Israelis need to talk about the religious-secular rift
Opinion: One of the most difficult problems with discourse in Israel over issues of religion and state is that it is a mendacious one on all sides – we all know that the row over the Haredi draft is not about how many soldiers the IDF can recruit from the ultra-Orthodox sector
The election campaign is going to be particularly disgusting this time. True, every election campaign always seems like the ugliest in our history, but it is usually because humans tend not to remember great pain.
The last election campaign was not particularly ugly, perhaps even the opposite. Of course, it was not entirely toothless, and all the parties did everything in their power to heighten their messages, but ultimately, save for a few exceptions, no red lines were crossed.
If you are unconvinced for now, you will probably agree with me in a few months, given that the new election campaign is happening before we can forget the last one, and that fact alone demands a comparison between the two.
The current election campaign did indeed kick off in a somewhat soporific style, with the sense that there is nothing new under the sun, but that soon changed.
For now, assuming there isn’t a war in the meantime, the upcoming election campaign will be all about the religious rift, courtesy of Avigdor Lieberman and a few others who are already jumping on the bandwagon.
It would not have been so bad had it been the result of a polarizing and polarized discourse of hate. For some reason, there has not been a substantive conversation on the religious rift in Israel for decades. Any attempts to do so always slip into hatred and polarization, and the important issues are immediately pushed to one side.
But the highly charged discourse of the last election period is merely a mirror to a broader phenomenon. One of the most difficult problems with discourse in Israel over issues of religion and state is that it is a mendacious discourse for all parties.
Consider the issue of enlisting the ultra-Orthodox into the army – the reason why the coalition negotiations fell apart, and anyone who deals with this issue knows that Liberman's version of the law would not have led to the enlistment of a single Haredi more than the Haredi version itself.
In fact, all the legislation on this issue, including that from Yesh Atid several parliaments ago, are in fact anti-draft laws.
Because everyone knows the truth - a social group cannot be mobilized against its will, and they are simply toying with the public, whose anger at the current situation is entirely genuine.
Incidentally, the ultra-Orthodox are also lying about this issue. The discussion is not at all about recruiting Torah scholars, it is about the desperate attempt by Haredi society to raise walls around itself at a time when those walls are being broken down and are threatening its identity. In short, this is a high noon of lies.
Things that were previously legitimate and accepted religious practices have been subject to a process of delegitimization and are now seen as unacceptable religious coercion.
The State of Israel is more secular than ever, even though there have never been so many religious and ultra-Orthodox Jews.
A real election campaign that is not built on falsehoods should deal with issues on which there are real disagreements. Take for example the issue of conversion, where there are indeed conflicting worldviews regarding the role of the State of Israel in the process of becoming a Jew.
Should Israel convert people, should it merely set a standard for conversion, or should it recognize every conversion of every Jewish community in the world?
Another real issue is Shabbat. Instead of the usual provocations and the fraudulent discourse about the status quo, Israelis need to answer the question of what Shabbat is to us as a nation as a whole, not just from the perspective of consumers but that of workers too.
And of course the issues of the Western Wall plaza, the attitude toward the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism and the question of kashrut have to be discussed, but in a genuine and respectful manner, not a fake and divisive one.