Tel Aviv’s Yom Kippur Disturbance and Israel’s Strained Social Fabric

October 3, 2023 | Jerusalem Post
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Last week, agitators disrupted an outdoor Yom Kippur service taking place in Tel Aviv’s central Dizengoff Square. The attack followed a court ruling against the organizers of the service, which had determined that sex-segregated prayer cannot take place in Tel Aviv’s public spaces. (The court has not tried to apply this ruling to Muslim worship, which, like most Jewish worship in Israel, usually involves separate seating for men and women.) The editors of the Jerusalem Post comment:

Why, one must ask, did a prayer service that has taken place annually, without incident, since the onset of the coronavirus, turn so ugly this year? Why was there no uproar last year, or the year before, when a partition was rolled out for the prayers?

The reason lies not in the [seating arrangements], but goes much deeper and is related to fears and beliefs. It is the fear among the ardently secular that their way of life is endangered. It is the belief among the ardently religious that vaunted liberal values—“live and let live”—apply to everyone but them.

There was a time when this type of prayer service, just like refraining from eating [leaven] on Passover in a hospital, did not necessitate state intervention; when it did not require legislation; when it could all be managed with common sense, mutual respect, and basic decency. There was a time when issues such as these were governed by the simple understanding that if I know something bothers you, I won’t intentionally provoke you by doing it in your face. I’ll respect you, as I expect you to respect me.

A collapse of mutual respect emerged on Yom Kippur in Dizengoff Square. In Israel, circa 2023, everything is considered a “slippery slope,” everything is a matter of principle over which it is impossible to compromise.

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