|Is recognition of Reform Judaism in Israel's future? (Arutz Sheva)|
Which begs the obvious question. How can Israel and her friends constantly refer to itself as ‘the only true democracy in the Middle East?’ I guess one can say that Israel is not a democracy in the purest sense. But that it is a democracy within its definition as a Jewish state. Which means that the populace can vote and choose between a variety of political parties that span the political spectrum -left to right. The only proviso is that the State remains Jewish.
This of course means leaving out the possibility that Israel can ever become a Muslim state - even if a majority votes for Muslim party rule. I do not believe there is a single party in Israel sans that Arab parties that would ever let that happen.
That being said,Arab citizens of Israel have the right to vote. Which is why Israel has vibrant Arab political parties whose elected representatives serve in the Keneset. But this is also why Israel rightly worries about a possible single state solution if the West Bank were annexed – giving the Palestinians living there voting rights.
Current demographic trends favor an ultimate Arab majority in the not too distant future which could vote Israel out of existence. That is why Ariel Sharon - a hard line hawk who was considered the father of the settlement movement - came to realize that we do indeed need a 2 state solution. That, he believed, would be the only way to keep the state both Jewish and a democracy. And it is why he gave Palestinians the Gaza Strip.
There are those who believe that we should annex the West bank giving Palestinians full civil rights but not voting rights. But that would in my view be a denial of one of the most fundamental rights guaranteed by a democracy. Palestinians would never accept a denial of that right in a one state solution.
We are at an impasse now. There is no possible way to create a 2 state solution under current conditions. If Gaza is the model for what happens when you give land to Palestinians, then the last few weeks of terror from Gaza shows what a 2 state solution would look like. It would mean national suicide. And a bloody one at that!
This pretty much sums up the conundrum facing Israel right now. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Which for me means that Israel must retain the status quo until such time it can be determined with a relative degree of certainty that a peace treaty would be honored.
In pursuit of cementing its identity as a Jewish state, Israel is proposing the Nationality Law. From ArutzSheva:
The bill enshrines the status of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in its homeland as a unique right for the Jewish people, the symbols of the state, Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the Hebrew language as the official language.
In addition, the proposal anchors Israel's connection with Diaspora Jewry and the right to preserve a heritage for all residents of Israel, regardless of religion or nationality. The bill establishes the Hebrew calendar as the state's official calendar and the commemoration of Israel's Independence Day, the Jewish holidays, and the days of remembrance in the Basic Law.
For me this is a no brainer. If we are going to be a Jewish State, we need to define what that means. But to the Reform Movement this is an outrage. They are oppose it. Why? Here is what they say:
According to a document seen by Hadashot, the movement plans on fighting the legislation in a multi-stage battle. The first stage will be opposing the bill itself under the contention that "the Nationality Law is an improper and distorted law that undermines the democratic character of the state and the status of non-Jewish citizens of Israel."
As part of its effort to torpedo the bill, the movement says it will rally diaspora Jewry to oppose the law by claiming that the legislation is discriminatory towards Israel's non-Jewish citizens. The Union for Reform Judaism has already put out a statement blasting the bill as "a grave threat to Israeli democracy".
They have a point. But as noted this was true before this bill was even considered. Formalizing it hardly makes that much of a difference. Which is why some of Israel’s left wing opposes the bill. Why antagonize Diaspora Jews with an unnecessary bill that will change nothing?
And since Israel is not fully a democracy anyway - and can’t be while remaining a Jewish State, why complain now? Reform leaders have basically conceded that this bill will probably pass and have made plans to challenge it after the fact:
(They plan) on utilizing a clause allowing all Jews to immigrate to Israel as a legal argument against any future decision refusing to recognize Reform conversions.
(They have) lobbied the Israeli government for decades for official recognition and state funding – a move which would violate Israel’s decades-old status quo on religion and state.
(They have) pushed for use of state mikveh’s – ritual baths needed in conversion ceremonies – funding for Reform community rabbis, and autonomy at the Western Wall.
That last item was a ploy for official state recognition. That became clear during the negotiation for expansion of the area by the Kotel already provided for them. A clause in the plan would have required Orthodox coordination with the Reform Movement. Which Orthodox rabbinic leaders saw as tantamount to recognizing their legitimacy. Something Orthodox leaders would never do. It would also have also been a violation of the status quo agreement.
Not only has the Reform Movement NOT denied this, That has clearly been their goal all along:
Union for Reform Judaism President Rick Jacobs (said they have) been explicit in its pursuit of that goal for years.
Considering that this movement has so few adherents in Israel, I find changing the definition of Judaism to include how Reform defines it - to be a huge Chutzpah.
If Israel is going to be a Jewish State, it has to be defined in ways that are acceptable to all. Clearly the majority of religious Jews in Israel are Orthodox. They would NEVER accept a non Orthodox definition of a Jewish state. Furthermore there was agreement at the very founding of Israel (in something called the status quo) that Orthodoxy will define all matters religious.
Even though the majority of Jews in Israel are secular, they are not Reform or Conservative. They may not be fully observant by Orthodox standards, but many are traditional and do not see heterodoxy defining their Judaism for them.
Israelis may not like what the rabbinate (which is Orthodox) is doing in many areas. But they do not look elsewhere for religious guidance. Reform rabbis want to change all that. They want to shoehorn themselves in so that they can do to Judaism in Israel what they have done to it in America believing they have a natural constituency in the secular population.
That cannot be allowed to happen. Reform Judaism is about as Jewish as Humanism is… having more in common with that than they do with traditional Judaism. Which is why they should never be given any form of legitimacy in a Jewish state.