11.10.09

When Jews won't take a lift...

I have entered lifts with too many people breathing one another’s breaths. It is probably unhygienic and a security risk. I have pressed buttons, real ones, without knowing that some people in the world think that doing so after sunset on Friday until Saturday’s sunset is a “desecration of the Sabbath”.

That this has become an issue that Jews are concerned about in New York City and not some remote Taliban-like rugged turf should get our liberals to raise eyebrows. But, will they? I doubt it.

The report in the NYT has a deadpan tone. Almost as though it is perfectly acceptable:

But last week, newly added to the tenant issues facing building managers like Harold M Jacob, who runs a co-op where Orthodox Jews inhabit a substantial portion of the 2,500 apartments, was this almost ontological question: Does that elevator “know” how many people are on it?


Ontological? Is this anywhere close to the metaphysical study of the nature of being and existence?

Ever since elevators became the norm with the construction of high-rise buildings, concessions were made for the 39 activities prohibited during the Sabbath. Use of electrical devices is one of them. Pressing buttons constitutes such activity.This had got the Knesset involved and made it mandatory in Israel to designate one lift in a building as ‘Shabbos’, the good one that automatically stopped on every floor so that Orthodox Jews did not have to press any buttons and could spend their Sabbath within the accepted religious realm.

After a meeting with technicians, it was recently discovered that even Shabbos elevators have devices that automatically measure the weight of the lift car and adjust the power. It has resulted in seeking to ban them.

In a world that is sitting in judgement about other faiths and their strict adherence to them and making it out to be as though they are backward and not moving with the times, this sort of observance will not be questioned with much harshness.

Why? Because these people are educated? They have made money and can live in the heart of New York? They have a strong lobby within America? An apartment block that has 2500 residents and several other issues now being forced to think about pressing buttons in lifts is ridiculous.

How many of you have heard about Jews being made fun of because of their obsession with the kosher? They don’t eat pork. They are circumcised. The orthodox among them wear clothes as per the Talmudic laws wherever they are or go. Does it not strike anyone as unusual that rabbis are having meetings about this and how the community follows the belief?

Oh, so you will turn around and say, they don’t have suicide bombers. They don’t do this and they don’t do that. Kindly visit Gaza. If you can get there. An educated community that stops essential provisions from reaching people who belong to the land is hardly educated.

Incidentally, Palestinians are among the most educated people in the world. But a boy in Gaza has to ride a donkey painted with stripes to mimic a zebra because he has never seen a zebra in his life. His world, though, is black and white. And if he grows up, unless he gets killed, he will see the world as a monochrome reality.

The Jews in the world outside can continue to think of important issues about where the lift stops. The buck will never stop at their door.

12 comments:

  1. FV
    Talking of unhygienic, I still see the prevalent custom in Muslims of eating and drinking from same dishes knowing full well that transmission of various germs can occur. The idea of a universal brotherhood in Muslims is laudable but shouldn't discretion in view of present scientific knowledge be exercised?

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  2. Hello Anon:

    Where do you see it? I'd be interested in such places too! I do know that on special occasions communities like the Bohras share a meal in a 'thaal'...but then there are 'langars' in gurdwaras, dargahs and temples.

    I agree that it is unhygienic and universal brotherhood is unhealthy too...but those who share on a regular basis are the poor, and the poor don't have a choice irrespective of religious beliefs.

    - - -

    General note: Isn't it interesting that no one has anything to say about this lift thing and the one comment here and another one elsewhere is blaming Muslims. Very strange :)

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  3. Oh, so you will turn around and say, they don’t have suicide bombers.


    They don't.

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  4. Farzana: You and a lot of islamist-apologists still don't get it. If the vast majority of terrorists weren't muslim and clearly motivated by islam, nobody would give a damn about whether you ate pork or grew a beard.

    The Washington DC sniper was a muslim. Yet, barring the odd wingnut talk radio blowhard, nobody is calling them muslim snipers.

    It's the terrorism, stupid.

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  5. Ms. FV
    Go to Jama Masjid in Delhi and on a hot day you will find water being drunk by people from the same container. You also see, quite often, when people are eating as a family, they all share from the same plate 9Thal)
    As for lungars at Sikh gurdwarss, the food is cooked communally but eaten in individual thaalies.
    I don't know about dargahs.
    On the same line, mus;ims still marry their first cousins which, gnenetically, is not a healthy thing to do; but I suppose there is some cultural aspect to it.

