Home  Principles & Statements  Positions of the ACJ  Articles  DonationsAbout Us  Contact Us  Links                                         

An Eloquent Plea for Religious Freedom and Equality in Israel

Allan C. Brownfeld
Winter 2015

by Ofra Yeshua-Lyth,  
Hebrew edition, Nymrod Publishing House, Tel Aviv, Israel,  
English edition, CreateSpace Independent Publishing,  
N. Charleston, South Carolina.  
Although Israel refers to itself as a “democracy,” and in many ways it is,  
that term does not mean that there is genuine religious freedom. There is no  
separation of church and state. Instead, Israel is a theocracy, with an  
established religion, which is Orthodox Judaism. Reform and Conservative  
rabbis have no right to conduct weddings, funerals, or conversions.  
According to Hiddush, an Israeli non-government organization (NGO) working  
toward religious pluralism. Israel is among 45 nations with “severe  
restrictions” on marriage. Most of the others are governed by Islamic law.  
Eeta Prince-Gibson, the former editor of The Jerusalem Report, notes that,  
“This places the Jewish state in the dubious company of nations such as  
Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. The chief rabbinate,  
which falls under the jurisdiction of Israel’s Ministry of Religious  
Services, maintains and supervises a massive religious government  
bureaucracy made up of a network of rabbinic courts consisting of regional,  
municipal, community and neighborhood rabbis. In addition to marriage and  
divorce, the rabbinate is responsible for all ‘personal status’ issues, such  
as conversion, which is closely related to marriage; burial; kashrut  
certification; supervision of ritual baths and other religious services.”  
The Israeli government, Prince-Gibson points out, enforces a variety of  
religious laws, such as one in Deuteronomy which holds that if a childless  
woman is widowed, and has a brother-in-law who is single, she is compelled  
to marry him: “It stipulates that the late husband’s unmarried brother must  
marry the widow in order to produce a child who will carry on the name of  
the deceased. If the brother doesn’t want to marry his sister-in-law, he  
must stand before the elders of the community, which in modern Israel means  
the rabbinate, and announce, ‘I will not marry her.’ The woman must then  
perform a ceremony called halitzah by taking off her brother-in-law’s shoe,  
spitting in front of his face, and loudly declaring, ‘So shall be done to a  
man who refuses to build up his brother’s house.’”  
Rabbinic Courts  
In 1953, the Knesset passed legislation that placed all matters of marriage  
and divorce for Jews in Israel under the jurisdiction of these rabbinic  
courts. Religious leaders became civil servants. Religious court verdicts,  
like civil ones, are implemented and enforced by the police, bailiff’s  
office, and other law enforcement agencies.  
In an eloquent book, part memoir, part plea for an Israeli society with  
genuine religious freedom and pluralism, Ofra Yeshua-Lyth tells her own  
story and that of contemporary Israel. She is a veteran Israeli journalist  
and author and served as a foreign correspondent in Washington, D.C. and  
Germany for the Israeli daily newspaper Maariv. Later, she founded a media  
consulting firm.  
In the Introduction, Aharon Amir, a leading Israeli poet and editor, noted  
that, “Israel is one of the few countries that has yet to make a distinction  
between religion and the codex of civil litigation. Internal conflicts —  
communal, ethnic and social — are a result of this failure, which also lies  
at the heart of the regional conflict. Ofra Yeshua readily understands that  
‘only blindness or serious fatigue can explain’ why non religious Israelis  
‘almost totally refrain from confronting the rigidity and sanctimoniousness  
with which Judaism defines their national identity.’ She clearly sees that  
‘Left and Right are united in their aspiration to fight for any price to  
maintain a Jewish majority in the State of Israel,’ and the only difference  
between them is that the ‘enlightened Left’ want to achieve this goal by  
evicting Jews from parts of the country where non-Jews live, while ‘the  
Right’ expect to achieve it by evicting non-Jews from those parts of the  
country ‘coveted by the Jews.’”  
Image of Israel Was Wishful Thinking  
The author recalls that, “I had to drop the fantasy of becoming a ballerina  
at a relatively early age, having realized that I was not properly designed  
to dance for my living. It took much longer to realize that the image I had  
of the wonderful, earnestly hardworking Jewish state I grew up in was also a  
product of wishful thinking and grand desires, based on faulty architecture.  
