Britons warned to respect Yom Kippur when visiting Israel this October

The Guardian, in a story about Israel that I simply can’t defend, recently noted:

UK’s Foreign Office has warned Britons holidaying in Israel this Fall that eating in public during Yom Kippur, or conspicuously violating the laws of Shabbat in religious neighborhoods, could land a fine, or imprisonment for repeat offenders. The new guidance says “failure to comply” with local customs “could result in arrest” and that “discretion should be exercised” even in the case of children over 13, pregnant women and nursing mothers. Israeli police have said that non-Jews will receive one warning before arrest.

The Foreign Office advice reads:

“Do not eat in public during the Jewish fast day (including in your car). This is considered highly disrespectful.”

“The majority of eating and drinking establishments will be closed, but you can find some coffee houses with screens that are intended to allow people to eat during the daytime away from public view.”

Its “British Behaviour Abroad” report, based on consular statistics, found that of the 20 countries in the world with the largest British expatriate populations, Britons were more likely to be arrested in Israel than in any other country covered in the report except Thailand.

This is largely because the Israeli laws and customs are very different to those in the UK. There may be serious penalties for doing something that might not be illegal in the UK,” said the Foreign Office. Last month a British woman living in Jerusalem was fined 350 Shekels – around $100 – for insulting Zionism.

Sean Tipton, from the Association of British Travel Agents, recommended that holidaymakers study the Foreign Office advice.

He said:

“In addition, we will be reminding ABTA members who sell trips to Israel to signpost their customers to this information. However, whilst we fully understand and appreciate the importance of the Jewish high holy days, we would strongly recommend that the Israeli authorities practise these enforcement measures with a degree of sensitivity and discretion so as to avoid causing unwarranted distress to foreign visitors and the risk of significant damage to their tourist industry.”

Major hotels in Israel are also working to help their guests stay within the law. The Jerusalem Tourism board is issuing a new booklet “to communicate to non-Jewish guests the etiquette surrounding such an important religious time”. 

Finally, I neglected a couple of important facts about the Guardian report.  First, the country which the UK Foreign Office issued a warning about was Dubai, and not Israel. Second, the holiday which visitors can be arrested is not Yom Kippur, but the month-long Muslim Holiday of Ramadan. Oh, and of course the Brit mentioned, who was issued the fine, per a previous passage was penalized, not for insulting Zionism, but for insulting Islam on Facebook.

As I was reading that Brits could face arrest, fine and/or imprisonment for violating Muslim religious laws, I was imagining the CiF headlines if such intolerance were suddenly codified in Israel.  

New Israeli laws forcing non-Jews to abide by Jewish rituals signifies a growing tide of religious fascism in the country.


New Israeli laws constraining freedom of religious expression,  the latest in a series of outrageously discriminatory and exclusionary laws enacted over the past year.”

“Human Rights NGOs issue urgent statements condemning new Israeli laws a violation of fundamental human rights, and another in a serious of bills eroding the countries religious tolerance.”

We’d also no doubt have a perfunctory photo of a menacing looking Orthodox Jew, or a quite scary looking Israeli leader to illustrate the malevolence of the prohibitions  – such as this photo of Bibi which accompanied in one of Harriet Sherwood’s hysterical warnings over recent anti-BDS legislation (and that simply chilling rule requiring kindergarten students to sing the national anthem once a week).

Instead, the 500 word report, (filed under the category of UK News) by Guardian’s religious correspondent, , reports the story quite matter-of-factly, as if she was reporting on a warning by Dubai authorities to take precautions in light of the emirate’s extreme Summer heat.  

Indeed, the Guardian report also includes this professional, quite stunning, photo which could have been provided by the Dubai Tourism Board.

Moreover, is there really any doubt that this will be the last report on Dubai’s culture of intolerance?  

No, unlike such stories about Israel, which would likely be reported continually and include straight news stories covering every considerable negative angle of the bill, and CiF commentaries with hyperbolic warnings about Israel’s descent into totalitarianism, Butt’s report likely will represent the last such dispatch on the quite audacious and seemingly illiberal requirement that non-Muslims abide by Muslim laws.

And, whatever gives CiF Watch the nutty idea that the Guardian employs egregious double standards when reporting on the Middle East?

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14 replies »

  1. So instead of finding some actual anti-semitism to report on, you took a different article and told us how terrible it would be if it were full of anti-Israel bias? Isn’t there enough going on in the news without having to invent things to get indignant about?

    • So, are you saying that such a bill, if passed in Israel, would generate the same minimal coverage as the Dubai bill? Further, are you denying that the Guardian’s double standards in their Middle East reporting is even debatable?

      The Dubai report contrasts quite interestingly with their increasingly hysterical reports on the anti-bds legislation in Israel the other week. We’re in the business of highlighting the Guardian’s double standards, and this was a prime example.

      • I am with you, Adam.

        Dan there’s much antisemitism around as well you know.

