Previous page

Today, security around Netanyahu is greater than that of President Clinton, and Israelis, normally highly opinionated, have begun taking pains to keep their political views to themselves.

I got a firsthand taste of the depths of the animosity between the religious and secular during a recent assignment in Jerusalem.

A cabby who was driving me to an interview--I never take the bus in Jerusalem--asked my opinion of the conversion bill which was making headlines at the time*. A ‘secular’ Jew myself, I felt comfortable responding, as he was not wearing any traditional Orthodox or Ultra-Orthodox garb.* "In my view," I said, "the Orthodox stance is too rigid, and attempts to dictate to non-religious Jews in Israel and the Diaspora how they should live their lives."

Turns out he was Orthodox; he’d misplaced his kippah earlier in the day. "God," he responded harshly, "made the rules, and set them down in the Torah (the Old Testament). They are beyond question, and cannot be altered because some people find them an inconvenience." The remainder of the ride, not surprisingly, was filled with a tense silence; not unlike the one that prevails among secular and Orthodox Jews in Israel today.

Next page