Pitting secular vs. religious – is that the leadership Israelis want?

In neither of my stays in Israel did I find any real hostility between secular and religious Israelis. An attempt to divide the country on those lines is not responsible leadership.

Jack Engelhard

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So this is what it may come down to at the polls. So we are told. 

This observer, call me perplexed. In neither of my stays in Israel did I find any real distinctions, nor hostility, between secular and religious Israelis.

I am told it is otherwise. But I trust what I saw.

Frankly, scratch the surface, and you will find virtually every Israeli as religious, to one degree or another. 
I only saw Israelis going about their business paying no mind as to which men were clean-shaven or in beards, nor which women were dressed modestly or in mini-skirts.

They were Israelis, as Israeli as can be, and what a beautiful thing that is.

Call me naïve, a charge I am ready to hear, but then, as regular readers to this page are aware, I have this entirely romantic view of Israel. Always did. Since I was a kid. Nothing’s changed.

Maybe it started with the study of Torah, when you could not help but fall in love with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, then Moses and David.

The IDF will always be King David’s Army, to me…and does that make me religious? Okay. As you wish.

Frankly, scratch the surface, and you will find virtually every Israeli as religious, to one degree or another. 

This was up in the hills outside Jerusalem and my captain had invited me to his home for Shabbat, Friday night. He was sort of haredi, sort of observant, which is in itself fascinating, to know that many Israelis do not fit perfectly into any category. Some of this, some of that, there is no neat packaging to be made. People are people.

Actually, I do not remember this captain wearing a kippah on base. At home, he did, and it was a beautiful Shabbat table, set by his wife.

Then he said the family next door asked if this American would join them for Kiddush. Of course, I would.

But, I was warned, with a chuckle, they are entirely secular. Wonderful people, but not frum.

Not frum, but the woman of the house next door was lighting Shabbat candles. Why? – I asked stupidly.

She was amazed at the question. “We are Jewish after all,” she said emphatically. “We are Israelis.”

This has always stayed with me. “We are Jewish after all. We are Israelis.”

It was the same thing on the base itself, the Army/Navy base in Haifa, where of the generals and of the admirals, and of the thousand cadets, some wore kippahs, some didn’t.

Nobody saw the difference.

Ben Gurion himself was said not to be religious, yet he took weekly classes in Tannach, and made it a law that the dining halls in the military were to be kosher.

I was told this in the mess hall when somebody goofed, and made the mistake, it seemed, of dipping a spoon for milk into a vat for meat.

Dinner was held up, nobody could eat, until a rabbi came to investigate and straighten it out.

All this…all that…in “secular” Israel.

The point is, secular or religious, from the word of my hosts at moshav Ramat Raziel – “We are Jewish after all. We are Israelis.”  

Simply and gloriously, Israelis. Now it’s your turn.

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva.

He is the author of the international book-to-movie bestseller “Indecent Proposal.” His Holocaust to Montreal memoir “Escape from Mount Moriah” has been honored from page to screen at CANNES. His Inside Journalism thriller, “The Bathsheba Deadline,” is being prepared for the movies. Contemporaries have hailed him “The last Hemingway, a writer without peer, and the conscience of us all.” Website: www.jackengelhard.com