Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Do Israel’s headlines reveal our truth?

You are reading this essay because you are an English speaker—or, at the very least, a reader of English. But when you read your English news headlines, do you understand the potential inner essence of the headline?

Headlines are more than just a group of words that provide information. They also tell a story. Sometimes, they unwittingly reveal an underlying truth.

Take the headline, “Lapid Holds Press Conference --On Shabbat?”, (Arutz Sheva, September 20, 2014). How would you read those words?

Well, first of all, the headline is both a statement (Lapid holds a Press Conference) and a question (on Shabbat?). The statement is clear: leading Israeli politician Yair Lapid gave a press conference. That’s news. But it isn’t new.

Politicians give Press Conferences all the time. It’s how they speak to voters.

It’s the question that’s new. The question suggests two things: first, it suggests that a Press Conference in
Israel on Shabbat is not the norm; and second, it raises a potential question about Lapid’s judgment.

In fact, that’s what the story was about. Yair Lapid, by calling a Press Conference on Shabbat, forced news reporters who might have been Shabbat-observing to travel (a potential violation of the Shabbat) in order to do their job.

But this news headline also contained a hidden revelation. It reminded us that Israel isn’t what we might have thought it was.

What’s the problem here? Many Israeli politicians are not Shabbat-observing. Many are not religious. Many speak ill of religion. Many so dislike religious Jews they are openly hostile to anything religious, including Shabbat.

A politician who’ breaks’ the Shabbat is not news.

Yes, for religious Jews, such a story is a frustration. It’s cause for negative feelings towards anti-religious Jews. It causes strife within the Jewish nation. It provokes us to separate from one another. It keeps us from uniting.
Such a story highlights the differences between us. It’s one of the sad realities of modern Israel. We are not a united nation.
This story has two companion pieces (“Will Lapid's Sabbath Desecration Bring Down the Coalition?”, Arutz Sheva, September 20, 2014; and, “MKs lash Lapid for Shabbat press conference”, Times of Israel, September 21, 2014). Together, these three stories suggest that Lapid didn’t just anger religious Jews when he held this news conference. He offended, these stories suggest, Leftists as well.
That’s where the revelation lies.
Generally, Leftists aren’t a Shabbat-observing group. Typically, they are not religious. Typically, they are anti-religious (read Haaretz).
Now, it’s true that the Leftist Lapid reportedly most offended (Meretz Party Chairperson Zahava Galon) was probably being sarcastic when she criticized Lapid—though the Times of Israel story suggested she wasn’t. She said, “While you [the readers]were enjoying your day of rest, Finance Minister Yair Lapid decided to drag all the financial journalists from their homes in the middle of Shabbat, inviting them to park at the entrance to his house in Tel Aviv so that they could hear him read off a thoughtless announcement.”
It turns out that, at least according to Galon, Lapid’s ‘Press Conference’ took all of a minute-and-a-half. But, she said, “it certainly was enough to destroy the Shabbat of the cameramen and journalists forced”  to endure the meaningless utterances of the meaningless Lapid. It was, she said, ‘a demonstration of insensitivity” (Times of Israel, ibid).
On one level, this story is similar to other ‘news stories’ that get posted on weekends: they’re often more fluff than substance, more meaningless than meaningful.
But, despite this ‘weekend fluffery syndrome’, this story reveals something. It contains a hidden message: everyone in Israel, no matter his or  her religious affiliation, knows what Shabbat is all about.
That’s the hidden truth here. I don't know if Zehava Galon is religious. But all of us who live here understand that Israel is different. Non-religious Jews here usually know about Shabbat. They understand (the upcoming) Rosh Hashannah. They understand G-d in a way non-affiliated Jews elsewhere don’t.
Religious Jews, particularly those who call themselves 'Religious Zionists', should remember that. Yes, we are indeed not united. But we are a lot closer to being united than Jews in, say, America.
Whether or not Zahava Galon knows about Shabbat, she should be invited out to a Shabbat meal. She should be rewarded with a smile for her Shabbat recognition, even if that recognition was more for humour or ‘politics’ than anything else.
Whatever her religious affiliation, Zehava Galon is a lot closer to us than we think. We shouldn’t forget that.
The G-d of Israel has a Jewish Story He wants us to see. Zehava Galon is no less a part of that Story than you.
We hasten our Redemption through uniting. Zehavah Galon reveals that she understands something about the path to that Redemption. We shouldn’t ignore that.

We should reward it--even if she is a Leftist.

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