Say no to Yom ha-Zikaron!There’s a unique atmosphere around Yom ha-Zikaron due to its proximity to Yom ha-Atzma’ut, an uneasy coexistence of expected solemnity and anticipated joy, sirens blaring and people standing stock still in the streets, while Israeli flags flutter from every balcony and every shop offers deals on Yom Ha-Atzma’ut must-haves from grilled meat to oversized plastic hammers to exuberantly hit people with.

And of course another Yom ha-Zikaron tradition is the slew of articles examining the refusal of the ultra-Orthodox (and more recently disaffected religious Zionists) to participate in what one might expect to be a holiday that could arouse no protest – a holiday commemorating the thousands of young men and women who have died to secure the right of Jews to live as Jews in a Jewish state. But of course, as we see from the yearly protests in Kikkar Shabbat in Geulah, the graffiti and pashkvilim in Meah She’arim identifying it as “Shetach Falastini” (Palestinian Territory), or trumpeting, “Ein knisah l’Tziyonim” (No entry to Zionists), or merely warning about the bite of the “Zionist dogs,” some people will take just about any excuse to strike a blow at the state which protects them, including dishonoring the memory of those who sacrifice everything so that the Charedim can continue to pretend the world stopped in Poland 400 years ago. I’m sure the Palestinians would not be so accomodating.

What’s the most frequently heard reason for the refusal of many ultra-Orthodox to acknowledge Yom ha-Zikaron or stand still in the streets as the memorial siren goes off? Ah: the siren-and-standing-at-attention deal, you see, is a “gentile custom,” and as such they could not possibly stoop from their elevated cloud of holiness to respect it.

The fact that no other country that I know of commemorates its fallen soldiers with a nationwide siren nonwithstanding, I thought I might list a small fraction of the other gentile concepts and borrowings which have snuck their way into traditional Judaism ever since Abraham set out from Ur.

– Being costumed at all times in black coats and black/fur hats (thank you, Polish noblemen!)
– 3/4 of the Yiddish language
– Many religiously significant Hebrew terms, including Sanhedrin and apikores (both Greek), not to mention all the borrowings from Aramaic, the language of Aram and Babylon
– The account of the world’s creation (standard pan-Mesopotamian cosmogony)
– The concept of a reward-oriented afterlife (does not appear in the Torah or Prophets)
– The concept of a messiah/redeemer (later, post-Pentateuch introduction to Judaism)
– The concept of the universalness, as opposed to particularness, of the Torah (arose after contact with Greek universalist philosophy)
– The flood account (predated by nearly identical Sumerian myths)
– A complex hierarchical demonology
– Sexual puritanism (influenced by Christianity)
– Maimonidean rationalism
– Monogamy (influenced by Christianity)
– Purim masquerade (influenced by Catholic Carnival)
– Dreidels and gelt
– Niggunim
– Traditional melodies to prayers, both Ashkenazic and Sephardic
– Any modern religious Jewish music, from Matisyahu to Avrum Fried
– Challah, blintzes, tzimmes, knishes, hamantaschen, latkes, and any other “Jewish” food you can think of

You know, seeing as that list really is only a fraction, and yet includes some of the most fundamental theological concepts of modern Judaism, as well as daily practices by religious Jews everywhere, you might be led to think that bowing out of Yom ha-Zikaron because it’s a “gentile custom” is a little bit inconsistent and hypocritical. If Chasidim can sing a niggun to the tune of “La Marseillaise” and not go to Hell (oops, there’s another gentile innovation!), I think they can stand still for a siren to honor Israel’s dead.

But then again, it never really was about the gentile custom, was it?

Have a happy Yom ha-Atzma’ut!

About the author

michael

22 Comments

  • Hmmmmm. Black ingratitude toward the soldiers who make it possible for you to keep up your sheltered little existence?

    They may have picked that up from the American left.

  • “a kosher, Jewish blog, run by David Avitol, a 41-year-old Israeli, and Lia Milman, 23-year-old immigrant from the United States.”

    Lia Milman huh? Laya, anything to say?

  • A balanced Catholic contribution: go ahead and party, but take the same chick home at the end of the night.

    Are Jews polygamous, or just cool with fooling around?

  • Wow. Great article. Had I only known Long Beach was in Florida, I would have at least tried to make it there. In other news, anti-Semitism not cool, says Jay-Z. Oh, ynet.
    Pete, I doubt very much that the charedim are taking cues from the American left. And what, pray tell, is Black ingratitude?

