Monday, 10 January 2011

Don't always judge a book by it's cover

The Organ of Anglo Jewry- the Jewish Chronicle ran this week's edition devoting no less than five pages to the story of Moshe Katzav, President of Israel who has been convicted of rape and sexual harassment this past week.
On the second page, first line, the paper refers to Mr Katzav as the kipa wearing President. It's true he did wear a Kipa whilst he was President but I was trying to figure out what the JC was trying to say. If the paper had been a non Jewish paper I wonder whether they could have got away with it, or would they have been accused of latent anti semitism. But the fact that this is a Jewish paper meant that they could say it. Was it another side swipe at religious Jewry as if to suggest here we have yet another case of a Jew who calls himself religious or Dati yet could behave so despicably?
When Moshe Katzav became President of Israel I was personally pleased. Here we have a man in High public office who chooses to wear his Yarmulke in public. He doesn't just hide his religion and identity under his shirt but he's proud to be the Israeli and the Jew.
On a personal level I identify with that. I went to a non Jewish Secondary School and when I was thirteen I made a conscious decision to wear a Kipa in school. I was the only person in the entire school who had the guts to do so, and I received a lot of respect from my contemporaries for doing that.
Wearing a Kipa in Israel is not always a sign of religiosity. It could be a sign of political identity and affiliation, much more so I think than in the UK. Different colours of Yarmulke, how they are made, what material utilised in production can make a difference between right and left and zionist and non zionist.
So it's important to get things in perspective and not to read too much into it. In the words of Pirkei avot: Don't look at the flask but look at what it contains.
However the message about Moshe Katzav is very clear. The Torah says that the king of Israel wherever he went he had to carry with him a Sefer Torah scroll and always have it with him by his side.
Why was that? Because a king always has to be aware that nobody is above the law- even the President of Israel.


  1. I agree with you- his wearing of a kipa is by no means an indication of religious belief; remember, he's a politician and needs to woo the right people.
    The JC's noting of it is no surprise. Though accused by some of being anti-religious, i don't think it's remarks, in this instance, are tendentious. It's a tabloid paper and will look to whip up controversy whenever it can.
    Nice article.

  2. Simon- Thanks for your comment. I sometimes think that the JC will always try to get an anti dati/charedi slant if they can, and in this case they've succeeded. My other comment is that the JC was trying to make a Chiddush of the fact that Israel has convicted a President. I would have thought that any country that follows the rule of law ought to convict a person who has done something criminal regardless of who he/she is. There is no chiddush in that.