The Zionist Conspiracy
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Judith Shulevitz On Shabbat
In an otherwise interesting piece on Slate about non-observant Israelis' increasing interest in reclaiming the Jewish sabbath as a day of rest, Judith Shulevitz misrepresents reality when she writes of "black-hatted men in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods who stone Sabbath-breakers and who have in Israel's half-century of existence twice brought down governments for violating Sabbath laws."
With regard to Shulevitz's first charge, it's true that in the past - though not in the last few years - there have been incidents in which religious extremists have thrown stones at cars driving on shabbat on roads in charedi neighborhoods. Those incidents were disgraceful, but it simply is false to infer that Sabbath-breakers in charedi neighborhoods are stoned on a routine basis. Anyone who has spent time in Jerusalem knows that is absolutely not the case.
Shulevitz's second claim is completely false. While charedi parties have left government coalitions over religious disputes - including the Rabin government in the early 90's over Meretz's ultra-secular shifts in the Education Ministry - never has a charedi party brought down a government over a religious issue.
The only time that a religious issue was related to the fall of an Israeli government occurred in December 1976, but that involved the National Religious Party, which any knowledgeable observer of Israel knows is not "ultra-Orthodox" and does have too many "black-hatted" constituents.
Then, with the first Rabin government already facing widespread discontent, F-15 jets arrived in Israel just after the start of shabbat. In a subsequent no-confidence vote, NRP - a government coalition member - refused to support the government, and instead abstained. The vote was defeated and the Rabin government survived, but shortly thereafter, revelations of an illegal United States bank account held by Rabin's wife resulted in Rabin's resignation and the Labor Party's call for early elections, which Labor lost in a landslide to Menachem Begin's Likud party.
Judith Shulevitz is a good and interesting writer, but it is hoped that next time she is ignorant about a subject, she is more careful in her submissions.