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Thursday, October 21, 2010

What is meant by a "Jewish" State?

My apologies for the delay since the last Post.  My "real" life sometimes becomes busy.

Recently, the Israeli Government voted to require new non-Jewish applicants for Israeli citizenship to take a loyalty Oath acknowledging that Israel was a Jewish State.  As might be imagined, this has generated considerable controversy and debate.  It appears to me that while both "sides" have valid concerns, one key point is being overlooked - what "Jewish"  may mean in this context.

As a Jew, I share in a desire to have, somewhere in the world, a State where: 1) the right of Jews to be Jews, to freely practice our religion, and to not be legally discriminated against because of our ancestry or religion is guaranteed; and 2)to which Jews are guaranteed to have a right to immigrate.  History suggests that we have needed (and will need) such a place.

Whether it was "fair" to put that State into what was the Palestine Mandate or it is "fair" to require only non-Jewish immigrants to take the Oath [I don't understand that at all] are other questions, and are beyond the scope of this Post.  I'm just glad the State of Israel exists as, among other things, a place of safety for Jews, and hope that it continues to do so.

However, there are certainly citizens and politicians in Israel (and in the international Jewish Community) who have other ideas of  what a "Jewish" State is, or should be.  They want  a State controlled by - or at least one which legally institutionalizes- large parts of (what they perceive to be )Jewish religious law.  They want to make Jewish law, as determined by State approved Rabbis, into a large part of what controls both citizens' behavior and the actions of the State. 

As readers of this Blog will guess, I do not like this idea.  It seems to be an attempt to make Israel into the Jewish equivalent of the current governmental structure in Iran.   I do not believe that a Theocracy is compatible with a democratic form of government, be it in Iran, Israel or elsewhere.

This is not to say that Israel is a Theocracy.  Right now, it seems to be primarily a democracy which gives some power and deference to those who would like it to be a Theocracy.  Can this remain a stable situation?  Maybe.  But if I were a non-Jew, swearing loyalty to what might become Jewish Theocracy would make me very unhappy.  Heck, I wouldn't want to do it, and I'm Jewish.  Enough.

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