JWR Only in the Middle East!
August 24, 1998 / 2 Elul, 5758

When your chauffeur refuses to drive on Shabbes

By Binyamin L. Jolkovsky

Poor, poor Leah Rabin.

It seems that good help is as hard to find in Israel these days as it is in America.

After her husband's assassination, Israel's former First Lady was graciously given by the then-Labor administration, both a tax-payer funded chauffeur and a secretary for three years. Among other purposes, she's used her private-taxi to criss-cross the country and vilify those awful anti-progressive, "fanatics" on the right.

Mrs. Rabin, no doubt, is happy still being famous-for-being-famous.

But then a case of bad mazel struck. Her driver, a secular Jew, decided to embrace religious observance, to become a ba'al teshuvah. And he refused -- literally -- to chauffeur madame Leah around on the Jewish Sabbath.

Mrs. Rabin was mad as, well, that place where she is certain all of her husband's political enemies will wind up. According to the Israeli daily, Yated Ne'eman, she demanded that the Prime Minister's Office supply her with a new driver, one that cared as much -- or, rather, as little -- about the Jewish Sabbath as she.

Having, it seems, forgotten that Israel is still considered a "Jewish State," Mrs. Rabin was promptly informed by officials that government employees are not obligated to cart-around "VIPs" on the Jewish Sabbath or Yomim Tovim (religious festivals).

But the official did have an idea for the now burning-mad Leah Rabin: Ask for a special "Shabbes permit" for "security reasons."

The current Minister of Labor is a member of the Sephardic party, Shas. A religious Jew, he could barely hold back his laughter.

Mrs. Rabin, though, was not amused. She then sought out a different agency which has since granted her a special "security classification." And since the Prime Minister's Office had a hard time finding a driver to work on the Sabbath, they had to turn to an employment agency. The result? Some desperate sap overnight landed a full-time job with the Defense Ministry.

For his willingness to work on the Sabbath, by the way, this fella is being paid 30% more than the former First Lady's previous driver, who now no longer drives Mrs. Rabin. Even during the week.

It was madame Leah who arranged the upgraded conditions.

So Leah Rabin now has a guard shadowing her every move and a driver, in addition to her secretary.

At least she'll have someone to keep her company at the beauty parlor on Saturdays when all those religious reactionaries, who she no doubt fears, are at home; sitting around their Sabbath tables, surrounded with their wives and children and dressed in their "Shabbes best."

Binyamin L. Jolkovsky is the editor-in-chief of JWR.


© 1998, Jewish World Review