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How Is Israel the Opposite of New York City?

A dear friend of mine, Leon Morris, is a rabbi who runs a Jewish-studies institute in New York. He has just moved to Israel for a six-month study sabbatical, and noted a fascinating cultural difference. Here is what he wrote about being in Jerusalem when Teddy Kollek, longtime former mayor of that city, died:

I just saw the death notice plastered on an announcement board, along with upcoming concerts, lectures, etc. This is the standard way in which deaths are publicized everywhere in Israel — stark black and white posters on cheaply printed paper with the deceased’s name in larger letters. It announced that the body will lie in State at City Hall from 8:30 AM until it is taken to Mount Herzl at 11:30 AM by various dignitaries.

I was struck by how Kollek’s death notice reflects the egalitarian nature of Israeli society (still). At the bottom of the poster, it states that the family will be sitting shiva at their home, and then gives the address. Can you imagine this happening for the mayor of New York (he should live and be well until 120)?

To answer Leon’s question: No, I can’t imagine this happening — for the mayor of New York City or anyone else in New York City, for that matter. (Here’s Wikipedia on the act of sitting shiva; and here’s the N.Y. Times‘s obit on Kollek, which is accompanied by an astonishingly good photograph.)