Israel Forever

For the week ending 7 December 2002 / 2 Tevet 5763

The Waitress the Teacher and the Knesset Member

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

Three years ago a 22 year old waitress in an Eilat hotel, Basmat Tzabari, lost her job. There was nothing wrong with her performance or her work ethic. The trouble was that when her boss ordered her to wear a Santa Claus fur-trimmed hat on Xmas Eve she vehemently refused, declaring, "I am Jewish and its not my hat!"

Shortly after this incident Sarah Honig noted in her column in the Jerusalem Post that her daughters 10th grade history teacher marched into class the day Basmat lost her job, extending festive Yuletide salutations and delivering a long lesson about the life and times of the Nazarene. This same teacher, just before Chanuka, taught the class that the Maccabbees were not freedom fighters but extreme charedim who attacked representatives of enlightenment and progress.

This sharp contrast between the waitress and the teacher raises the question many people in Israel must ask themselves at this time of the year. Do they identify with the non-Jewish culture of Xmas or the Jewish culture of Chanuka? If they were around in the time of the Maccabees would they join them in the battle for religious freedom or would they be on the side of Greek "enlightenment"?

The answer to this painful question was perhaps supplied the other week by MK Avraham Poraz, a member of the violently anti-religious Shinui Party when he congratulated the Dutch government for banning shechita in Holland on the grounds of "cruelty to animals".

In our blessing before lighting the Chanuka lamp we praise our Creator for the miracles He performed for our ancestors "in those days at this time". There is a concept of the spirit of a miracle reemerging at the time of year it first took place. Let us hope and pray that this spirit will reemerge this year in such force that all Jews in Israel will choose to be on the side of the Maccabees and protect the Jewishness of Israel forever.

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