Recap of the conference
Shabbat is an ages-old symbol of consensus, whose importance is unanimously agreed upon. Over the generations, countless words and ideas have been written about the emotional and mental benefits of the Sabbath as a weekly day of rest. Every Shabbat is nourished by the week that preceded it, and energizes the following week; the observance of Shabbat in every home, community and city is an opportunity for Israeli society and for the State of Israel.
However, since we returned to our land and established a state, Shabbat became a source of contention, and instead of being seen as a spiritual and personal resource, became a political ball to be tossed back and forth.
This is why we initiated the First Israeli Conference on Shabbat, Society & Economy, dealing with various aspects of Shabbat: personal, family, community and national.
Participating in the conference were: Guest of honor, Jewish Senator Joe Lieberman, former US vice presidential candidate and author of the book, The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath, along with senior officials and opinion leaders in Israeli society and economy.
The conference included discussions on social and economic issues, and suggestions were raised on how to return Shabbat to a place that elevates the individual and the community, a place that has a unique space for each and every one but also is a partnership that influences society as a whole.
All the participants unanimously agreed that Shabbat is an opportunity to create social cohesion – a basic component in the concept of social security in the State of Israel.
“What are the opportunities inherent in Shabbat?” With this question, Dr. Ruth Kabbesa-Abramzon, CEO of the Shearim Association, opened the conference. Since converging in Israel from all the exiles, we have learned the meaning of a country that is still in the making in many areas that embrace Israeli life. However, we have no traditions regarding how to conduct Shabbat in the country and no way has been developed to utilize the power of Shabbat to create social cohesion among the diversity of people and communities that reside in Israel.
In his greeting to the conference, Israeli President Isaac Herzog referred to the power of Shabbat as a mediating factor. Senator Lieberman called on us all to “unite around Shabbat, to create a movement in which Shabbat will be the power and source of unity between us and the rest of the nations of the world, certainly all those who are the sons
of Abraham. A journey of thousands of steps begins with a small step, one that we are taking today. Let us prepare ourselves for the miracle, and at the same time, work together so that the miracle becomes reality. “
Minister of Religious Services, Matan Kahana, referred to the current chaotic situation regarding religion-state relations, when in the absence of clear arrangements, each side exercises force to influence the situation. “Therefore, it is necessary to institute Shabbat as an accepted national value … out of a discourse that will turn it into a consensus, a unifying Jewish value.” At the end of the conference, the minister announced his ministry’s support for the establishment of the Shearim Association’s Shabbat Institute.
A significant part of the conference was devoted to panels in the areas of society, community and economy. Knesset members, heads of local authorities, public figures and media personalities from different and diverse worlds discussed ways to overcome disputes and advance Shabbat as a unifying factor.
Among the speakers were Rabbi David Lau, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi,; Yoaz Hendel, Minister of Communications; Hili Tropper, Minister of Culture; MK Yuli Edelstein, former Speaker of the Knesset; Natan Sharansky, former Chairman of the Jewish Agency, MK and government minister; Rabbi Shai Piron, president of Pnima and former Minister of Education; Yaakov Hagoel, Chairman of the World Zionist Organization; Professor Meir Buzaglo; senior media and economic figures; mayors and Israeli opinion leaders.
Panel: “Between two cities: Shabbat as an opportunity to build community and resolve conflicts and disputes”
Moderated by journalist Kalman Liebskind, with the participation of Oded Ravivi, mayor of Efrat; Tal Ohana, mayor of Yeruham; Aviram (Avi) Gruber, mayor of Ramat Hasharon; and Rabbi Aryeh Stern, former chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Jerusalem.
How can Shabbat connect communities? How do mayors deal with the diversity of residents in their cities? And what about people who have to work on Shabbat? Heads of local government face many challenges in guarding the needs of all their residents.
Rest on Shabbat doesn’t mean doing . Shabbat not only means refraining from work; it has spiritual value. Perhaps, the panelists say, instead of talking about desecrating Shabbat, we will talk about canceling Shabbat for those who work on Shabbat, and look for ways in which Shabbat can become a lever for city’s entire population. Moreover: Corona revealed a new community sentiment that has strengthened the value of Shabbat as a day that allows culture and rest for all communities.
The question is: How do we do it? Join the discussion.
Shabbat for Two: How Shabbat is an opportunity for a family encounter
A meeting between Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, former Minister of Health and Speaker of the Knesset – and Shabbat observant, and Irina Nevzlin, an Israeli entrepreneur who serves as chairman of the ANU Museum board, president of the Nadav Foundation and is founder and chair of IMPROVATE ISRAEL – and not Shabbat observant
At the meeting, the two describe how it is possible to run one house with two worldviews regarding Shabbat: Who gives in to whom and about what, and how can you pave a common path that is acceptable to both partners and their
Join the discussion.
Panel: “The Shabbat War in the Media: Reality or Fiction?”
Moderated by journalist Dana Weiss and with the participation of Boaz Bismuth, editor of Israel Hayom; Eli Paley, publisher of the Mishpacha magazine; and Yisrael Bachar, strategic consultant:
The discussion centered on the role of the media in changing the image of Shabbat in the Israeli public – from a symbol of religious controversy to a force that abets social cohesion. Israel Bachar argued that the media has the power to change the discourse, and Eli Paley, who presented his viewpoint as the editor of a magazine serves the ultra-Orthodox community, wondered if it is possible to meet halfway. Dana Weiss said that her job requires her to work on Shabbat because news and television are part of the Shabbat experience for an entire public.
So is the media fueling the Shabbat-centered differences? Should it give a place and news headlines to the Shabbat wars or should it help create a new public attitude towards Shabbat? Join the discussion.
The Shabbat economics panel
Moderated by journalist Keren Marciano, with the participation of Eyal Gabay, former director general of the Prime Minister’s Office; Alona Bar-on, publisher of Globes; and Prof. Eugene Kandel, former Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister:
The Western world recognizes the value of rest, but what about productivity? Is moving toward Shabbat-Sunday weekend a solution? Can from technology engender creativity – or vice versa – and is it considered “rest?” And should refraining from work on Shabbat restrict the entire economy starting morning?
So what do we do? Join the discussion.
Panel: “Where are we heading?”
With the participation of Sen. Joe Lieberman, former US vice presidential candidate; Dr. Ruth Kabessa-Abramzon, CEO of Shearim; Natan Sharansky, former chairman of the Jewish Agency and minister; Aliza Lavie, former MK; Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, head of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS); and Rachel Azaria, former MK.
The speakers concurred that there is reason for optimism, because most people are looking for meaning, and Shabbat can provide meaning. However, significant issues such as transportation on Shabbat need to be resolved and in general, how can norms of behavior and values be imposed on a public that is not accustomed to them? How do you change the place of Shabbat, an effort that has always been led by people who are opposed to Shabbat? And where is the public in these decisions?
Join the discussion.