A friend of mine who works in Tel Aviv recently related to me this short but incisive story. After a long day of work he entered a small fruit and vegetable store to grab a quick yet healthy snack. While in the store he heard the voice of someone speaking words of Torah and when he looked up he saw a television perched up high broadcasting a lecture of Rabbi Lau, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel. He continued through the store searching for some pieces of fruit, all the while noticing that the storeowner was listening to Rabbi Lau.
After finally choosing a few pieces of fruit he went to pay the storeowner but before he actually paid he once again looked up at the television screen to get a glance of Rabbi Lau. Perhaps due to my friend’s glance at the screen, the storeowner felt the need to say something. He looked at my friend, erroneously assumed that he was secular due to the bicycle helmet on his head, and said, “I love to listen to Rabbi Lau”. My friend just nodded and said “okay”. Not finished and apparently feeling the need to justify himself to someone he believed was a fellow secular Jew from Tel Aviv, the storeowner continued and said “What’s wrong with some words of Torah?”
The reason I brought this short and sweet story is to counter the notion that Israel is divided into ‘us and them’, ‘religious and secular’. Anyone who has been here long enough knows that Israel is not black and white as it is frequently depicted. There are many Jews here of all shapes and sizes that on the outside look ‘secular’ but in reality have a very strong and beautiful Jewish soul. To understand this one simply needs to come live here and strike a conversation with an ‘ordinary Israeli’.