Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Dec/11

18

Choosing

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Via The Tablet, an interesting story from Israel:

According to the Israeli government, there are roughly 5,800,000 religious Jews in Israel, 1,320,000 Muslims, 150,000 Christians, 130,000 Druze, and exactly one secular Jew. His name is Yoram Kaniuk—and if a new movement that he has inspired continues to grow, he won’t be alone for long.

In Israel, every citizen has a religious classification and an ethnic classification. For the majority of Israeli citizens, “Jewish” is listed as both. It’s not a simple formality: One’s religious classification has profound effects, determining whom and how one can marry, the process of divorce, whether one can get buried in a Jewish cemetery, and whether one must serve in the army. The “state” in this case is embodied in the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate of Israel, a quirk of the Israeli democratic system that stretches back to the country’s founding in 1948. At the time, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion gave representatives of the Orthodox religious community, numbering only in the hundreds, a host of powers dramatically out of proportion to their size on the assumption that these Jews would soon turn away from the religion of the shtetl.

Ben-Gurion, needless to say, got it wrong. The ranks of the Orthodox have swelled to well over a million, yet the rabbinate still retains the sole power over deciding who is a Jew. Because of the strength of their voting bloc and the keystone role that Orthodox parties hold in Israeli coalition governments, there has never been a successful bid to challenge the rabbinate’s control.

But Kaniuk, one of the country’s most celebrated novelists, may have accidentally found a loophole. And if it gets widened by the Supreme Court in an important case now pending, it could grow big enough for a large section of the country to step through.

Read the whole thing.

1 comment

  • Jeeves · December 20, 2011 at 1:28 am

    Critiques of the Orthodox Rabbinate’s stranglehold on religion (and many aspects of what should be secular life) in Israel usually come from the left, specifically, the anti-Israel left or the doves of “J Street”.

    Refreshing to see this subject broached on Secular Right. Religion may not poison everything, but it’s pretty toxic in Israel–which some ultra-Orthodox think shouldn’t even exist. Yep, the Orthodox are rutting away, making lots of babies who become either career Torah students, exempt from the draft, or women consigned to what amounts to purdah. Given Israeli emigration, a country that excuses many of its sons from working (and on welfare) and keeps its daughters barefoot and pregnant doesn’t have a bright economic future.

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