  • A very well said commentary. I think that the Hasidim would love to be transplanted back to the filthy ghettoes of Eastern Europe only if the Jew-killing Goyim would have them! Just one disagreement. As far as I remember when I was in Yeshivah, we were taught about “Ge Hinnom” and that it was pretty much the same thing as “Hell.” In fact, the rabbis told us about “burning in “Ge Hinnom” if we didn’t do all the mitzvot!

  • PH: cursory fact checking would have done that ynet article a lot of good. Dave is Abitbol, not Avitol, and I am Laya, which, if he actually looked at the site, there is no excuse for. My last name is also spelled wrong. All the details about the conference were pretty much wrong as well. I’m not so sure how much I’m trusting the reporting standards at Ynet anymore….

  • Purim Hero, please understand my meaning when I say, if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

  • OT but serious: A judge in New York has ruled that it is OK to put electronic-key doors into residential buildings, to track individual tenants’ movements. This is very bad. Esther has to do something about this, or the world will come to an end.

    I think it is in the Monday, May 2nd NEW YORK SUN newspaper. (The point was to bust people who do not live in their rent controlled apartments, and sublet at a profit, which is stealing, but this is huge and horrible overkill.)

    The right to come and go anonymously, leaving no record, is totally sacred!!!

  • I mean, it is sacred AT HOME.

    Sure, in a business setting it is OK to record people’s comings and goings.

  • Picky, perhaps, but you should compare the account of the Flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh to that in the Torah, Michael.

    Surface similarities are there of course (a guy on a boat with animals). However, the heart and soul of the two stories could not possibly be more different. In Gilgamesh, the gods flood the world to destry mankind because one of them is pissed that the noise the humans make interrupts his afternoon nap (!). I mean, need I say more?

    But, yeah, the chareidim should show some derech eretz towards the people who keep them from getting their throats cut by the Arabs. Ungrateful bastards.

  • i guess you guys don’t believe in Torah m’Sinai.
    well i do.

    idk, i’m not necessarily against yom ha-Ziakron and yom Haatzmaut like these guys but they do

    but then again, chareidim avoid all secular holidays

    and you’ve got to admit, these are secular holidays

    they’re not really religious even though some folks to make them such. they’re Zionist holidays, they’re nationalist holidays, and modern Zionist nationalism doesn’t really have much to do with Judaism. It has to with nationalism. Survivalism. But not really Judaism.

    So from that perspective I can see. I mean, these same people if living in the US wouldn’t be caught around a 4th of July event. And it’s the same kind of thing.

    All religious Jews feel ties to the land of israel, and almost all Jews feel ties to the people of israel, but not of all us are so keen on the state of israel. and i’m okay with that.

    idk, maybe to you, anti-Zionist Jews get no love, but they still get love from me, Zionist, anti-Zionist or just non-Zionist. whatever.

  • I agree with both Shmuel and TheMiddle.

    You don’t have to insult others to retain your beliefs.

    That being said, IMO there’s a difference between someone not standing still in Kikar Zion versus Kikar Shabbat. When in Rome, so to speak…..

    Unfortunately, all side involved here are filled with baseless hate (“Sin’at Chinam”) over what really amounts to trivial differences in opinion, blown out of proportion.

    I, too, find no unique spiritual relevance in Yom Hazikaron. I do find the Siren to be nothing related to Jewish customs. That is the meaning of it being a “gentile” custom – it has no Jewish significance. That being said, I have nothing against a national day to remember those who died so that we may live.

  • Michael bravo…
    “But then again, it never really was about the gentile custom, was it?”
    the Chasidim dont belive in Israel and dont consider it, but they sure get their national insurance from my country with out countribute to the country {besides increasing the birth rate}…

  • one you forgot is about israel itself. For 1000 of years our people strived to be next year in jerusalem. It really wasnt just another a simon and garfunkel song. Then we got israel back but nowadays it seems so may jews just send the check. this check sending is also very goyish. goys send money to their churches but our people should not think israel is like a church and donate time momey to help out.Jewish thinking is that israel is our country and you should live there.goyisg nonjewish thinking has certainly entered our mindset..Many donate money to israel as if it is the sunday plate being passed around at church.

  • there’s nothing goyishe about sending money to help out your bros. that’s a pretty old jewish custom, and it’s messed up that you’d diss people for doing that.
    seriously.

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