It turns out that President Shimon Peres will not be attending the Olympics because he would have to travel on the Shabbat. Peres is not religious, not kosher and enjoys a nice pork rib almost as much as Ariel Sharon did. Israel has never had a religious prime minister, including Menachem Begin who liked to play at looking religious without being observant.
So why the pretense? Because this is how Israel has evolved due to the stranglehold religious parties have on government. This is not going to change either because the condom-free Orthodox population will keep growing by leaps and bounds while secular Israelis will keep their families at a reasonable size.
Peres’ hypocrisy, shared by the ultra-secular Prime Minister Netanyahu, explains why Palestinians are ready to recognize Israel but not “as a Jewish state.” After all, how can Arabs inside Israel ever expect to be full citizens in a state that enshrines Judaism in much the same way Iran enshrines Islam.
After all, what Jew would want to live in America if it was defined as a “Christian state?”
The hypocrisy of Peres, who calls himself a socialist, also is a reminder of why the Christian Right here is so horrifying. Imagine if a U.S. President had to observe the Sabbath, and could not travel or work on Sunday. Imagine if he invoked Jesus to pander to an ultra-religious minority. Imagine if such issues as evolution, homosexuality, and abortion were decided not on the constitutional merits but because of the inordinate clout of fanatics.
Imagine if Santorum was president.
The good news is that, thanks to our Constitution, it is not as easy to ram religion down everyone’s throat here as in Israel or Iran.
Poor Peres. I’m sure he is pretty depressed knowing he will miss the games and all the delicious unkosher food he loves so much.
Such is life in a theocracy. Theodor Herzl, who didn’t even have his son circumcised, is spinning. (Herzl is way too secular even for me).
The Israel I love is the Israel of the kibbutz, of the socialist pioneers who built the state (the right built exactly nothing), the people like Ben Gurion, Rabin, and Golda Meir who thought that religious Orthodoxy of any kind is bunk.
Actually, Peres is one of those guys. But, unlike them, his middle name is hypocrisy.
For the record: the old socialists were not very enlightened on the Palestinian issue. In fact, some of them were quite terrible. But that is for another day.