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Jerusalem Sabbath War

September 17, 1987

The Jerusalem Sabbath War, which began recently and pits extremist secularists and leftist liberals on one side and all Orthodox Jews on the other side, is far from over.

Modern Orthodox Jews of America and Israel along with black-hatted Jews from Brooklyn or Jerusalem observe the Sabbath the same way and if they could, would not tolerate the public desecration of the Sabbath in Jerusalem.

The same Sabbath laws apply to all Orthodox Jews, and these laws have not been changed by any so-called extremists recently or even within hundreds of years. The Sabbath, being a cornerstone of the Jewish religion--it is one of the Ten Commandments--is likely to unify all observant Jews.

The dispute is different from comparisons with American or Moslem fundamentalism (Opinion, Sept. 6). While Christian and Moslem fundamentalists are attempting to revolutionize their countries, the peaceful demonstrators in Jerusalem are merely attempting to convince the mayor of the city to enforce the law.

The very liberal Mayor Teddy Kollek, who is refusing to enforce the Sabbath laws of Jerusalem passed by its city council, nevertheless does not stand in the way of the police hitting peaceful demonstrators and even people who happen to take a walk on a Sabbath evening.

In the early 1950s the Jerusalem factions worked out a so-called status quo, which the mayor, along with secular extremists, liberals and Conservative and Reform activists from the United States, are trying to upset. The mayor is attempting to better his political fortune and the others are promoting their own goals. The mayor is fearful of losing his job because of the impending religious majority in the city. That is why he is even attempting to convince Arabs, who so far refused to vote, to vote for him.

The leftists are also hoping that by winning the Sabbath War they will also strengthen their ability to integrate with the Arabs. The American Reform groups are hoping to attain legitimacy for their forms of religious expression and enhance Reform rabbinical authority.

What appears to be a picture replica of old Europe ghetto persecution is not likely to have similar results.

Jews are on their own land and that makes all the difference. The resourcefulness of the normative Jewish population is likely to respond intelligently and resolutely in a united way so that this may be the last hurrah of the secular extremists in Jerusalem.

BERNARD LINDNER

Century City

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