No Independence Day prayers at Shas synagogue in Ramat Gan

However, anti-Independence Day flyers that were passed out in the synagogue did not arouse a lot of interest.

praying teffilin tallit 88 (photo credit: )
praying teffilin tallit 88
(photo credit: )
The Naveh Tehila Synagogue in Ramat Gan, which caters to the local Iraqi community, draws a diverse crowd on Friday nights. There are young men in jeans and T-shirts, with polyester kippot commonly passed out at bar mitzvot and weddings perched precariously on their gelled and spiked hair, and there are old men in ill-fitting suits and pork-pies. There are newly newly-devout worshipers with long beards and black suits and there are yeshiva students. This house of prayer offers a representative glimpse of Shas's constituency with the congregation running the gamut from the mildly religious, respectful of tradition but disposed to driving to a soccer game on Shabbat afternoon, to the fiercely haredi. A sign of the more zealous influences trying to make inroads among congregants was a flyer that called on the faithful not to celebrate Independence Day. "The creation of the State of Israel resulted in apostasy. This should be a day of mourning not of celebration," declared the flyer, in wording that seemed to clash with the atmosphere of diversity and live-and-let-live that prevailed in the synagogue. The flyer was written in the name of the Rabbi Ya'acov Mutzafi, an honored Sephardi kabbalist who died in 1983. "Rabbi Chananiya," the man in charge of prayers at Naveh Tehila, said that no special prayers would be recited for Independence Day. "If someone wants to say the Hallel prayer at his house he can do it, according to our master Rabbi Ovadia," Chananiya said. Chananiya was referring to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas spiritual mentor and the most important living halachic authority for Sephardi Jews. Unlike most haredi rabbis, Yosef ruled that Independence Day is a happy occasion, and that the Hallel prayer, which contains a series of psalms, should be recited, albeit without a special blessing. Yosef's position probably better reflects the feeling of most of Naveh Tehila's congregants: Say the Hallel prayer but don't get carried away by making a full-fledged blessing on it as well. Besides, giving religious expression to the fact that there is a Jewish state is not critical or at least not central to many people's religious faith. And traditional Jews tend to be deferential to rabbinic opinion, even if it is anti-Zionist. Perhaps that is why the anti-Independence Day flyers that were passed out in the synagogue did not arouse a lot of interest.