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Oct 28, 2008

the need for soul-searching in Modiin

Modiin has been going through a lot of religious fights recently. I think this is what happens when a city becomes much more religious than originally expected. the city of Modiin was planned to be a secular city, but has become a fairly religious, National Religious mostly, city.

Bet Shemesh was also originally planned as a secular neighborhood. When the religious chose to move to Bet Shemesh, the fights for control began.

It seems that has been happening in Modiin too, with the increase in religious residents. That is why we are witness to a number if recent incidents, such as the school banning the kid from wearing tefillin, the recent kid becoming religious and fighting with parents, a kid being banned from the soccer team because he wears a kipa, and others.

On the one hand it is easy to say we can buy apartments wherever we want, and they have to learn to live with us. And that sentiment is kind of correct. It is a free world, and if I want to move to a secular neighborhood, nobody can stop me.

On the other hand, perhaps the approach of those moving in is too heavy handed and not sensitive enough to those already living there. I do not have specific examples, but just the idea that some soul-searching might be in order.

Why do I say that? Why do I suggest that perhaps the religious people moving in to Modiin have perhaps been not sensitive enough to the secular residents?

only because of the recent incident on Simchas Torah in which a sefer torah was dropped. The torah was dropped after being given to a child to carry. The child was old enough that this act was not considered negligence.

Rav Dovid Lau, the rav of Modiin, therefore paskened that the community must fast. He differentiates between causes, saying that if the Torah was dropped out of negligence, then there is no need for a communal fast. When, however, the torah is dropped with no negligence, then it is a sign from heavan that the community must do soul-searching and improve its ways.

Rav Lau says that in this situation the child was old enough to hold the torah, and therefore there was no negligence. That means that they must fast and look for ways to improve.

I would suggest, perhaps rightly perhaps wrongly, that this incident indicating the need for soul-searching added to, and occurring in such a close time-frame to, all the recent incidents of secular fighting with religious residents, perhaps the soul-searching needs to be directed toward the way the religious have treated the irreligious when they have moved in en masse to a secular neighborhood. Perhps if they would find ways in which they could be more friendly, less threatening, mor eopen, etc. to their secular neighbors, and improve in those areas, perhaps all of these incidents would happen less frequently.


Thank you to the reader who sent me the scan of Rav Lau's original letter

6 comments:

  1. i am not aware that bet shemesh was planned as a secular community. maybe u mean rbs? i think rbs was supposed to be mixed. when bet shemesh was "planned" in the 1950s, jews of various flavors did not live in ghettos. and most people in bet shemesh were traditional.

    in any case, it think your remarks about sensitivity are on target. it's gotten to the stage that people don't even greet "strangers" (i.e., people who dress differently than they do) with a "shabbat shalom" in the rama. this is sad. i go out of my way to do this, even to the occasional non-religious on their morning or evening walks.

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  2. I'm not sure what you are referring to when you say "soul-searching needs to be directed toward the way the religious have treated the irreligious when they have moved in en masse to a secular neighborhood."

    One of the attractions to me of Modi'in is davka the fact that it is a mixed city, and by-and-large different segments of society get on very well here.

    I'm not aware of any incidents of religious acting against the interest of non-religious.
    The examples that you quoted (the Tefillin story, the kid who was ridiculed for his Kipa in his soccer team, and the kid who left home after his family refused to accept his religious lifestyle) are all cases of non-religious acting against religious individuals (the story of the kid who ran away from home is obviously more complex).

    The city was planned a “Ir Chofshit, and the religious community is still a small minority (about 20-25% of the city). Although this is a higher percentage than originally planned Modi’in is a long way from being considered a “religious city”.
    It is true that in the Kaiser, Buchman, and parts of Giva C neighborhoods there is a higher percentage of religious people, but there is almost no extremist viewpoints, such as calls to close streets or telling people how the should or shouldn't dress.

    There has certainly not been a move to take over existing secular neighborhoods. Buchman (particularly Buchman Darom) has had a high percentage of religious residents (about 50-60%) since it was built (first people moved into Buchman Darom 2 years ago). Anyone who bought there who had done at least a little research as to where they were buying a home would have known that there would be a large religious population in the area.

    There is a small but vocal anti-religious lobby who have been campaigning against building shuls, religious schools, etc, but I don't think that they represent the majority of this mixed city.

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  3. first of all, Rav Lau said soul-searching needs to be done, not me. I am simply suggesting that with all these anti-religious incidents happening recently perhaps the direction of the soul-searching needs to be in that realm - of the religious and secular relations.

    Perhaps there was no one specific incident of anti-secular activity by religious residents. Perhaps it is simply the secular feel threatened by the presence and the religious newcomers have perhaps not done enough to make them comfortable. Perhaps they could be friendlier, or more involved in communal activity and not just fighting for plots of land for shuls and mikvas (I have no idea if that happens or not - I am just throwing out an example of something that might scare secular residents).

    Or maybe it is all fluff and as Jameel says it is simply election season and that is why this is all happening. Then Rav Lau's demand for soul-searching will be even more difficult, because what do you look for on such a communal level?

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  4. ...the religious newcomers have perhaps not done enough to make them comfortable....

    I'm sorry, but since when are newcomers to an area supposed to make the old-timers feel comfortable? Shouldn't it be the other way around?

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  5. Yoni,

    There are no "old timers" in Modi'in. The whole city is new, the first residents moved in 10 years ago, but most of the city is still a construction zone and many areas were only opulated in the last 2 years or less, when it was already clear how the demographics of different neighbourhoods was heading.

    It's not like Givat Sharet or RBS which are additions to existing cities - Modi'in was a barren hilltop 12 years ago.

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