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Offbeat Israel: Shas and Shekels, Crocs and the Fast

Four American ultra-Orthodox Jews met today with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. They were activists from the strongly anti-Zionist sect Neturei Karta, which maintains contacts with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (members of the group famously visited Tehran in 2006). Haaretz reports on the meeting with here.


Is it a proposal to ram religion down people’s throats? Or would it create regular reminder to act ethically when using money? An Israeli lawmaker is proposing a bill requiring the Bank of Israel to emblazon: “We believe in the creator” on all banknotes.

The lawmaker in question, Nissim Ze’ev of Shas, says that there is nothing outrageous about the idea — after all, in America, banknotes say “In God we trust.” And it is true that it could remind people of higher values when handing cash. On the other hand, his rationale seems to veer over the line of telling people what to think. “The goal of the bill is to remind every Jew that he needs to believe in the Creator,” he told Ynet.

If the idea is to remind every Jew of something he “needs” to do, perhaps Mr Ze’ev may consider adding other messages. How about: “Have you prayed the morning service?” Or: “If you’re spending me to buy food, is it kosher?” In fact, there are enough different denomination of banknote for different people to have a say. One denomination could be put under the control of dentists: “Have you brushed your teeth?”

Of course, if Mr Ze’ev sees banknotes as a place to tell Israelis what he thinks they should be doing, why not just cut to the chase? “Vote Shas” is a snappy catchphrase.


The Fast of Av, which falls today, has to be the one occasion in the Jewish calendar that is observed more visibly in the Diaspora than in Israel.

In the Diaspora, if you’re anywhere near a religious area you know it’s the Fast of Av. The strange spectacle of people wearing suits with sneakers gives it away. The reason for the footwear choice is that Jewish law prohibits the wearing of leather shoes today as a sign of mourning. In Israel, however, everyone looks the same as normal.

The reason has nothing to do with differences in religious tradition, and everything to do with an invention called Crocs. Israelis have gone crazy for them. And in true Israeli style, there are no boundaries as to when they should and shouldn’t be worn. Crocs, according to Israeli dress norms, may be work with anything, from jogging bottoms to smart pants. Even the smartest of synagogue-goers, on the smartest of occasions, will wear them. So while suit-and-Crocs in the States may tell you it’s the Fast of Av, here somebody could just as easily be en route to a wedding.

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