Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Recently I had a dialog with another blogger in the comments section of this archived post. It got me thinking.

In a democracy, which Israel tries to be, people have personal liberty. People can go where they want, do what they want, and even eat what they want. Personal liberty is balanced against harm (to others, the group, or ourselves). For example, the freedom to kill people is limited in a democracy because it hurts others. You could drive a 100 miles an hour all of the time, but it's against the law because you could hurt yourself or other people. Harm to others, yourself, or the group is the key in defining the scope of personal liberty in a democracy. It is important to always be vigilant to make sure our personal liberties are preserved and balanced.

I do not think that food (see the comments) is an important enough issue to limit any personal freedoms. Of course, if I were to roast a pig on a spit on my balcony, some of my neighbors might have a problem with that - the sight, the smoke, the smell. Since I am a nice, considerate neighbor (respectful of social norms and expectations), I don't barbecue pigs outside. But when I cook at home, in my own kitchen, that is no place for outside influence. (In the case with my hoppin' john, I let folks know that there was pork in the recipe. My kitchen is far from kosher so most of my friends wouldn't have much of an issue anyway - but I am sensitive to it.)

I think that when people try to put social pressures on private behavior it often comes from a place of intolerance and a world view where their dogma is more important than that of another person.

To many people Israel is a special place - a holy place. To others it's just a place.

By having a dialog about our expectations and approaching more important issues (abortion, civil rights, etc.) with the knowledge that "everyone doesn't think like me" we can help fulfill the promises of our democracies.

Check out www.tolerance.org.


At 1/17/2006 6:55 AM, Blogger Adam said...

Beautifully put.

At 1/17/2006 3:13 PM, Blogger Sam said...

Well thought out and eloquently stated - or, as adam said, "Beautifully put."

I've a request. How about posting a series of pictures that is a walking tour of your neighborhood? Maybe just a walk around the block...

Happy day!

At 1/17/2006 3:36 PM, Anonymous אביב said...

יפה שאתה מתחשב. :-)

At 1/17/2006 8:08 PM, Blogger mahler said...

haredi theocrats need to be reminded that israel wouldn't exist if it weren't for secular jews.

At 1/18/2006 9:47 AM, Blogger John said...

Ok, Sam. But you'll have to protect me form the paparazzi/stalkers.

Until I put some photos up, type "rehavia jerusalem" and "talbieh jerusalem" into Google Images. That'll give you some idea of what it's like where I live. I live on the border of these two neighborhoods.

At 1/18/2006 3:19 PM, Blogger RR said...

Very good post. Also made me think of something funny- I've been meeting more and more Israelis who eat pork, shellfish, etc. but wouldn't dream of eating bread on Passover!

"Different strokes...."- it's so true.

At 1/19/2006 1:54 AM, Anonymous jaime said...

Mahler, I so happen to be very much on the left and a non religious Jew, who grew up in the South, and was totally salivating when I read the recipe of that delicious dish.

I already apologized to John if I offended him, but when you have a blog and it's open to comments, sometimes you are going to get comments that are different than your views. I understand why he made it. It very hard living far away from your family and friends. And even something as simple as a cooking a familiar and traditional dish can help with homesickness, plus it so delicious and it's his right to cook whatever he darn well pleases.

My family is trying to transition to being kosher as a request from our 6 yr old daughter, and although we are trying to do it, it’s not coming from religious place in our heart (my husband and I). So I am the last one to tell anyone that they should or shouldn't keep kosher.

All I was saying was that it bothered me that his Israeli friends, in Israel, tried it knowing that there was pork in it. It may not make any sense why I feel that way, I just do. As I explained, if the same scene was in the states, I wouldn't have a problem with it ...at all. I guess I have a certain expectations when it comes to Israel and I am very protective of it. I realized that when Israelis travel abroad especially to Asia, it's part of the whole experience to immersed yourself into the different cultures, including the food. I would do it (well maybe depending on how weird it looked or smelled.) It's what makes traveling fun. But again, in Israel I just feel differently.

This has nothing to do with having tolerance or intolerance for me. Except possibly, if a Jew moved to Israel and celebrated Christmas by having decorations and a tree in their home, or throwing a Christmas party for Jewish/Israeli friends. Yes. it's in the privacy of their own home, it's not bothering anyone, but that is something I guess I wouldn't have much tolerance for it. Would I tell them my opinion? No, but I would lose respect and question why they made Aliyah in the first place. But that’s my problem. And that leads us to somewhere completely different.

Maybe someone else can articulate it better why I feel this feel this way about the food issue. Again, John, sorry to have offended you.

At 1/19/2006 11:13 AM, Blogger John said...

Hey Jamie,
I was really worried when I posted that you would feel personally attacked (I really hope you didn't feel that way) - that is just not what my blog is about - but I can tell from your comments here that you've also been giving this a lot of thought. Of course, the whole food topic is just a representation of how important religion, culture, and personal beliefs are to us all. I appreciate your willingness to share with me/us about your beliefs and help me/us understand where you are coming from.

I was not offended by your comments but instead I was forced to think about where I stand on this issue. Sometimes when we articulate (esp. on the internet) our feelings about something close to our heart it's hard to get the right tone - I wasn't offended at all but challenged to think for myself. That process can be prickly sometimes. :-)I just came to a different conclusion than you...and that's ok.

Israel is just a fascinating place - and this conversation about how religion creates social pressures will continue to be something that the whole country (and the world) works out. The future dynamics of a democratic country that was created with the purpose of being a home for a specific group of people will be interesting to say the least.

At 1/19/2006 6:05 PM, Anonymous אביב said...

Ra'anana Ramblings, if you try to look at the jewish religious rules in a logical way, you can assume that in ancient times eating pork wasn't so healty. In contrast to this, Jews don't eat bread on Passover in order to remember something that is considered important. I think you can see here the difference between religion and tradition.

At 1/19/2006 9:20 PM, Anonymous jaime said...

"Israel is just a fascinating place - and this conversation about how religion creates social pressures will continue to be something that the whole country (and the world) works out. The future dynamics of a democratic country that was created with the purpose of being a home for a specific group of people will be interesting to say the least."

Brilliantly said and very insightful.

No worries, John.



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