Navel-Gazing Israelis

A very common human trait is navel-gazing, the tendency to think too much and too deeply about yourself and your circumstances and being incapable of taking a “bigger picture” look. A short and seemingly insignificant news item today demonstrates this navel-gazing trait among some religious Israelis.

Minister of Education and head of the national-religious party, Naftali Bennett, twitted something late afternoon last Friday. In his tweet he emphasized that although Shabbat has already started in Israel, he was abroad and it wasn’t Shabbat yet where he was tweeting from.

24 hours later, right after Shabbat ended, many attacked Bennett for tweeting during Shabbat in Israel. True to form, they quoted obscure halachot (Jewish laws) about making Jews read Twitter on Shabbat (as if Bennett’s tweets were the reason people were on the Internet on Shabbat) or making religious people enjoy/benefit from an action that desecrated the Shabbat (as if there aren’t dozens of such actions religious people benefit from during Shabbat in Israel).

More than anything, this over-reaction is an excellent example of how self-centered and self-absorbed many religious people have become in Israel. One of the downsides of the huge success of the Jewish State reviving Judaism to levels it have not known in history, is the almost complete unawareness of Israelis about the Jewish world outside of Israel. It is very obvious in the big issues –  the way they see (or more likely, don’t see) the non-Orthodox movements, the conversions done abroad, etc. But for me it is this small example that is so revealing about how deeply rooted this navel-gazing has become.

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