Secular Israelis love the land of Israel, they honour the traditions of Israel just as religious people do. However, sadly, secular Israelis have developed a negative opinion about the Torah of Israel, which is what has proven to be the most challenging aspect of The Shabbos Project in Israel.
In many other countries secular Jews do not feel threatened by religious Jews, however in Israel, there is a big divide between the religious and the secular Israelis. Both sectors are proud to be Jewish, but there is a lack of unity among both parties.
Religious Jews feel a connection to the religion of Judaism, including all the halachot and laws. While secular Jews feel a connection to the traditions of Judaism, such as enjoying Friday night dinners, lighting Channukah candles and having a Pesach Seder.
We therefore realised two things:
- We need to connect to this global project by putting less emphasis on the religious aspect of it, and rather focus on the international aspect - that is that Jews around the world are uniting and connecting. This is about unity. The more Jews to join, the more powerful the project becomes.
- While secular Jews enjoy the traditions of Shabbat, they do not relate to the religious aspect of Shabbat. So we need to focus more on the traditions of Shabbat rather than the religious laws, in order to include everyone.
As the project launched, the initial response was positive. People were curious and excited, trying to figure the project out. We decided the best way to handle this project would be to reach out to everyone, and see if they would in turn reach back.
We began a Facebook page, published billboards and got the Israeli media involved. The response was astonishing: tens of thousands of people showed interest. We received infinite shares, comments and likes, and suddenly dozens of events across the country popped up. Celebrities and opinion leaders became involved, helping to spread the awareness.
We learned something so important: many secular Jews are looking for a bridge to connect them to the positive aspects of Judaism.
We learned that an international cause could bring unity among the Jews in Israel.
We learned that the Israeli Jews want to not only hear, but feel. They wanted to be a part of something larger than themselves.
We learned that we had many friends who gave us back their hands when we offered ours, and took part in this incredible project.
This upcoming Shabbos Project, we hope to involve even more Israelis so that everyone feels the connection and unity, and so that everyone disconnects from everyday distractions for one full day.
This year, we'll hold hands with our fellow Israelis and help everyone experience the magic of Shabbat.
Working 8 years as a creative VP at TBWA Tel Aviv, and 8 years as a partner and head of strategy & creative at Havas Israel, Robby Nissan has been working in the advertising industry for 18 years. Robby lives in Israel together with his wife and two sons and specialises in creating and managing innovative marketing campaigns.