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Opposition Chairperson Tzipi Livni Photo: Lior Mizrahi
Opposition Chairperson Tzipi Livni Photo: Lior Mizrahi
 
 

Kadima's Livni seeks to bridge secular-religious divide

Opposition chairperson organizes conference on Jewish identity in democratic state, seeks to reduce secular hostility to religion

Kobi Nahshoni
Published: 05.28.10, 14:45 / Israel Jewish Scene

The Haredi press accused her of taking part in "incitements" against the haredi sector and being friendly with "local anti-Semites" but MK Tzipi Livni seeks reconciliation: Opposition Chairperson Tzipi Livni said to Ynet on Thursday she is worried that relevant criticism of ultra-Orthodox parties has recently degenerated into hatred for the haredi sector and religion.

 

"Judaism is after all the basis of the State's existence," she said. "The question of identity is not about what will happen in (haredi neighborhood) Bnei Brak, but how Tel Aviv will look during the religious festivals, and what will be taught in its schools."

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Livni criticized the secular public and the growing distance between population groups in Israel. "Bnei Brak will remain Bnei Brak," she said. "The question is how a generation has grown up in other areas which is more Israeli but less attentive to the call of Judaism. It's our loss no less than that of the haredim."

 

Livni also noted that in recent years, "the traditional religious public has become haredi, the Sephardim have become more like the Ashkenazim in terms of their religious level, and the secular public, which was once traditional, is no longer. Each one moves in his own direction, and it is crucial that we create a situation in which we live Jewish and democratic values together."

 

On Thursday afternoon, Livni's party, Kadima, will hold a conference on the subject of Jewish identity in a democratic state, in collaboration with the Hartman Institute, in an attempt to neutralize fears, hostility and hate. The event will be held in the Knesset compound with the participation of representatives from a wide variety of groups including the founder of religious newspaper Yated Neeman, author Dov Elboim and the leader of the Reform movement.

 

'Jewish common denominator'

"The aim is to develop a public discussion on essence and identity," said Livni, who initiated the conference. "We all know what a democratic state is, but we don’t know what a Jewish state is."

 

Livni said that various separate groups had formed in Israel, living side by side, from the haredim who have taken advantage of the political system to determine what a Jewish state is and thus alienated the public, to the minorities, who are unsure whether this definition of the State harms their rights as citizens. Thus, she said, there is an urgent need to create a Jewish common denominator.

 

The conference will host rabbis, academics, directors of NGOs and other participants, who will discuss education for Judaism and Zionism, conversion, marriage and divorce, among other subjects. However, Livni does not aim to publish any decisions acceptable to all.

 

"People are trapped inside formulaic opinions without knowing what the other side thinks," she said. "I want first of all to open the discussion, just as I have done myself in recent years, with rabbis, for example. We need to see whether there are differences of opinion that can be bridged and how flexible each side is."

 

The opposition chairperson also noted that everything she says about politics makes the headlines, but what she thinks about the subject of religion in Israel is rarely heard. Livni contends that this is a critical issue which could cause the loss of the Zionist vision, because "the struggle for our existence is not just physical, but also about who we are."

 

This is also the reason why she has chosen this issue to open the series of conferences hosted by Kadima on a number of issues critical to Israeli society.

 

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