        Equally, as Adam points out, invariably a double standard is applied to Israel’s behaviour as opposed to others. I am surprised that you don’t know that

    • “Isn’t there enough going on in the news without having to invent things to get indignant about?”

      Indignant is how a middle-aged woman from the Home Counties feels when someone passes wind in her presence. Indignant doesn’t come close to describing the feelings of most Jews at the pervasive presence of anti-Semitism in Britain. But of course you knew that already. Not for nothing did you choose the word indignant. But of course Adam Levick doesn’t refer to anti-Semitism in his piece. Then again, you have a thing about anti-Semitism. It pisses you off no end. Most especially when someone draws attention to it.

      You and your type are one of the many reasons why I despise the land of my birth.

  2. Adam, I don’t think you’re wholly correct here. As a fairly recent olah I spent my first Yom Kippur in Israel last year and was very upset to note that while masses of local kids swarmed all over the streets on their bikes – as per local tradition in Karmiel and I believe elsewhere in Israel during Kol Nidrei (the night the Fast starts) – one of my new friends who had no way of attending synagogue bar using her car was stopped and dealt with severely by the Police. I’m still unsure whether their action had more to do with the kids’ safety than Y.K. observance but my lovely friend was reduced to tears by the episode. Yes, I’m afraid Israelim in authority do have a nasty habit of getting heavy handed. This has nothing to do with racism, partly to do with culture and a lot more to do with officious personalities who are unable to control the power they have vested in them.

    • Nathalie, it’s perfectly in order to highlight double standards as Adam Levick has done here.

      As for your friends experience on one Yom Kippur, it is quite clearly understood by most, that unless it is an ambulance or an army patrol car, most Jewish Israelis desist from driving through towns out of respect and tradition (even though that traditional atmosphere with kids on bikes may run contrary to the spirit of the day). No surprises, with the reasons given therefore when your friend did so and he/she was upbraided for it. It may have been simply down to feeling shame and anger, coupled with a lack of understanding by the police that he/she was reduced to tears. You do not say whether the car was confiscated or booked and whether he/she was fined, or if any law had been broken? That’s the precise difference to what might happen in Dubai, or worse and what “severely” being reprimanded really means.

    • Natalie, there is no law prohibiting citizens, let along tourists, from driving on Shabbat or the High Holidays. Even in Jerusalem, some bars stay open on Shabbat, and I remember quite clearly that, last Yom Kippur, there was a non-Kosher Chinese Restaurant open, as I passed by it and saw people who were presumably tourists having quite a good time.

    • Natalie, I know the case you’re speaking of (assuming you’re referring to nearly two years ago, and not last Yom Kippur). The woman in question, who had only been in Israel a few months at that point, didn’t realise the inadvisability of driving on erev Yom Kippur and was indeed reduced to tears by the policeman flagging her down and then yelling furiously at her–particularly as her Hebrew was very poor (almost non-existent at the time, and of course what little she had disappeared rapidly under stress of being screamed at).

      She was only a couple of minutes away from her house by car at that point, and in the end, one of the policemen who spoke some English told her to follow their car and they led her home. She was very upset and shaken (even a year later, when she told me about it), but she wasn’t arrested or fined or beaten up or anything even approaching that. Although it was extremely unpleasant, I don’t think it is even close to the Dubai situation.

      And the Dubai situation is nowhere near as bad as that case a few years ago of a teenager (in Iran? Saudi Arabia? I don’t remember the details) who was flogged for eating during Ramadan–flogged so severely that he ended up dying.

      • No, I’m thinking of less than 12 months ago and the person was nowhere near home – which is why she’d driven her car to shool. To be honest I can’t recall how the situation was resolved but for another wholly unrelated reason she no longer lives in Karmiel.

        • Interesting. The woman I’m thinking of left Karmiel last week–also for wholly unrelated reasons.

  3. Another Joshua, that’s a lame defense of a milder form of the same intolerance Adam highlights.

    Adam North, the word is “satire.” You’ll find it in the dictionary.

    “Really, Mr. Swift! Eating children? Why don’t you open a soup kitchen.”

    • @the sad red earth

      You say: “a milder form of the same intolerance ”
      I say , if it is intolerance, as you put it, it certainly is in a very mild form. The kind of intolerance that happens everywhere, if it is indeed intolerance. I say “if”, because there can equally be construed a case, that the person driving equally understands the consequences of what he or she is doing. If he or she has a complaint in Israel about police “brutality”, he or she could lodge it – not that in this instance he or she would get very far. Further, Nathalie quite clearly accepts the possibility that driving could cause injury to children, who take to the roads recklessly without having to look out for cars, that he/she was endangering them by driving there,and that her excuse for driving was not “a life and death” neccessity. In short what’s this got to do with the “law” of Dubai?

      • In short, in a liberal democracy an individual’s rights should not be restricted because of the religious beliefs, traditional customs, or devotional sensitivities of others. I believe that is a characteristic of Islamic states, such as Dubai, where it is enshrined in law, while in this case it was enforced by the police without force of law.

        And I did say “milder,” not “mild.”