Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tommy - Rest in Peace

Tommy Lapid. The name sounds like it belongs to some sort of sixties rock opera. But that was the name a man who was one of the most vilified members of the Kenesset by religious Jews in the history of the Israeli people. He was their poster child for all that is wrong with the secular state.

Indeed that was in large part the platform his party Shinui ran on, if I recall correctly. It was anti religious. He drew fire from almost every segment of the religious world. But that did no prevent him from winning 15 Kenesset seats for his party. That seemed to be an almost cathartic revolt by secular Jews - a revolt against the encroachment upon the lives by religious Israeli politicians, who seemed to be forever gaining more power – and exercising it.

Tommy Lapid died last night. I too had my criticisms of him then. But they were always tempered in my mind by the fact that he was a holocaust survivor who in truth was not anti religious. He was just anti coercion. He sought a secular and democratic state - free of religious coercion. He had seen enough of coercion in his life.

The religious parties were making increasing demands upon the public, and secular Jews who never had any real quarrel with the religious public were really starting to resent them for this. Roads blocked or picketed on Shabbos. Forced store closings on Shabbos -the only day secular Jews had for shopping. Tommy Lapid capitalized on that growing resentment and that made way for huge victory for his party. That party is no longer a factor. I believe it was a one term wonder. But that event does serve to demonstrate what can happen when people feel hey are being pushed into a corner.

Tommy Lapid’s goals of eliminating coercion by the religious parties never saw fruition. The religious parties are stronger than ever and are determined to shove as much religion down the throats of secular Jews as they can.

We - the religious community may want to live in a more religious State. But forcing it upon people who don’t want it is counter-productive to those goals.

Tommy Lapid was remembered yesterday by his many religious critics. I think they understood that as a secular Jew all of his life, he was not anti religious but anti coercion. I was surprised but gratified to see how many accolades he received from religious politicians. It reminded me that he was not always thought of as anti religious. There was a time well before he ran for the Keneset – when he was a radio personality -where he actually enjoyed good relations with the religious world. It seems that those feeling never totally disappeared.

Mrs. Shira Schmidt has written a wonderful obituary of him on cross-currents. Tommy Lapid was a holocaust survivor who never saw a pair of Teffilin until the pair issued by the government when joining the Israeli army. He was not religious before the holocaust - and not after. Survivors – even those who lost faith after the holocaust dare not be questioned about their beliefs. We have no right. As Dr. Eliezer Berkovits said, all survivors are holy. Tommy Lapid was a holy survivor who lost his entire family in the holocaust. One must view him in that light. And that is how I believe the religious community in Israel now sees him now in his death. May God rest his soul.