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KasperPrip's avatar

To what extent does Judaism play a role in the state of Israel?

Asked by KasperPrip (213 points ) December 13th, 2010

I’m writing a paper on Israel, and one of the questions is this. (It’s translated from danish, but i hope you get the point.)
Investigate to what extent Judaism plays a role in the Israeli state since 1948, and discuss whether the Israeli state is moving towards a more religous direction.
I was wondering if any of you could help me with this question, because i’ve been stuck with it for quite a while now. Any useful websites or litterature (preferably something i can find on the internet.) would be great!
Thanks in advance..

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16 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

There is a long standing tension in Israel between Orthodox interpretation of laws and secular interpretation. This carries to such things as travel on the Sabbath, non-kosher food stuffs, and things like that.

The Right of Return allows any children of a Jewish mother to emigrate to Israel. That right has always been applied liberally, but recently the Orthodox right has worked to tighten the privilege. You should find discussion in recent periodicals.

Summum's avatar

People are donating money to help send as many Jewish People home to gather at Israel. There is a long standing prophesy about the Jewish people gathering in Israel in the last days. This would mean a return also to the religious part of Israel.

JLeslie's avatar

Israel’s Jewish population is primarily secular. There is a minority of the population who is very religious, Orthodox and observant, and are part of the extreme right. When things heat up in Israel, meaning when the Palestinians, or Lebonese, or anyone in the region creates violence, or makes moves that seem to threaten Israels borders, there is usually a shift among Israelis towards the right politically.

What @Summum mentions is mostly Christians trying to fulfill some biblical prophecy, but Jews go to Israel to be in a country that they can feel accepted, and among their own in a way, sort of. If someone lives in a country with significant antisemitism or any sort of oppression, a Jewish person can always go to Israel. Plus, Israelmis a domocracy, and prosperous. People go to Israel the same reason they go to any westernized country.

I am American, so I can’t know exactly what it is like in Israel, but I doubt Israel is becoming more religious, but Jewish identity is very important to the Israelis and to American Jews generally speaking. It is estimated somewhere between 30–50% of Jews are atheists. Personally what I think binds Jews together, and keeps their identity so strong is the antisemitism we endure throughout history. The more people want to get rid of us, the more we are going to fight back to make sure it doesn’t happen.

answerjill's avatar

@JLeslie – I would argue that most “atheist” Israelis still identity as Jewish (in whatever sense). I also think that your percentages are off.
“A survey in 2004 showed that 81 percent of Israel´┐Żs population defined themselves as Jewish; 12 percent as Muslim; 3.5 percent as Christian (both Arab and non-Arab); 1.5 percent as Druze; 1.5 percent as atheist; and another 0.5 percent as followers of other religions. In terms of religiosity, among Israeli Jews aged 20 and over, 44 percent defined themselves as secular; 27 percent defined themselves as traditional; 12 percent as traditionally observant; 9 percent as Orthodox; and 8 percent as ultra-Orthodox.”
Source: http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/csrpl/rinvol9no2/insert/secular%20jewish%20israeli%20identity.htm
Another thing to consider about Israelis is that they have this category of Traditional (neither Orthodox nor secular) that does not really exist as a significant demographic group in the US, in my opinion.

Rarebear's avatar

@answerjill Being an atheist Jew is not an oxymoron, and it’s not a contradiction. I know plenty of atheist Jews. I am, in fact, quite Jewish in my traditions, but I am an ardent atheist.

answerjill's avatar

@Rarebear – I agree. I didn’t mean for the quotes to mean that they don’t exist! Sorry for any confusion.

JLeslie's avatar

@answerjill Isn’t that what I said? Maybe I was unclear. Most People in Israel are Jewish, and have a very strong Jewish Identity. A large percentage of Jews both in Israel and America, are not religious, and many are even atheists. You write 44% define themselves as secular, that is pretty high. To go back to the OP’s question, I think Judaism has a lot to do with the state of Israel, but I think possibly it has more to do with Jews as a people, more than religion, even though obviously Judaism is a religion. It is confusing to non-Jews I think, especially gentiles who have not spent a lot of time around Jewish people. Not sure if you are Jewish or not? The Jews have made Israel what it is today, when many countries around it are run by theocracies.

That little piece of land and its population would not be what it is today under a different government, with a different population, so how can Israel and her Jewish citizens not feel a special bond, and pride. Of course there are citizens of Israel who are not Jewish who have contributed to the prosperity of the country, I don’t mean to leave them out, but in general terms, I am guessing many of the positive statistics that come out of Israel are Jews. Computer Science, Medicine, all sorts of successes come out of that country. I have no idea about the Arab countries around Israel, maybe they have bragging rights also? I just see Jewish stats from time to time, forwarded in emails, things like that. 20% of Nobel prizes have been given to Jews, and we are less than one quarter of one percent of the world’s population. In America we are statistically more educated than the average population, we are disporportionately in the Ivy Leagues, Israel has more doctors per capita than any other nation, blah blah. I don’t commit it all to memory. And, I am not one of those Jews helping the stat LOL. I didn’t go to an Ivy League, and I am sure I will never get a Nobel prize.

answerjill's avatar

@JLeslie—OK, points taken!

KasperPrip's avatar

Thanks for all the Answers!
@answerjill your link ain’t working, i would really like to see the page, as i can’t include any informations in my paper without a reference to the source. I’ve tried to find the poll myself at www.trincoll.edu but without any luck.

JLeslie's avatar

@KasperPrip you can find the info @answerjill gave here

answerjill's avatar

deleted post

answerjill's avatar

@KasperPrip – Here is a repost of the link: http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/csrpl/rinvol9no2/insert/secular%20jewish%20israeli%20identity.htm
If it doesn’t work, you can Google it by looking up the title, “The Secular Israeli ID” or the author, “Benjamin Beit-Halahmi.” Hope that helps!

KasperPrip's avatar

@JLeslie Aha wikipedia of course… That looks like a really helpful site. Thanks a bunch.

I was wondering if any of you knew any sites where i could read some stories about Israel from secular and orthodox Jews living in Israel, maybe even chat with them?

JLeslie's avatar

@KasperPrip I sent your question to one of our fluther members who lives in Israel, but he has not responded yet :(. I actually have not seen him on line in a little while, hopefully he will see your question.

answerjill's avatar

oops, I meant “The Secular Israeli Identity.”

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