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Christmas is a weird time in the US. All the trees and decorations make you see how small and vulnerable the Jewish population really is. The separation of church and state is a key component of the US Democracy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I live in a “secular” state. Freedom of religion means, the government tolerates the fact that I observe Judaism. And while there is no official religion here, Christianity is the de facto official religion of this country. And if you have any doubts about it, read some of the debates going on in this county about school prayer, or displaying nativity scenes on public venues, or watch Fox News as they whine about the “war on Christmas.” Some of you might even remember when Bill o’ Riley, told viewers that the United States is a Christian county, and if the Jews didn’t like it, they could move to Israel.

The US defines itself as a secular state, but is really a Christian state; Israel by definition is a Jewish state that tries its hardest to be a secular state. Israel is the rebirth of a religious Jewish state that existed almost 2000 years ago. It is that religious history that gives Israel part her legitimacy. It is the biblical prophecy of the ingathering of the exiles that gives legitimacy to the right of return. We Jews are unique in the world we are a people and a religion. Survival is only assured when the two are linked together.

As a Jewish state certain things should be sacrosanct about public institutions, they should be Kosher and they should be Shomer Shabbos. Notice I said public institutions. Privately owned businesses should not be forced to observe. Observant and non-observant people should have the right to support those institutions that have their level of observance. The recent EL Al problem is a mess. They shouldn’t have broken their own policy of not flying on Shabbos. Not because they need to be Shabbos Observant, but because it was an unwritten contract that they had with their passengers who, because of their level of observance, only want to deal with businesses that are shomer Shabbos like they are.

Today in the Jerusalem Post there is a very disturbing article about a law that a Labor MK is trying to pass:

Bill handcuffs Chabad tefillin campaign
Sheera Claire Frenkel, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 12, 2006

The familiar sight of Chabadniks inviting youths to put on tefillin may suffer a serious setback if a bill proposed by Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines in the Knesset on Monday becomes law. The bill would prevent adults from placing pressure on anyone under the age of 18 to increase or decrease their religious involvement.

According to Paz-Pines, too much pressure is placed on youths to alter their religious traditions. Pressing youths to observe or discard religious practices can “cause the break-up of a family and cause damage to minors,” he said.

Menachem Brod, a spokesman for Chabad in Israel, said Paz-Pines’s bill was absurd, and was intended to undermine religious Jewish life. “Are they telling me that if someone is lacking a 10th member for their minyan, and they go out on the street and find a 17-year-old boy, they can’t invite that bar-mitzvaed boy in to complete the minyan? This is evil,” he said. “Why do we insist on treating teenagers as though they don’t have the ability to make decisions?”

Ephraim Shore, a director of Jerusalem’s Aish Hatorah Yeshiva, disagreed with Paz-Pines’s reasoning, saying: “There are so many reasons for schisms in the family… We have a heritage that has lasted over 3,000 years and we believe in teaching it to people. This heritage has not traditionally caused schism in the family.” Shore rejected the assertion that some teenagers might be brainwashed into adopting religious practices. “If you teach a Jew the beauty of Shabbat and he lights candles on Friday night, that is his choice, not some brainwashing,” he said. “It’s a free country. We have a popular Web site that 2 million people visit a month. Should we change it to an ‘adult only’ Web site just so that teens won’t be exposed to the dangerous material we post there about Jewish life and traditions?”

Shore said there were dozens of programs in the US to encourage Jewish high school students to adopt Jewish traditions. He said most of Aish Hatorah’s programs were geared for young adults over the age of 18, while other organizations, such as Chabad, encouraged teenagers to get involved and participate in their programs.

Something is very weird here, in the US a secular state, someone who is not Jewish can walk up to my teenaged daughter and (G-d Forbid) convince her that he is a Jew and Believes in Jesus and that’s OK, but in Israel a Jewish state, Teenagers cannot be convinced by Jews to be more Jewish.

For those of you busily writing comments that being a “Jewish State” makes Israel somehow racist or prejudiced, put down your keyboard. Israel is surrounded by Islamic states that, in many cases, forbid the practice of other religions. Israel should be different form the Islamic states, who are constantly fighting amongst themselves over the way they practice, Sunni vs. Shiite for example. Israel must be a home where all “flavors” of Judaism can exist, were Rabbis of all kind, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox can tend to their flocks during the entire cycle of life from births, marriage to death. After all that is why G-d took away the last Jewish state 2,000 years ago, fighting amongst ourselves.

But there is one thing Israel should NEVER do is to legislate against the teaching of Torah. For all intents and purposes, that is what Paz-Pines’ bill is trying to do. To paraphrase Bill o’ Riley, Israel is a Jewish state, If you don’t like it move to America.

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