In the 1950s and 1960s, thoroughly dipped in innocence and devotion, nobody  
had any reason to worry that by its definition of being the Only Jewish  
State in the world, the State of Israel was doomed to be serving aims that  
have little or nothing to do with the welfare of most of its inhabitants. We  
had a rich national folklore, we had venerable traditions; it was not to be  
expected that a few anachronisms in this tradition would so soon be leading  
to a dead end.”  
In Yeshua-Lyth’s view, the many hardworking immigrants who arrived in the  
Middle East from Eastern Europe about a hundred years ago had an opportunity  
to start the kind of liberal democracy they seemed to be pining for.  
“Instead,” she writes, “they stuck to a Messianic vision intended to redeem  
only people with a supposedly similar blood group. Religious identity had  
always been the only common denominator for the so-called Jewish self-  
determination. It was therefore a religious code, lacking any functional  
relevance to most of the state founders and to the majority of the  
population at the time that became the single valid ingredient determining  
‘Israeli nationality.’ No wonder it soon became the dominant element in  
Israel’s political structure. … the combination of separatist religious  
ideology and a vigorously built military ability created a political reality  
dominated by unacceptable principles. The builders of the supposed ‘New  
Society’ allowed themselves to be swept far into the gloomy regions of their  
forefathers’ past, chained into the patterns from which Zionism was supposed  
to have set them free.”  
Orthodox Judaism is not merely a monopoly for the business of religion in  
Israel, but is also the exclusive ingredient in the definition of the  
national identity and state entity. “Orthodox Judaism,” the author points  
out, “is perfectly programmed for the mission of preserving a religious  
minority that lacks a sovereign territory. It is a paradigm totally  
inadequate for — and until recently, totally disinterested in — running a  
state apparatus … The revolving doors of traditional Jewish society cannot  
stop its sons and daughters from turning their backs on it, but they  
effectively block anybody from entering. The Jewish state fully adopted the  
principles of the Jewish religion. As a result, Israel turned into a  
political entity devoid of any ability to sustain internal partnerships. It  
would not accept non-Jews as equals. As a side effect, it alienates Jews who  
object to blatant discrimination. The state is, therefore, a handicapped  
entity, acting in a self-destructive manner. The citizens belonging to the  
caste identified with the state’s religion live in constant anxiety of  
becoming outnumbered. Their attitude to the others who live with them and  
around them is shaped accordingly.”  
Religion and State Power  
Once religion and state power become intrinsically connected, the hope for a  
society welcoming and embracing diversity becomes increasingly difficult to  
achieve. “Judaism is neither meaner nor more fanatical than any other  
religion,” argues the author. “But all religions are faulty in one way or  
another once they are allowed to possess real political power over a  
community … Although rooted in the small towns of Eastern Europe, veteran  
Israelis — otherwise known as Ashkenazi Jews — are convinced it (Israel) is  
based on the highly prestigious ‘Western liberal’ model. And while the Arabs  
of the land are stigmatized for their ‘Islamic, non-liberal culture,’ Jews  
of Arab origins have always been considered to be affiliated with this  
undesirable population … The indigenous inhabitants of the New Country and  
their offspring have been expected, from day one of the Zionist settlement,  
to accept the status of second-class citizens that was accorded to them by  
the newcomers. This is the attitude that culminated with the declaration of  
a Jewish state in 1948, when hundreds of thousands eventually lost their  
houses and became permanent refugees.”  
It is not only Palestinian Christians and Muslims who have been treated as  
less than equal citizens. Jews from Arab countries have faced widespread  
discrimination at the hands of Jews whose origins were in Europe. Ofra  
Yeshua-Lyth’s father was an immigrant from Yemen and her family felt less  
than equal in Israel as she was growing up. She notes that, “The Arab Jews  
landed in the new country with a mother tongue and cultural traditions that  
were embarrassingly similar to those of the native Arabs who had just been  
kicked out. They were met with a double message that would characterize  
their life here for the past decades: they were welcome by the veteran  
immigrants from Eastern Europe, as members of the specially privileged  
Jewish nationality, and therefore superior to the local Arabs. At the same  
time, they were openly despised as culturally inferior, patronizingly  
defined ‘The Second Israel,’ chastised for their blatant Arab manners, and  
thrust into the deep end of poverty, humility and ignorance of the new  
Israeli society.”  
