I used to think Israel was different from its neighbors, but lately less and less so. My religion is better than yours is no formula for peace in the region. As a secular Jew I would feel so uncomfortable if I lived in Israel with a government who makes comments like this.

Eli Yishai via Wikipedia

Eli Yishai via Wikipedia

It is also understandable how Europe, which is mostly secular, feels alienated from Israel now and USA which is mostly religious, identifies with the country. Israelis like to say that Europe is just anti semitic but while some of that is true, especially Spain (google “es dificil ser judío en España”) what is also true is that in Europe no politician speaks about God in general and least of all as if God liked Jews and not Muslims. Personally I think there is a very low probability that God exists but even if it did there is a proportionate lower probability that it belonged to any religion. I think that God in itself is an extremely unlikely entity but it did exist what would be the link between God and one particular religion? To me God inside a religion is a flag that some carry to do good but most carry as a symbol of their own tribe against others. In many cases God inside a religion is used to justify murder and that makes religion alien to me.

Long are the days of Israel being led by agnostics or atheists like Golda Meir who when asked if she believed in God she said. I believe in the Jewish people and the Jewish people believe in God. Now Israel is being led by people who think God is on their side. Pretty dangerous.

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Adan on January 20, 2012  · 

I think God and religion have contributed quite a bit to who and where we are today as human beings. Life is certainly better than it was 600 years ago. And I believe that life today is attributed to individualism, which is a religious concept that was sparked during the Renaissance period. We’ve learned that man is capable of being creative and doing what’s right. We’ve also become more charitable. So, whether God exists or not, I’ll take my chances with believing (not in a particular religion though) because it gives me a sense of hope that life actually has a meaning. What would a dream be worth if we didn’t wake up?

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Mike Tommasi on January 20, 2012  · 

Generally one belongs to the religion that is in fashion in one’s country or family, so it is pure accident. Luckily morality has no need for such a construct, even less for a culture-specific one.
Regarding Israel, when I discovered the place 20 years ago, and I have been back many times, I was always reassured by the fact that most people there live a hedonistic secular life. Yes they also have the weird types with the heavy coats, but every country has fanatics.

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Haim on January 21, 2012  · 

Many Israelis were very unhappy about Yshai’s insensitive comment. The more balanced Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post published “Yishai apologizes for 2nd Lebanon War comment” on 1/18/2012.

I still agree with your headline, especially if it applies on Muslim countries.
As an example, I wish the religion will stay away from politics in those countries that created false expectations about an “Arab spring”. I see them in the road to fundamentalism.

Question: Not speaking about God makes better politicians? I can give you examples of many far-from-any-God politicians that created chaos and death. One of them was German and lived 70 years ago.

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Haim on January 21, 2012  · 


Three more comments.
I just read the Yshai’s article and, within all his nonsense, he did no say “God prefers Jews over Muslims”. That’s your writing, not his words, and in this context it might mislead your readers. Usually you avoid this in your writing, but missed here.

One stupid comment Mr. Yshai did make is that Israel lost a war because it trusted its abilities rather than praying to God. In Europe the Jews trusted God’s will, and 6 million ended in the gas chambers. Luckily for Israel (should I say “Thanks God”), Yshai does have a say in the strategies of the IDF operations.

All of this makes me think if, on the other hand, could be a positive balance between some faith and organized defense forces? It might bring some moral balance to military operations? I need to think more on this.

My last comment is that you wrote that we, Israelis “like” saying that European media is antisemitic.(this sounds even worst in your Spanish version “les gusta”). Like? Do you really think that we like it and makes us happy? I’m not sure what you mean. I can tell you that that what we don’t like is biased misinformation against Israel published not only by El Pais, but also the BBC and some of the media from other European countries. There are way too many examples of this. And finally, yes, we pay attention to anti-israel and anti-semitic comments. Who else in the world would would care to do this, it not us?

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Eduardo Lina on January 22, 2012  · 

I agree with you in that Religion and Politics should not go hand in hand, Martin. I disagree with you in that “Now Israel is being led by people who think God is on their side.” I may not like some decisions and actions of this government, and may like others, yet you are giving Yishay more credit than he deserves, and making his words and views those of the entire government.
Our problem in Israel is that we have not managed to draw the line between Religion and the State yet. Israel should be the country of all Israelis, regardless of creed. We have not fully gotten there, granted, but that does not mean most of us aren’t trying to get there. I tend to doubt God takes sides in this question,too.
I hope you don’t confuse all of us with Yishay, Martin, and I hope neither do Secular Europeans.

I have nothing to say regarding your ideas about God, Martin, so I will take up the other issues you raise.

Don’t make Yishay more than he is, Martin. He is a politician representing a religious party that has long been in power (it has joined different governments over the last years), and is getting ready for the next elections, as politicians always do (all the time). He speaks to a specific audience hoping to get it to remember who stands for them and what they believe in, and what counts when they get to vote.

No less important, Martin, is that he is in trouble because of how he has (or has not) acted regarding the huge fire that destroyed much of the Carmel woods, claiming the lives of many fire-fighters and police people. He may have to account for that soon. Similarly, his party seems to be in trouble these days because it can’t be a member of every government and yet keep going as if it were an outsider. Finally, he himself seems to be challenged from within the group that surrounds the party’s religious leader. Mind you, I say “seems” because even that remains to be seen, since that religious leader is the person who makes the decisions there. Other religious – political leaders may soon try to get Yishay’s party’s followers to vote for them. To be sure, Secular Europe, you, me and the like are not his main audience

I wouldn’t also credit Yishay with being a great historian either. I doubt he knows what has made Israel survive. He may not have studied much History in the school he went to, I guess. He does not agree with people like me in that the IDF and other security forces in Israel have had to do more than getting soldiers to pray in order to win battles and wars. His words, Martin, are utter rubbish to secular and religious Israelis who disagree with him.

Yihay’s perception of Judaism is not everyone’s here. Neither is Golda’s, though. Were all Israel’s leaders in Golda’s time agnostics and atheists? I doubt it.

I don’t know who those Secular Europeans who feel alienated by Israel are. I would just tell them that there is more to Israel than Yishay’s words convey.

Incidentally, I wonder how those Secular Europeans feel regarding the outcome of the revolt in Egypt, for example. I wish Egyptians well (they deserve well for many reasons, one of which is that if they are better off, they won’t turn against us … I hope). We have, however, every reason to worry not just about anything that happens to and with our neighbors if that concerns Israel. We also pay attention what Europeans say and do, especially if more often than not many see Israel as the root of all evil.

By the way, like most Israelis I don’t see enemies (and anti-Semitism) everywhere, Martin. Yet my eyes and ears are open.

Incidentally, I remember reading last year in your blog that “we should do our fair share” and visit Egypt to help its economy. “We” does not mean “I”, though, because as an Israeli I doubt I am particularly welcome in Egypt, I guess. Do you think most Secular Europeans would endorse your words nowadays? Do you still say the same, Martin?

Would Secular Europeans react to this http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/jerusalem-mufti-faces-harsh-israeli-criticism-for-incitement-against-jews-1.408626 feeling alienated towards Palestinians? I don’t know.

Oh! I hope that just like Yishay does not speak for all of us, the Mufti does not speak for all Muslims. I want to believe he doesn’t. Do Secular Europeans want to believe that regarding Yishay, and other Israeli leaders? I a hope Secular Europeans can draw a similar line regarding Israel.

I got to the end of this post, Thank G-d!

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