bringing his tefillin onto school grounds, threatening to expel him.

"It started on the first day of school," says A, an 11th grader. "Two classmates of mine told me they wanted to put on teffilin every morning, and asked me to take them to a rabbi to have them checked. I did that, and the rabbi found the tefillin to be damaged and in need of repair."

For the time being, A. started bringing his phylacteries to school, and in their free time, during breaks and free periods, the three would gather at a small classroom which was not being used, and put on the phylacteries for a few minutes every day.

Other students heard about this and asked to join them, and they would all meet every morning. This went on uninterrupted until one day the students wanted to put on the phylacteries when a class was cancelled and their regular classroom was occupied.

Instead, the group entered the school library, where the librarian pointed them in the direction of the unoccupied photocopy room.

When the students returned to the same room the following day, the librarian told A. that the school principal, Nurit Zak, wanted to see him in her office.

A.'s mother was amazed by the decision. "I am shocked and astonished," she said. "We came from France, where such things happen on occasion, but we never imagined that they could happen here, in Israel. It hurts me that he was punished so severely, as if he had brought drugs or alcohol to school."

The high school principal refused to respond and directed us to the Modiin Municipality's spokesperson, who said that "nothing is stopping those who wish to put on teffilin at the school privately and personally. The student was asked not to bring his tefillin to school and to pursause others to join him." [source: ynetnews]
This past Friday, I took my 5 year old to buy new pairs of tzitzit -- at our local "moetza datit" (religious community council -- they also sell Judaica, books and religious items). Unfortunately, it was closed. While walking away, my 5 year old queried, "Where is the Moezta Chilonit" (the "secular community council" -- a non-existent concept...or so I thougt) I didn't have an answer for him till now -- it must be run by the Modiin high school principle, Nurit Zak.

Story 2 -- Raanana
This past Shabbat, dozens of religious teenagers blocked cars on the "Sheshet HaYamim" street in Ra'anana. This is a very unusual event, as Raanana has always been seen as a city of good neighborly relations between the religious and secular communities. City officials are extremely concerned that this will inflame tensions in the city and degragde the relationship between the two sides.

The event took placed on Friday evening, close to midnight, when approximately 60 teenagers took to the street and closed it to traffic. They reportedly told the shocked drivers, "It is forbidden drive on Shabbat"

When one motorist's vehicle was blocked from driving, she called the municipal hotline who sent the police and munipal security patrols to the scene -- they disperesed the crowd which was next to the Ariel religious school.

Despite this being a unique event, the Raanan education department will start a campaign among the religious students,"in order to ensure these events do not reccur in Raanana" [source: mynet (Hebrew)]
I can understand religious Raanana teenagers wanting to teach their fellow neighbors about the importance of Shabbat, but blocking the road? That will not win them any brownie points with their neighbors...let alone convince anyone to stop driving. Maybe give out leaflets, or even hold up banners at the side of the road about the holiness of Shabbat, but blocking the roads? What's going on in Raanana?

It's almost Yom Kippur...can't we keep these sort of incidents to a minimum?

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד


Commenter Abbi said...

Wow, i had no idea about either incident. That's crazy that kids can't bring tefillin to a school in Israel! I also thought things like that only happen in chu'l.

The Raanana thing is also surprising.

Good thing Jameel is on the beat, I'd never know what goes on in this country (i'm not a news junkie in the least. Drives my parents nuts.)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Abbi: Glad I can highlight the important things going on :)

Gila: Sad...sad...sad...(you would think with "clowns", everything would be funny)

Lakewood Falling Down said...

