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Understanding Israel’s Secular vs Orthodox Culture



Messiah's Mandate, Ron Cantor, March 14, 2019


I recently watched a fascinating documentary about one of Israel’s fresh, young faces and her husband. She is a presenter on several TV shows. Coreen Gidon met her fiancé at a bar in Tel Aviv. At the time, she didn’t realize that he came from an ultra-religious home with 14 children.


The Pretty People


I know the “Coreens” of this city. I know Tel Aviv and I know how the “pretty” people of this city think. They are in a bubble. Not unlike Hollywood. They come from successful families of lawyers, builders and entertainers, if not generals and politicians. They love the army and are proud of the land of the Bible, though few believe in the God of the Bible. Throughout my years here, I have found myself, strangely, in places I never expected to be, rubbing shoulders with these people.


But I never understood how far their world is from Orthodox Judaism. Most American Jews, even if not religious, have a high regard for the Orthodox. Not so in Israel. In fact, there is great enmity. My wife’s family is traditional—we call them masorti. This means that though they are not super religious, they honor Shabbat; they keep kosher and love the holidays. I have lived in that world for 16 years.


But watching this special about the growing relationship between Coreen and Cheli (short for Yekhiel) was fascinating. It was as if aliens and Martians met for the first time. On the one side, you have super secular Coreen. Liberal, pro-gay marriage, surely pro-abortion and pretty much everything else you can imagine. Then you have Cheli. His parents are American immigrants like me. They are fluent in Hebrew and fully assimilated. They live in a different world; a world that Cheli, unlike his brothers and sisters, left. They are against homosexuality and are most likely anti-abortion. Their entire lives are governed by religion.


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