When he walked into the Kotel area I asked him to put on tefillin. He refused. I tried again. He refused again. I tried a third time. He refused a third time. Finally I said, “A soldier was just stabbed in Tel Aviv. He is in the emergency hospital in critical condition. You can put on tefillin and pray for him. He immediately stuck out his arm.
That’s the yiddisha Neshama coming through. Even Lapid put on T’fillin during the war in Gaza.
In general, it’s hard to pigeonhole Israelis by look or dress. My daughter witnessed a Chiloni woman who went to the hospital to visit a mother whose son was in a very bad car accident. When asking what she can do, the mother said to just say Tehillim. This Chiloni woman, dressed in shorts and a sleeveless shirt, took out a Sefer Tehillim from her purse and said the entire sefer cover to cover. How many of her equivalent level people in the U.S. or anywhere else would even know what a Tehillim is, let alone carrying one?
I was in a taxi in Yerushalayim and the driver asked how I was doing, after finding out that I was a new Oleh at the time. I answered B”H and he got happily excited that I answered that way. He was also Chiloni. It shows, don’t judge a book by its cover.
It’s not unusual to see chilonim pulling out a Tehillim on a bus or train – I’ve seen many do so. My wife and I once heard an outstanding dvar Torah (about making aliyah) from a bareheaded taxi driver on the way from Hertzaliya to Kfar Saba. I see many chilonim kissing the mezuza on the way into the makolet.
Some time ago, I was at our moetza office filling out some forms, and I mentioned to the chiloni clerk that I had been looking for a job for some time without success. She suggested that I have my tfillin checked. I was surprised at her answer, but she was right – they were overdue to be checked. (And I did find a job about 6 weeks later.)
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Non Israelis talking here, friends. Those were not chilonim (with the exception of Mr Lapid). They would be mortified to hear themselves described as chilonim. Many daaven three times a day (some with a minyan!) and strictly keep shabbos. They have a learning seder too.
They just don’t wear a kippah. We call them Mesorati’im
I too had a similar experience. I was on my way to the airport in Israel in a a taxi. The driver told me he was not religious. During our conversation I told him I had never married. He pulled over the taxi to the side of the road, put on a kippah and pulled out a siddur and said a bracha for me to find a shidduch.