While Zionism has generally been considered part of Western civilization, it  
is, in fact, a religious entity, although some of its founders did not  
anticipate the direction it would take. Yeshua-Lyth makes the case that,  
“The thin democratic veneer that is used to disguise the uncompromising  
nature of this religious state of ours is much cracked already. While the  
so-called civilized world regularly panics over the belligerence of violent,  
religious fanatics, it has for years failed to pay attention to the growing  
religious fanaticism that characterizes this supposed ‘spearhead of Western  
civilization,’ as Israel’s lovers would have it described … Israel is one of  
two states that were started during the 20th century with an official  
intention to create an ethnic-religious homogeneous political entity. The  
other state is Pakistan, which is also still struggling under this legacy.  
Nothing but a full separation of church and state might put an end to the  
present messianic frenzy that carries the ‘Jewish state’ into ever more  
dangerous abysses … Taking religion out of politics would mean the removal  
of the mechanism that allows the state to rob over a fifth of the citizens —  
and all the inhabitants of the occupied territories — of their equal, legal  
civil liberties. It is a move essential for the abolition of the special  
privileges granted to one favored religious (though it insists on calling  
itself ‘national’) group.”  
Herzl’s Original Vision  
In Theodor Herzl’s original formulation of Zionism, the Jewish state he  
envisioned would have equal rights for all of its citizens, regardless of  
their faith. And in his imagined state, the rabbis would have no political  
power whatever. The State of Israel which has emerged is quite different  
from what Herzl thought he was in the process of creating. It was Herzl’s  
vision that Jews and the indigenous Arab population would live peacefully  
together in a well-integrated society.  
Instead, writes Yeshua-Lyth, “In Israel today one would not find a single  
affluent, well-educated Arab who had integrated well into the local Jewish  
elite. The reasons for this have nothing to do with Herzl’s colonialist  
vision and everything to do with serious deviations from its original  
layout. Reading ‘Altneuland’ today, one is struck by the adequacy of its  
economic and technological predictions, compared to the seeming irrelevance  
of its social and political vision … Herzl spoke out unequivocally against  
any religious meddling in the affairs of the state, and he warned against  
tampering with his design. He clearly foresaw the risk that certain Zionist  
leaders might be attracted to a national religious ideology that he was not  
prepared to tolerate. But he could not guess that this, eventually, would  
become the winning ideology in the Jewish state.”  
Herzl had no intention of letting the rules of the ghetto be involved in the  
actual running of his future Jewish state. He wrote: “We shall keep our  
priests within the confines of their temples in the same way as we shall  
keep our professional army within the confines of their barracks. Army and  
priesthood shall receive honors as high as their valuable functions deserve.  
But they must not interfere in the administration of the State which confers  
distinctions upon them, also they will conjure up difficulties without and  
within … And if it should occur that men of other creeds and different  
nationalities come to live amongst us, we should accord them honorable  
protection and equality before the law.”  
Herzl’s Values Are Rejected  
While Herzl is hailed in contemporary Israel, his vision has been rejected  
by those who have been in control of the State of Israel since its creation  
in 1948. In this regard, the author writes: “No priests interfering in the  
administration of the state? No professional soldiers allowed out of the  
barracks? No wonder that ‘men of other creeds and different nationalities’  
are unable to be accorded ‘honorable protection and equality before the  
law.’ Religion and the military are the predominant forces of Israeli  
politics and society. Together they devour the lion’s share of the country’s  
resources … It would have been inconceivable to Herzl that rabbis should  
have sovereign status in the bureaucracy of the state, and that an enormous  
religious-political establishment should openly and successfully oppose the  
very idea that non-Jews might become citizens with equal rights.”  
