Just 42% of adult Israeli Jews define themselves as secular, according to recent official figures. The rest range from mildly to devoutly religious. And because the most religious seem to have the most children, the secular figure is likely to keep shrinking.
In this demographic and cultural scene, politics is more than ever a matter of finely calibrating a religious-secular balance. The latest effort to tip things the religious way comes from Eli Yishai, leader of the largest Orthodox party, Shas, who is minister of the interior. He wants his ministry’s computers to rest on the Sabbath. Specifically, he wants to prevent people paying their bills online on a Saturday. Predictably, the strongly secular and left-wing Meretz party has tabled a bill requiring all government computers, as opposed to human civil servants, to keep humming 24/7.
The minister in charge of government efficiency, Michael Eitan of the Likud party, which has both religious and secular supporters, suggests that the computers be programmed to receive online requests from citizens on the Sabbath but to respond to them only afterthe Sabbath. What about requests from Muslim or Christian citizens? Mr Eitan has yet to offer an answer.