On Church-State Separation, Israeli Views Intersect
While lawmakers wage political battles every day about how much religion the government should impose, ordinary Israelis, both religious and secular, are surprisingly unified on the notion of keeping the government out of their private lives.
TEL AVIV —The political relationship between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel is approaching a breaking point. Ideological differences between the two groups are continually widening, fueling legislative disagreements about how much the government should or can intervene in the private lives of citizens.
There is no separation between church and state in Israel, which means imposing a religious worldview and lifestyle on even the part of the population that is non-religious.
Since the founding of the current political coalition, secular Jews have grown more concerned about the enormous power that religious parties hold. They fear that the government will push forward a religious agenda, worsening an already existing anxiety about losing their "home."
That fear is justified insofar as religious members of the Israeli parliament — or Knesset — are exercising their power as fast as they can to intensify and promote laws and regulations that are very different from the views and lifestyles of the country's many secular Jews.
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Inside the Knesset — Photo: Itzik Edri/PikiWiki
The good news is that while these political divisions persist, ordinary Jews of various religious bents are more ideologically unified about the role of church and state than the divisions of lawmakers would suggest.
In a recent survey, 79% of Israeli respondents said they believed the current government's legislative changes are unnecessarily widening the gap between religious and secular populations. Predictably, 91% of secular Jews responding held this view. But even 75% of the traditionalists who responded said they agreed, along with, perhaps most shockingly, 40% of ultra-Orthodox respondents.
It is commonly said of Israel's policies and its leadership that they are blinded by sectarian interests and petty politics. Perhaps the views of the population on issues of such profound national importance will wake up lawmakers, forcing them finally to reconsider the country's direction.