Avi Shamir

Putting Shabbes Goyim to Good Use

Interior Minister/ ex-con Aryeh Deri’s Shabbes goyim are on the prowl in the Big Fashion Mall in Ashdod. Jews who opened their shops on the day of rest were handed NIS 320 fines by other Jews, Ashdod Municipality employees, who were given the green light to work on the day everything is supposed to shut down. This after Ashdod Mayor Dr. Yechiel Lasri called for religious-secular coexistence. If anyone is enraged by this, he or she can join the hordes of protesters who are rocking Ashdod every Saturday night. And if anyone suspects that the NIS 320 multiplied by the amount of those who received fines don’t serve the public good but end up in the pockets of crooked politicians, you can always join one of the anti-corruption protests that are rocking the country on Saturday nights.

But wait, we’re all missing the point here. There is something we can all learn from the criminal mind of Aryeh Deri: Hear oh Israel, we are sitting on top of one huge natural resource: Shabbes goyim!

Israel is swarming with potential Shabbes goyim who are just looking for any way to make some extra money on the seventh day. And I’m not only referring to the many secular Jews who are either struggling to make ends meet or close to the poverty line. There are plenty of non-Jews who fit that description. Israeli Arab laborers along with all those Eritrean and Sudanese “work infiltrators” now facing deportation. And yes, many of these folks would be more than willing to get their hands dirty on Shabbat.

Put these work forces in action, and they can achieve something we have not managed to do in 70 years of statehood: Keep this country clean, at least on the national day of rest.

Okay, I’m really hitting a raw nerve here, but two things about modern Israel are beyond embarrassing: One, many Israelis simply have no patience to clean up after themselves. Two, the day they most often leave their trash behind them like turds happens to be that one and only day of leisure that passes for an Israeli weekend.

Most secular Israelis are looking for some kind of activity on Shabbat. If they’re not flocking to the shopping malls they’re going out to nature, to the beaches, parks, picnic grounds and hiking trails. And wherever they go, they make one hell of a mess. Everywhere you look, plastic bags, cans, cups, cartons, potato chip wrappers, sunflower seed shells, peach pits, chicken bones. It’s enough to make the tourists think that it’s okay to litter in this country. Worse, it sends out the wrong message to our children. And it sickens those who know better.

I have personally complained to the Netanya Municipality about the garbage problem on our beaches, which can be among the most beautiful in Israel if not for the disgusting habits of some of the locals. Their half-assed response was: “Of course things get out of hand on Shabbat, but we always send out workers to clean up on Sundays.” That much is true. On Sunday mornings, when everyone goes back to work and the beaches are empty, one can see low-wage workers with trash bags shit-picking through the fly-infested watermelon rinds and other remains of the weekend. But no one seems to be doing the job in real-time, on Shabbat.

My proposal is to employ two types of Shabbes goyim: cleanup crews, to pick up what others throw away before there’s a pile-up, and inspectors to hand out stiff fines when the trash dumpers get caught in the act. This should be backed up by a vigorous publicity campaign that would encourage Israelis to bring their own garbage bags to the world outdoors and respect Mother Nature – and let them know how much it will cost them if they don’t.

The question is: Are Israeli lawmakers up to the task of funding a program that most sane Israelis will support and can actually change things for the better?

There is no shortage of manpower. Working class folks who could use the money are just waiting for the opportunity. If responsible Israelis are willing to push for a Shabbat cleanup campaign, we can put whole armies to work and turn our natural attractions into garbage-free zones. And it’s a safe bet that all those protesters in Ashdod who have every reason to scorn Aryeh Deri’s lackeys will applaud Israel’s finest Shabbes goyim.

About the Author
Avi Shamir is a freelance writer, editor, translator and the author of "Saving the Game," a novel about baseball. A Brooklyn College graduate with a BA in English, Avi has contributed to the Jerusalem Post, The Nation, Israel Scene, In English and The World Zionist Press Service.