Religious fundamentalism is still our biggest threat – The Forward



This essay is part of a collection of essays commemorating the assassination of Itzhak Rabin. The collection was produced in partnership with BINA: The Jewish Movement for Social Change.

In April 1948, David Ben-Gurion approached a young lawyer, Mordechai Beham, and asked him to urgently prepare the first draft of the declaration of independence of a new state in Palestine on the last day of the British Mandate in the region. . It was the eve of Passover and Tel Aviv was at war. The young lawyer, looking for a library to start writing this important document, visited the home of a friend, a conservative rabbi, in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood. On the table were copies of the Passover Haggadah, the Old Testament, and the American Declaration of Independence.

It was within this framework that he began to draft this document, which was thoroughly debated and revised a dozen times before it became Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 15, 1948. Israel would be a state. Jewish and democratic.

Twenty-five years ago, on November 4, 1995, an Orthodox Jewish law student assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It was then that Israeli society experienced a violent clash between the vision of the State of Israel as a democratic state and the emerging reality of a Jewish state losing its democratic character.

Rabin’s legacy | Religious fundamentalism remains our greatest threat

Twenty-five years have passed and Israeli democracy is in an existential crisis and its biggest problem is religious fundamentalism. While our work with young secular Jews in Israel and abroad has helped connect Judaism with democracy, Israeli society as a whole has experienced a completely different reality.

The national and religious extremist environment in which Yigal Amir, the assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, grew up 25 years ago, has only intensified over the past decade. Over the years, ultra-Orthodox political parties that challenge the concept of a Jewish and democratic state have played the role of kingmakers in Israeli coalition governments. During this time, religious groups have evolved demographically and politically, further expanding their undemocratic ideology.

This could raise the question of whether the majority of Israelis really want a Jewish and democratic state. Over the past year, we have seen Israeli society become more and more polarized. More and more members of the Zionist (Dati Leumi) and ultra-Orthodox religious communities reject the “Jewish-democratic” model and view democracy as a foreign, Hellenic concept that poses a threat to Jewish tradition. The scenes of daily clashes in the streets of B’nei Brak and Jerusalem between the Haredim and the Israeli police crystallize Israel’s lack of control over this community, whose laws and values ​​are often at odds with the laws of Israel. Israeli State.

At the same time, the Orthodox establishment continually intervenes in civil affairs, upsetting much of the secular Israeli population. In reaction to what they see as religious coercion, they reject the “Jewish-democratic state” model and demand a complete separation of religion and state.

Another large Israeli community, Israeli Arabs, who make up about 20% of the population, feel alienated by the “Jewish-democratic” model. The second Arab-Israeli uprising, the adoption of the law “Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people” into the basic law, and the constant incitement of the Israeli politicians to the ring against this population further alienated them. of the “” democratic “model.

Rabin’s legacy | Religious fundamentalism remains our greatest threat

Despite these divisions and challenges, I believe there is still time to change this reality and regain the balance we once had. The majority of Israelis, about 70% of the Jewish population, define themselves as secular or traditional Jews. If they realize that they need to take responsibility and get involved in public and political leadership in Israel, everything can change. The only way to make this change is to engage in our Jewish tradition and translate it into social change and democratic action.

This is Israel in 2020, 25 years after Rabin’s assassination. The next few years will determine whether we are on the verge of witnessing the end of the road for the Jewish Democratic state of Israel, the country’s David Ben-Gurion announced on Shabbat eve on the famous Rothschild Boulevard in Tel- Aviv. Unless we create real change now in the cultural, educational and political life of national religious and haredi groups, and unless Israel’s secular and traditional communities step in to effect that change, we will need to write a new Declaration of Independence – for the religious Jewish state, a theocracy that lurks around the corner.

Eran Baruch is the Executive Director of BINA: The Jewish Movement for Social Change. BINA was founded a few months after Rabin’s assassination, on the belief that the only way to prevent the constant tension between Jewish religious law and Israeli law was to create a Jewish, liberal and democratic movement that teaches Judaism to sides of Israeli law, social and democratic activism. principles. BINA designs and implements cultural, social and educational programs for Israelis and Jews around the world, with the aim of strengthening Jewish and Israeli identity, especially among non-Orthodox Israelis, by empowering individuals and groups to make a difference in their own lives, in their community and in all of Israeli society and beyond.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Forward.


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