Peres Chooses Shabbat Over OlympicsJul 10, 2012 at 05:54:39 PM
One of my favorite themes is the unique Jewish character of the State of Israel. We should take pride in the fact that most public transportation takes a break on Shabbat, that the Army keeps kosher, and that all government offices have a mezuzah on the doorpost.
On the other hand, I wish there were more individual displays of classical Jewish (as opposed to "Israeli") pride by the country's political leaders.
So imagine my thrill at the news that Israeli President Shimon Peres will be skipping the festive opening ceremonies of the London Olympics – because they extend past sundown on Friday night (July 27).
Peres had sought to avoid the conflict by sleeping overnight in the Olympic Village. Yet despite numerous appeals to the Olympic Committee, his request was rejected on the grounds that only "athletes" are allowed to overnight in the village.
I guess organizers consider the 88-year-old too big a security risk.
Though Peres is not personally observant, he does not travel publicly on Shabbat out of respect for millennia-old Jewish tradition and in deference to his role as representative of the Jewish State.
It appears to me that Peres' decision to forgo the opening ceremonies will have a far more positive impact on the Israel public than anything he could have gained by attending them.
Interesting to note a historical precedent: When the original Greek Olympics were featuring athletes running and jumping stark naked, the Jews were teaching the importance of looking past physical externalities and into the deeper spiritual values.
In this instance, Shimon Peres has sent that same message again. Kudos!