Beilin: Separate religion from State
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
MK Moshe Gafni. Agrees with Beilin
Photo: Gil Yohanan
"Any Israeli who does not wish to serve in the army, due to religion or conscientious objections, should be allowed the right to refuse," Knesset Member Yossi Beilin (Meretz) said Thursday during his speech at President Shimon Peres' 'Facing Tomorrow' Conference.
Beilin was first to speak during the discussion entitled 'The haredi society in Israel: How can we live together and apart?' According to him, the haredi community is growing rapidly, and is set to compose 20% of all Israeli people within the next few years.
Rabbi Dudi Zilbershlag, one of the haredi community leaders present at the discussion, surveyed the community's history and its gradual incorporation within Israeli society. "I am Israeli no less than I am haredi," he said. "But I am prouder of the fact that I am haredi."
He added that "only the haredi womb will eternalize the eminent Israeli reality in the new Middle East. I hope that in a few years the haredim will not be blamed for stealing all of the jobs in the market."
Beilin said that if the haredi community is interested in unity and cooperative discussion, it must learn to recognize and accept the different Jewish groups in society, including the reformists. Beilin added that in his opinion the best solution would be to separate religion from the State. "The laws of matrimony imposed by the haredi members of the Knesset are a stain on the Israeli democratic book of laws," he said.
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said during his speech that he too would relinquish the Jewish identity of Israel, if indeed the State would be able to retain its democratic values more efficiently. He added that if he and Beilin were representatives of the majority, such a separation would take place. However, he said, "the vast majority of the Israeli people is traditional."
Rabbi Mordechai Kerlitz surveyed the development of haredi settlement and housing during recent years, and displayed facts that predict that in the next 20 years the haredi community will require 80,000 new housing units. Kerlitz called on State leaders to make the necessary arrangements and prepare the infrastructure for the rapid growth, in order to prevent future social strife.