Ultra-Orthodox (Archive photo)
Photo: Yoav Galay
Perhaps if we look for the invisible and marginal clauses in the platforms of all parties, we will find some fine print that includes the holy term “separation of religion and state,” or any other kind of reference to the most hushed issue of these elections: The State of Israel’s Jewish character.
In practice, only the religious and ultra-Orthodox parties play on the “Jewish court,” while the large secular parties woo them and their voters in a rather embarrassing manner. “Not everything is orange and not everything is black,” a Kadima online banner says, referring to the settlers and ultra-Orthodox, respectively. Really? So what else is out there? This is something that neither Kadima nor any other party can tell me. It in fact doesn’t matter to them as long as religious voters vote for them or religious parties join their coalition.
Yet in fact there is no issue that is more relevant than a genuine in-depth inquiry into the Jewish worldviews of the various parties. There is nothing out there that does not stem from this worldview: Social legislation, the status of women, war, peace, our attitude to foreigners, the status of Israeli-Arabs, education, culture, and the economy. Tell me what your Jewish position is, and I will tell you what you will vote in the Knesset when you are asked to determine the status and makeup of rabbinical courts, or the role of the IDF’s chief rabbi.
One’s Jewish worldview is not only a religious worldview. It is also a cultural and moral worldview, which does not have to be premised on Jewish law, but must be clearly present in the platforms of all parties; it must be heard and seen. We cannot keep on saying that we are a “Jewish democratic state” without giving some substance to this term.
The secular parties must present their potential voters with a non-religious Jewish worldview. If they do not endorse the separation of religion and state, they must explain why. We must stop being scared of uttering the word “Judaism” in its various conjugations: “Jewish state,” “Jewish culture,” and “Jewish worldview” – all of them must be given some Jewish substance. It could be secular Judaism, traditional Judaism, or religious Judaism; whatever is right for you.
A party is also allowed to declare that it is “not about Judaism.” But talk about it. Don’t abandon the Jewish State in the hands of the settlers or ultra-Orthodox on the one hand, and on the other hand in the hands of those who only know what we shouldn’t do (religious coercion, of course) but have nothing Jewish to offer.