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  6. So, where are the opinions about Jews here? Nuttin to say?

    Arjun:

    If the vast majority of terrorists weren't muslim and clearly motivated by islam, nobody would give a damn about whether you ate pork or grew a beard.

    The portions in bold contradict your next statement.

    The Washington DC sniper was a muslim. Yet, barring the odd wingnut talk radio blowhard, nobody is calling them muslim snipers.

    Yet, you will call someone who discusses it differently from your hothouse plant version as an apologist. You will brand people based on the accident of birth. You will take potshots about their nationality, their patriotism, their places of recreation, and if they dare to not fit into a certain mould.

    You would be rejoicing and starting discussions if I decided to grow a beard...one more thing to add to the ugly Muslim persona that you so love to hate.

    It's the stereotypes, stupid.

    Anon:

    What has all this extended discussion you are having got to do with Jews not using the lift?

    And what are you doing on hot days at the Jama masjid? Do you go there to watch people sharing containers and passing on germs? Could it not be possible that they are passing on secret codes? Have you not thought about that? I am surprised. Our friend here would have thought about just that.

    Anyhow, haven't you seen couples sharing glasses of juice and coconut water? Oh, I share a sip with friends occasionally...it is our idea of secularism, perhaps. Imagine, they are Hindus and even one Jew.

    How many Muslims marry their first cousins? Do you know that this is a fairly common practice in S.India among Hindus?

    I hope we are through with this health and hygiene discussion. So, what about the Jews and the lift?

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  7. Firstly, I have no goddamn clue what ontological means. Not that I care.

    Secondly, I honestly think sex is friggin unhygienic. Hasn't stopped me or anybody else from doing it. In fact in my opinion, if someone is not having unhygienic sex, they are doing it wrong. LOL! Just a thought.

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  8. SM:

    I explained what ontological means immediately after the question...was just being subtle about it.

    Re. you second point, thanks for sharing your POV - I am sure it will add a dimension to right and wrong that Vatsyayan did not think about!

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  9. The portions in bold contradict your next statement.


    How so? Terrorists are only called Islamic terrorists when they are motivated by Islam. Like the london bombers, the bombay terrorists and the 911 hijackers. The sniper just happened to be muslim...hence, he wasn't an islamic terorrist...

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  10. Oh, so now it is being a Muslim (and you did mention the sniper was one in your first comment, perhaps to make a point)vs. being an Islamist. I have already mentioned it several times. So, why do you call people Islamist apologists and not Muslim apologists when they talk about minority issues? Is there a clear distinction in your mind?

    And, as I have already noted, no one is commenting on the kosher thing. Why? Tell me. Is what Israel doing in Palestine something about Jews, Israelis or Zionism? Will you be able to pinpoint that and why. And for now please leave the Palestinians out of it and how pan-Islamism deserves it...we will have the opportunity at some time or the other here, as you well know. Inshallah!

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  11. and you did mention the sniper was one in your first comment


    to make the point about why he isn't called an islamic sniper/terrorist.




    So, why do you call people Islamist apologists and not Muslim apologists



    The positions are hardly distinguishable...Take any political conflict in the world involving a muslim side and a non-muslim side. Now tell me where the vast majority of muslims feel about that conflict. It's pretty clear. Muslims AND Islamists support the muslim side.

    The important distinction is that, for the vast majority of indian muslims, that's where it ends. They're not likely to advocate the muslim side or do anything about it.

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  12. You again contradict yourself or are clear and paying with semantics. Oh, the sniper was not called a terrorist or Islamist.

    When I ask about Muslim vs. Islamist, you say:

    The positions are hardly distinguishable...Take any political conflict in the world involving a muslim side and a non-muslim side. Now tell me where the vast majority of muslims feel about that conflict. It's pretty clear. Muslims AND Islamists support the muslim side.

    In a conflict situation how many Jews will not opt for the Jewish side or Hindus for the Hindu side or Christians for th Christian side?

    Given the state of contemporary politics your stand is not negotiable. These are the hard realities, and like the Indian Muslims the rest may not go any further with it, but the psyche may reveal a different POV among a few in both cases.

    So, what about the kosher Jewish lift, Arjun?

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