Essay on Israeli Society

Submitted By abaehr
Words: 1490
Pages: 6

Q. 1. Discuss the ways in which the potential tension between the “Jewish” and “democratic” aspects of the Israeli state has manifested itself over the course of Israeli history. How have changing historical circumstances given new shape to the challenges of maintaining a Jewish democracy? How have different social and political groups in Israel understood these terms, and the relationship between them, differently?

When the state of Israel was created in 1948, it declared itself both a Jewish and democratic state. Israel has come to find that these two separate terms are not always interchangeable and have created extra tension. The strain that has manifested itself in every part of Israeli society occurs between the Religious-Secular divide. This tension displays how the state of Israel has had difficulty in its efforts to be, both a Jewish state and a democratic state, and is apparent in Israeli policy and everyday practice. Israel was intended to become a state for Jews, which also vowed to be accepting and democratic, unlike the countries of Europe, without realizing how difficult this task would actually become. Israel became the first Jewish state in the world, however there is still some question over just how Jewish the state should actually be in practice. The over arching question after the creation was how to define the Jewish national identity (i.e. by religion, tradition or law and how to define who is Jewish and or religious). The identity question occurred between the Orthodox and Ultra Orthodox and secular and Zionists. Although, the initial split occurred about 200 years ago, and was in response to the modernization of the world. In the broad sense, there were two responses to the modernity. The first response was by those who wanted to accept modernity, and the second was by those who wanted to maintain the religious ways. This rift created secular Judaism and Orthodox Judaism, respectively. By the late 19th century Zionism emerged as a secular movement, which believed that Judaism needed to be seen as a national category, and not a religion. According to Cohen, “virtually every major creed that has emerged within the Jewish community over the past two centuries…derives in one way or another from this confrontation between traditionalism and modernity” (Cohen 190). While the Zionists founded Israel, they (the Zionists), understood that religion was “undeniably part of the Jewish heritage” and strove to find a medium where the “antiquated and corrupt” forms of the religion could be left out of the government (Cohen 192). Zionists saw a Jew as a member of a Jewish nation, who may or may not have a religions affiliation. Zionists conflicted with the Orthodox Jews, who where very anti-Zionist and thought that a new state should reflect the laws of the Religion and not the law of states. The struggle of defining who is Jewish and what constitutes a Jewish person in the state of Israel, versus a Jew by the religious laws of the Torah, are very apparent in the early documents of Israel’s creation. The Proclamation of the State of Israel states that; The state of Israel will be open to the immigration of Jews from all countries of the their dispersion, will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets…will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture… (Proclamation of the State of Israel 26).

Within the proclamation of the state of Israel is the openness Israel set out to achieve with regards to its religious issue of identity. However, the practice of the proclamation has run into difficulty. This is due to a difference in opinion of how to implement a “Jewish” policy and to whom that Jewish policy will apply. According to Cohen; The legal background to the controversy begins in the very early years of statehood. The Law of