This was a copy from a post I wrote:
Reading the Jpost article posted by Lion of Zion, I felt it necessary to relate this story. Last week, one of the girls who works in my school building comes to ask me a question, as she needs help with a school assignment. FYI, she is a really nice and black girl from Jamaica. Her assignment was to write a report on, in her opinion, which Jew had the most impact on Israeli culture (attending Touro, why Stillwell Ave gave this assignment I don't know). Now I have a blanket rule because I wear my yarmulke and want to keep in a friendly environment. My rule is I refuse to talk about politics or religion at work. I ask her stupidly on my part if she means Jews or Israeli's. What I was thinking was historic Jews vs. contemporary Jews, but it just came out like that. She asked me if there was a difference between an Israeli and a Jew. I carefully back tracked and said I didn't want to talk politics, and she knows my rule. She was respectful about it, but I saw she understood I was uncomfortable talking about it. Articles like this are a part of the reason why. If the world must see Jews as Jews, I personally would push for the keeping of Mitzvos. Why should a gay pride parade create less tension than people who view the keeping of the sanctity of our mitzvos as a priority? Why not stand up for Torah principals? If the world will hate us as Jews, why not be hated while doing things the Torah way?

ADDeRabbi said...

I wrote about the ynet article the other day. Insanity.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Lakewood Falling Down: Welcome to the challenge of Israel today. Its incredibly difficult to weave a mosaic of Jews into the harmony of a Jewish State, considering that secular Jews do not want to be religious. Standing up for Torah principals by shutting down roads they drive on will not bring about any Kavod haTorah, but will upset them even more and make them davka want to drive everywhere.

There are ways to educate everyone, but the brute force method will simply not work or accomplish anything positive.

Do you honestly see closing roads to secular motorists as a way of getting them to stop driving on shabbat, and cause them to love Judaism and be chozer b'teshuva?

AddeRabbi: Why is it so clear that the school (and its supporters) are simply acting stupidly, unJewishly, and unpluralistically?

I'm sure they would have no problem with a Muslim kid praying 5 times a day out of sight, our of mind in a backroom near the copying machine.

Like I we know where the moetza chilonit is located.

Michael Sedley said...

I've also been following the Modi'in story on my blog - first post is here:

If I have time I'll follow it up with additional information / opinions on the story within the next day or so.

Gmar Chatima Tova

Lakewood Falling Down said...

Jameel, as a huge fan of Rav Kook OBM (and of course your blog!), I agree. I do believe our gedolim must tell "the masses" when they are being counter productive. I believe I'm a "closet Tzioni" (Lion of Zion is working on me). I'll point this out, the outcry got the attention of the secular. Did it do more harm than good? Time will tell, although on 880 Wcbs radio news, the top of the hour news had secularists complaining about the shift to standard time for Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur. The person they chose to interview said "the religious don't care about my views, and it's time for a separate secular state." We're talking about "The High Holy Days"! Are we at a point where non Jews have more respect for Torah than the average Jew? And if so, to what degree do we push for harmony? Obviously, this is a HUGE debate, but at least I like to engag in it. I have a mission to get at least 10 people in my shul to read Dear Brothers. History tends to, unfortunately, repeat itself. The reason I chose the name Lakewood Falling Down is that we here in Chutz La-aretz, especially the "Yeshiva World" turn a blind eye to both Tziyonim and the secular and are content to hide behind Torah instead of standing up in front to defend it. I choose to stand up. Maybe not by blocking streets, but at least the issue must not be ignored.

Commenter Abbi said...

lfd: I'm confused about your point about the time shift for YK but I have to agree with the secularists. we lose a month of afternoon daylight so we can save an hour of fasting for YK? That makes a lot of sense. If we can hack it for Tisha B'av, a day in October of daylight savings really shouldn't be a problem

Lakewood Falling Down said...

Commenter abbi: As a non resident, I am unsure as to why the Israeli government changes to daylight savings time earlier than anyone else. I have a hard time believing its for the benefit of the "frum". Maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt, being Yom Hadin. But even so, why should the secularists be so upset? Should it always be that those that adhere to torah ideas have to be the ones to bend? Secular Jews have an obligation to make shalom too!

Lurker said...

