Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Adar II 5760 - March 22, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
A Symbol of Self-Hatred

by P. Chovav

Israeli society is not known as one that is particularly considerate of the feelings of others, especially when it comes to religious Jews. The public could have been spared many confrontations and struggles had an attitude of respect and appreciation of one's fellow prevailed. But as is known, this is not the case.

Every morning noon and night, arguments and disputes flare up, only due to the uncompromising refusal to consider the feelings of one's fellow. In most instances, though, this lack of consideration stems from hatred and the penchant for strife, rather than from the difficulty of compromise.

But wonder of wonders, with the approach of the pope's visit to Israel, it was decided to take into account his feelings and remove the Mogen Dovid symbol from the ambulance assigned to accompany him on his trips.

With nary a word, and without a scathing public debate, nor even a peep from all those chronic trouble makers who derive their sustenance from hurting the feelings of others, a decision to erase the Mogen Dovid from the ambulance was made, in order not to offend the feelings of the guest.

The Mogen Dovid is not a random logo decorating the ambulances of Israel's ambulances. It is a central motif in the Jewish flag. Nonetheless, in order not to offend the feelings of the pope, it was decided to erase it.

MK Shaul Yahalom (NRP) went to war on the issue, and raised the demand not to give in to the Vatican on this point.

"The erasing of the national symbol from the ambulance which will accompany the pope on his visit to Israel insults the State, and would not have occurred anywhere else. Does anyone think that any other country would agree to erase one of its main symbols in honor of the pope's visit? "Israel should have said; The Mogen Dovid is a Jewish symbol, the symbol of Judaism, the symbol of the State of Israel, and with all due respect to the Pope, when he comes to Israel he must accept the symbols of the State. We will not erase the Mogen Dovid from the ambulance, just as we won't erase it from the Israeli flag. "I call on the authorities, to the Prime Minster, the Foreign Minster and to those who are arranging the visit, to cancel their mistaken decision, and to return the Mogen Dovid to the ambulance which will accompany the Pope."

Actually, if we try to delve into the Vatican's demand to remove the Mogen Dovid from the ambulance, so that the Pope won't be forced to see it in front of him, or to travel in a vehicle which bears the Mogen Dovid symbol, we see that it contains more than an affront to the national honor. Even though the Mogen Dovid in and of itself has no actual religious meaning, it symbolizes Judaism in the eyes of the nations. For that reason it appeared on the yellow badges Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. Erasing it, then, means to erase the "Jewish symbol."

Despite the anti-Jewish protest implied in the Vatican's demand, and despite the clearly national-Zionist argument raised by MK Yahalom, Yahalom's call went unanswered.

All those who are concerned for the honor of the State, all those who respect its flag, all those who cherish its national symbols, agree that national considerations should be overlooked in favor of the feelings of the pope. If the Mogen Dovid symbol offends him, we'll erase it. It doesn't matter. We won't force him to see a sight which hurts his feelings. "The Jewish State", (as it is defined in history books) will not be harmed by erasing its national symbol out of regard for the feelings of a religious figure, even if he is the representative of another religion. It is easier to forego a national symbol or even national honor, than to offend someone.

Interestingly, the feeling that it is important to honor the feelings of the pope, despite the implied insult to the Jewish state, is shared by a broad consensus of pubic representatives from all political and social strata, even those who focus on offending their fellows all-year- round.

It is difficult to understand this phenomenon. After all, we aren't speaking about Israeli society's first attempt at grappling with the problem of sensitivities. Tens of thousands of Jews, who plead not to have their feelings offended live in the country. They don't try to impose their feelings on others. All they ask is: please don't offend our feelings. But not only is their request totally rejected, it is also defined as anti-religious coercion.

The chareidi community incessantly pleads: do not flood the public domain with sights which offend our sensitivities. But this request is considered illegitimate, even though we ask nothing from them on a private basis. "We don't look into their plates," as they like to describe it. The contrary is true: all that we ask is to preserve the purity of our plates. But no one bothers to listen to us.

The chareidi community asks to implement its basic democratic right to organize itself for the forthcoming shemita year, and to import, at its own expense, in a private manner, fruits and vegetables from abroad. However, the Agriculture Ministry finds it hard to reconcile with a request whose rejection will cause many problems to tens of thousands of families.

The chareidi community wants a special bus line from one chareidi region to another, with separate seating, but the trouble makers from a totally different city have raised an outcry over this "illegitimate" request to consider the feelings of the chareidi sector.

In every aspect of public life, it is impossible not to encounter increasing attmepts to offend the feelings of the chareidi sector. The ambulance which will accompany the pope on his visit will not have any symbol on its sides. However, it will serve as the symbol of the shame of Israeli society.

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