Photo: Yonatan Davis
Yaron London
Photo: Yonatan Davis

Democracy at risk

Israel's secular democracy may come to an end due to Orthodox birthrate


Last week the Knesset decided to extend the Tal Law. Few opposed this move. This is in fact an admission that the secular public has tired of convincing the strictly Orthodox community that it should prepare itself for a working life and that it should contribute in some way to the security of the State.


At the same time, an attempt was foiled to implement core, secular teaching material into the strictly Orthodox educational system. This issue, despite its great importance, did not spark any dispute, nor did the dubious agreement to introduce civil marriage for non-Jews only endorsed by the justice minister and the Sephardi chief rabbi.


It appears that the secular public has retreated from the campaign over the soul of the republic and has come to terms with its defeat. Even now, about a sixth of Knesset members come from political movements that strive to forfeit the people's sovereignty and to transfer the regime to the hands of a religious council. Members of the strictly Orthodox parties do not deny that this is their vision; however, they explain, it should not be viewed as a political plan.


When the time comes, this is how they respond to debates on this matter, the Jews will bend in favor of the rule of the Torah, and the contradiction between democracy and theocracy will disappear anyway.


The secular public tends to ignore the strictly Orthodox vision. It finds it strange that great ideas, lofty or despicable, can reshape the face of society, and insists on believing that there are still people who sincerely believe that "you and I will change the world." It prefers viewing the strictly Orthodox parties as lobbies concerned with the economic interests of a minority group and not as stubborn movements instilled with ideology and striving to rid society of democracy.


They feel it is worth paying a fee rather than challenging them. This is where the willingness to provide state support to the institutions of the strictly Orthodox communities stems from, and this support along with the network of economic aid provided to all Israelis spurs childbirth among the strictly Orthodox community and gradually increases their representation in the Knesset.


Defensive democracy

This process was delayed due to the immigration of a million immigrants from the former USSR, but the direction of the demographic curve shows that the lifespan of secular hegemony will only last a few more years.


The secular public can defend itself; however, a counter war will endanger its equilibrium. It prefers retreating, despite a retreat ensuring the destruction of their homes in the near future. Besides the fear of conflict, secular flaccidity stems from doubts as to the meaning of democracy, a tendency to shy away from judging the values of others, and an enchantment with multiculturalism.


Such doubts and temptations accompany the victory of liberal democracy worldwide, but there is a crucial difference between what's happening here and what's happening in societies we profess to resemble. Other democratic societies are not subject to real and immediate dangers of destruction, whereas our defective democracy is very close indeed.


Secular society requires a "defensive democracy," a term used with regards to the campaign against global terror. However, the threat to the State's way of life and existence does not only come from armed organizations and insane individuals.


Defensive democracy will not sanctify the right of the minority to educate its offspring to its ways if its path leads to the destruction of democracy. It will not impose enlightened education, but it will not fund other education either.


Defensive democracy will not bear the burden of the minority's livelihood if this minority advocates parasitism as a way of life that impoverishes the majority. It will cure itself of the destructive concept that another's values, whatever they are, are equal in value to the values on which democracy is predicated. It will not boost a culture that despises multiculturalism and strives to instill a single culture - a culture of a minority that thrives thanks to the tolerance of the majority.



פרסום ראשון: 07.26.07, 07:43
 new comment
This will delete your current comment