LFD -- for years, Agudah and Shas have demanded that the state end daylight savings time early, making the peculiar argument that this would make it easier for people fasting on Yom Kippur. I have always found this notion absurd: You have to fast for ~ 25 hours on Yom Kippur, and it doesn't matter whether the clock is on daylight savings time or not. How in the world does it make any difference?! You still fast just as long! Furthermore, the Torah says regarding Yom Kippur "v'initem et nafshoteikhem" ("and you shall afflict your souls"). It seems a bit incongruous, then, for religious people to be demanding that the authorities go out of their way in order to somehow make Yom Kippur more comfortable and pleasant for them, don't you think?

Lakewood Falling Down said...

Lurker: Again, I am an outsider looking in, and thanks for the information. These are observations and opinion. On a related note-I hate when they keep the A/C on so high in my shul. I get frozen, and "v'initem et nafshoteikhem" shouldn't mean coming down with pneumonia right before Sukkot!

Leah Goodman said...

I really don't get the whole Yom Kippur clocks thing.

How about we start shul an hour later?! then we all sleep in on Yom Kippur, which gives the same net result.

Going to shul at 8:30 and calling it 7:30 really isn't so different from going to shul at 8:30 and calling it 8:30.

About the tfillin incident, it's just disgusting. Imagine if an American public school tried to tell students they couldn't bring tfillin to school?!

Gee a Moron said...

There is one other issue that affects the religious community that is related to changing from summer back to winter time. Now is the appropriate time of year to make the change so that the earliest permitted Shacharit in the morning doesn't become too late for those that set out to work early.

I also have to learn zechut on Israel during the Yamim Noraim and remaind everyone that the law setting the algorithm for setting the clock was a compromise between religious and secular parties. There has been a series of ads on the radio reminding us of this. And a compromise means that neither side gets quite what they wanted but both can live with the agreement.

Just the fact that there is an algorithm is good for everyone because for the first time schedules can be computerized in advance, etc.

Anonymous said...

I live in Modiin and this incident prompted quite a lively exchange on our Anglo email list. One woman (the wife of a leftist JPost columnist) commented that she understood the principal's objections because she doesn't want religious rituals in a secular school. She also said that she would be upset if a school parent objected to a party on Friday night.

I wrote in response that it was good to see her commitment to pluralism. Apparently, any kid who is "traditional" or is interested in learning about his religion should be kicked out of the secular school and sent to a religious school (segregation now and forever!). Or, any parent who wants his child home for a Friday night family meal is guilty of religious coercion!

JJ said...

I hadn't heard about either story. I wonder if the Ra'anana incident has anything to do with the upcoming municipal elections and perhaps whoever was behind the road blocking somehow wanted to make sure votes would be taken away from the religious party? I don't know. I really, REALLY hope this isn't a sign of things to come in Ra'anana.

Secular/religious relations have always been pretty good (the store selling pork is located literally on the edge of town so as not to offend) but lately there have been hints of discord- e.g. there's a new municipal pool and many secular residents are angry that a few hours a week are set aside for separate swimming for men and women.

Again, I really hope the city isn't changing for the worse re. religious thuggery. The street those kids blocked is located in a neighborhood with a high concentration of dati'im, true. But it is most certainly a mixed neighborhood, very mixed. This ain't Mea Shearim and no one has the right to decide to unilaterally take those kinds of actions.

And just to end this already too-long comment, it seems that what happened in Modiin is starting to happen all too often in this JEWISH country. A few months ago, a principal in a Ramat Gan secular school forbade a student from wearing a kippah to class. Can you imagine that happening anywhere in the USA, for crying out loud? Also in Ramat Gan (not sure if it's the same school) a group of students wanted to conduct a daily mincha minyan. The principal said NO. Nice, huh? IN ISRAEL?????

