Chief Rabbi of Efrat, in Gush Etzion, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, one of the most prominent liberal rabbis in religious Zionism, is warning against religious coercion of secular Israeli Jews. He points an accusing finger at the Chief Rabbinate, among others, which he says keeps pouring gasoline on the fire.
In an interview on Tuesday with Israel Hayom, Rabbi Riskin said that “there’s a serious problem with religious coercion, in fact this is an oxymoron – if it’s coercion, it can’t be truly religious.”
...“It is impossible to compel Shabbat observance through a state law,” Riskin said, adding, “I would be very happy if everyone kept Shabbat and did not work, but the state must be careful about what it requires by law.”Many citizens of Israel are confused on this matter and because of the assimilation of western values and ideals, they feel that so-called "separation of religion and state" should be the desired goal.
However, we are not a state like all others. This is supposed to be a Jewish state built on holy ground. If you want to see what that is supposed to look like, you need only go back to the last time we returned from a stay in the exile. It is most instructive to read the accounts of the first return from exile in the writings of Ezra and Nechemiah.
In those days, I saw in Judea [people] treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing stacks [of grain] and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, and figs, and all types of loads and bringing them to Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, and I warned them on the day they sold provisions.
And the Tyrians [who] sojourned there were bringing fish and all [types of] merchandise and selling on the Sabbath to the people of Judea and in Jerusalem.
And I quarreled with the dignitaries of Judea, and I said to them, "What is this bad thing that you are doing - profaning the Sabbath day?
Did not your ancestors do this, and our God brought upon us all this calamity, and upon this city, and you are increasing the wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath?"
Now it came to pass when the gates of Jerusalem cast shadows before the Sabbath, that I commanded, and the doors were closed, and I said that they should not open them until after the Sabbath, and I stationed some of my youths over the gates so that no load should enter on the Sabbath day.
So the traffickers and the vendors of all types of merchandise lodged outside Jerusalem once and twice.
And I warned them and said to them, "Why are you lodging opposite the wall? If you repeat [this], I shall lay a hand on you." Since that time, they did not come on the Sabbath.
And I commanded the Levites that the watchers of the walls should purify themselves and come to hallow the Sabbath day. This too remember for me, my God, and have pity on me according to Your abundant loving-kindness.