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Sever Plocker
The new Israeli Jew
Common ground overcomes schisms despite varied definitions of Judaism

An extraordinary scene was evident on Passover eve at an Israeli food chain that is also open on Shabbat and holidays: Workers covered the shelves on which non-kosher-for-Passover foods were displayed.

 

The chain, it appears, will neither display nor sell chametz (leavened food) during Passover, but it will not shut down its stores. The chain adheres to the law – but particularly to its clients' expectations. They are not perturbed by the stores being open on Friday evenings and Shabbat, but they are perturbed by chametz being sold openly.

 

The contradiction between a non-kosher store that desecrates Shabbat laws by opening its doors, and a store's adherence to Passover

food laws highlights the contradictory traditional-religious reality in which Jews in Israel live. According to a special survey published in the Passover supplement of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper, half of the Jewish population in Israel views itself as "secular," but at the same time the majority of secular Jews believes in God and keeps kosher at home.

 

On the other hand, the majority of Jews who regard themselves as "traditional" (and many even as "religious") don't think twice about traveling on Shabbat and they consent to civil marriage.

 

The 2007 Israeli Jew model "is a Jew of convenience." He does not rank the 613 commandments mentioned in the Torah according to their religious and traditional severity and importance, but rather, according to how they fit in to their modern lifestyles.

 

"The majority of Jews in Israel takes an intermediary stance," wrote sociologists Yochanan Peres and Ben Raphael in their research entitled "Proximity and Dispute, Schisms in Israeli Society," which demonstrates the selective adoption of religious perceptions and beliefs.

 

Shabbat, for example, is easily sacrificed in favor of entertainment and shopping, yet refraining from eating non kosher foods blends well into prevailing diet fads. Thus, it is common throughout the majority of the population. Even Orthodox circles that once entrenched themselves in a stance that refuted Zionism, are showing considerable flexibility: According to survey findings, half of them adopted a worldview that sanctifies secular military service and Israeli statehood.

 

Walls being torn down

Survey conclusions are optimistic: The religious-secular gap is being bridged, and the risk of it creating a rift is becoming more remote. The walls are being torn down, the borders distinguishing between the holy and the profane are being divided both ways, and there is a symbiotic relationship and mutual benefit between religious-traditional Judaism and secular Judaism.

 

This is a process that can be defined as "Israeli Judaism"; the strengthening of the Jewish personal character as a main element of the Israeli character. It represents a response to the surge of anti-Semitism worldwide and the choice of the majority of Israelis. Particularly prominent are the closing of the gaps on issues such as conversion, "Who is a Jew," (a question which has ceased to concern the Israeli public), and Jewish marriage laws.

 

Common Jewish ground is overcoming schisms whatever the definition of Judaism may be: Culture, religious tradition, heritage, civilization, nationalism.

 

Within the classification of secular and orthodox Judaism, the typical Israeli Jew is positioned somewhere in the middle, very close to where the typical American Jew is positioned – even though the laws American Jews choose to abide by often differ from those chosen by Israeli Jews. Their make-up changes according to location and time, since they are the outcome of personal preferences that are subject to cultural patterns, social environments and cost calculations.

 

Some will view this as the failure of Zionism, which sought to create a new type of Jew detached from his past and ghetto-like characteristics. This type of interpretation is erroneous: The more the nationalist elements of Judaism are strengthened the more Zionism will thrive, because it serves as the Jews' national freedom movement.

 

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