Anonymous said...

i live in the neighborhood where the road-closing incident took place. i didn't even know that that had happened (i must have slept pretty well friday night!) needless to say, it's pretty shocking. this is not at all indicative of the neighborhood in which i live. as a matter of fact, when the mall wanted to open on shabbat, there was a large number of chiloni residents who opposed it because of the extra traffic it would bring to the thru-streets in our neighborhood and they liked the quiet status quo. but there has been a disturbing shift in the recent past... a group of teenage girls (from the same group?) had been insisting on a mechitza for the city's hakafot sh'niot -- where we've always had separate dancing, never a mechitza and it changes the whole tenor.

i'm not really sure what they were intending to prove. sheshet hayamim, while fairly busy during the week, is quiet on friday nights, even moreso at midnight. it's very strange.

JJ said...

Well, I just talked to my husband, and from what he's heard it was a great big nothing blown way out of proportion. Apparently boys and girls like to get together on that corner on Friday nights (so you can already see that they're not the type to engage in religious thuggery!), and a woman drove by and got too close to the curb, so one of the kids JOKINGLY yelled something about not driving on Shabbat. If this is true, and a whole news story was written based on absolutely nothing (wouldn't be the first time), then I wonder if this really DOES have to do with stirring up anti-religious sentiment before the elections.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

RR: Thanks for the on the scene report! Interesting how YNET made a huge deal out of it...I bet their retraction will be on page 25 in the lower left corner...if at all!

Baila said...

I had read about the incident in Modi'in and it saddened me greatly. It is incidents like these that makes some of my friends back in the states claim they can't live in an Israel that is so anti-dati as the reason they don't make Aliyah. (Well, we all needed a reason when we lived in the states, and this is just as good as any.)

I had not heard about the Raannana incident, but this saddens me just as much. Secular Jews built

Baila said...

oops....lost my train of thought there...

I was saying, that secular Jews helped build this country and have a right to feel the way I do. Period. I agree with Jameel--the way to bring someone closer to religion is not coercion.


Baila said...

Well, now that I read all the comments, the incident in Raanana takes on a different meaning.

If it's true as RR say that the newspapers are trying to make those teenager sound like the "dati police", well, then.....

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! This is REALLY crazy country. But we all knew that, huh? It's a good thing there are so many things to love about this place.

Mindy Schaper said...

Wow. The first story was-- not pleasant.

HolyCityPrayer said...

Nikki wrote (paraphrasing) that some girls in Raanana are asking for a mechitza for dancing during Hakafot Shniyot.

Here in maale Adumim, we have such a mechitza, and no-one is complaining.

I am actually on the fence regarding this issue (pardon the expression) halacha notwithstanding, but I'm commenting here to bring to our attention the differences within Israel regarding religious and other sensitivities and standards.

To clarify: religous kids in Haifa will eat where there's a teuda (I assume) while Yerushalmim will demand a mehadrin; kids in Haifa (again I'm assuming, I haven't been there to see) walk on Shabbat and don't flinch when an Egged bus whizzes by; kids in Hitnachluyot might be aghast to see cars driving when they visit friends for shabbat in Katamon.

An interesting point to open up a new post for imho.

Anonymous said...

"but blocking the road? That will not win them any brownie points with their neighbors...let alone convince anyone to stop driving. Maybe give out leaflets, or even hold up banners at the side of the road about the holiness of Shabbat, but blocking the roads? What's going on in Raanana?"

Maybe this would have been a good idea when protesting the hitnatkut three years ago...

in the vanguard said...

Little Israel could be the best country in the world for ALL Jews to come to and live in, only that many Jews therein would rather befriend and coddle up to Arabs than fellow Jews - who happen to be orthodox oriented.

What mindless reason could there be for such unprovoked hatred? Because just broaching the subject is enough of a subconscious reminder to them of a committment they will have to make if any further inquiry into the subject is revealed. So, to convenience their own guilt, is it not better to ban the religious stuff outright from appearance, even if that includes banning the Jew that carries the potential reminder.

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