The Shmooze

Clerics' Sermons Spread Messages of... Safe Driving

By Nathan Jeffay

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It’s one of the most politically charged subjects in Israel and the West Bank: what imams choose to preach about. The Israeli authorities have long been concerned about what they call “incitement” in sermons. But it seems that some imams aren’t only steering clear of radical politics, but are actually taking a path that rabbis could do with following.

Israelis have a reputation for being bad drivers, and last year this assumption became enshrined in official information for visitors put out by the American State Department. “Aggressive driving is a serious problem and many drivers fail to maintain safe following distances or signal before changing lanes or making turns,” says the State Department guide. “Drivers are also prone to stop suddenly on roads without warning, especially in the right lane.” Imams serving some Muslim congregations in Israel have started preaching for a change.

Some 23 clerics from the Bedouin Arab sector have been involved in special driving workshops and research, sponsored by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Israel Police, the National Center for Child Safety and Health and the Road Safety Authority. According to Haaretz they are now starting to use their sermons to spread a message of caution on the road and good will unto all drivers. “Now that the course has ended, we will start our own work in mosques, at special events, even at weddings; we will talk about the importance of road safety everywhere,” Rahat-based preacher Sheikh Abu Zargal Gam told the newspaper.


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