While Israel continues to congratulate itself on being the “only democracy  
in the Middle East,” Yeshua-Lyth reports that, “… when the principles of  
democracy clash with Jewish edicts, as interpreted by the Orthodox school of  
Judaism, democracy inevitably gives way. Above it all hovers the specter of  
the ‘Demographic Problem’ that paralyzes the good judgment of secular  
Israeli liberals … Cultivating cultures and religions is one thing, but  
enforcing the special whims of these cultures and religions on others with  
the heavy hand and the armed forces of statehood … is something else  
altogether, As soon as religion is, once and for all, banned from the realms  
of the economy and the legal system of the State of Israel, once religious  
considerations no longer dictate building regulations, food regulations,  
taxation, budgeting, leisure patterns, and funeral arrangements, it will be  
possible to turn the Holy Land into the flourishing haven it was meant to  
be. … A hundred years ago, Theodor Herzl’s plan seemed just as unlikely, but  
this did not deter him. The bottom line of his book is the golden rule of  
every successful entrepreneur, ‘If you really want it, it is no fairy  
Traditionally, Orthodox Jews opposed Zionism and the concept of a sovereign  
Jewish state. Some still do. While in the U.S. as a correspondent for the  
Israeli newspaper MAARIV, Ofra-Lyth visited the ultra-Orthodox enclave of  
Monsey, New York, where she interviewed and spent time with Rabbi Abraham  
Weinfeld. He was very critical of the Israeli National Religious Party (NRP)  
and its declaration that “Jewish national unity counts more than religious  
teaching.” She recalls that he was, “passionate and entertaining” and “made  
no secret of the fact that as far as he was concerned, there was little  
affinity between people like myself — a secular Jewish woman — and his own  
Torah Lived Before the State  
Rabbi Weinfeld declared: “The Torah lived in our people before the state was  
established. we do not need you (the nonbelievers) to take care of it. Do us  
no more favors. We wish to have no more crumbs from under your table. We do  
not want any compromises and humiliation. The time has come to break up this  
unnatural partnership between Orthodox Jewry and the institutions of the  
Zionist state.”  
He scornfully rejected the common pious warning, often used by those of the  
NRP, that the country risks a “rift” in the Jewish people in Israel, if  
civil procedures for marriage and divorce ever should be allowed. Truly  
religious Jews, he said, have no business worrying about how secular Jews  
marry and divorce. He expressed support for civil marriage for those  
Israelis who do not wish an Orthodox wedding. He noted that anyone who does  
not adhere to the Torah is considered unacceptable to the Orthodox community  
in any case.  
At the time of the interview with Rabbi Weinfeld, the new legislation on the  
agenda in Israel was the so-called “Pig Law,” aimed at forbidding the sale  
or consumption of pork in any Jewish-populated area. “He understands  
perfectly why people like most readers of the newspaper I was writing for  
were angry at the very idea that the law should have a position on what we  
are allowed to eat, and when,” writes the author. “He considered it a  
complete waste of time. Eating pork or not did not make the slightest  
difference to the fact that we were already outside what he considered the  
proper Jewish community.’ The sad reality is that you are no longer children  
and we have no authority over you,’ he said. ‘We cannot enforce things upon  
you. One cannot use state law to interfere in the private affairs of people,  
other than in extreme cases of violence and crime. We cannot send a  
policeman to arrest every person who lights a cigarette on the Sabbath.’”  
Nationalistic Manipulation  
Those who are educated in Orthodox religious schools, a growing number in  
today’s Israel, have not, Yeshua-Lyth notes, been educated to have an  
interest in democracy, human rights and civil liberties. These schools, she  
laments, “… are a fertile ground for nationalistic manipulators of the worst  
possible kind, the likes of ‘Rabbi’ Meir Kahane supporters and groups  
worshipping the ‘martyrdom’ of mass murderer Baruch Goldstein.” In promoting  
this agenda, many in Israel are reverting to a kind of religious extremism  
mainstream Judaism has rejected.  
She cites William Winwood Reade’s 1872 book, The Martyrdom of Man, which  
surveyed the rise and demise of the West’s major religions. In the chapter  
dedicated to Judaism, Reade expressed admiration for Diaspora Jews following  
the destruction of the Second Temple. He considered them a uniquely  
important intellectual elite who had contributed greatly to the cultural  
progress of both the Middle East and Europe. He compared them to the  
provincial religious extremists of Judea who did not go into exile.  
Reade wrote: “Those Jews of Judea, those Hebrews of the Hebrews, regarded  
all the Gentiles as enemies of God: they considered it a sin to live abroad,  
or to speak a foreign language, or to rub their limbs with foreign oil. Of  
all the trees, The Lord had chosen but one vine; and of all the flowers, but  
one lily; and of all the birds, but one dove, and of all the cattle, but one  
lamb; and of all the builded cities, only Sion; and of all the multitude of  
people, he had elected the Jews as a peculiar treasure, and had made them a  
nation of priests and holy men. For their sake God had made the world. On  
their account alone empires rose and fell. Babylon had triumphed because God  
was angry with her people; Babylon had fallen because he had forgiven them.  
It may be imagined that it was not easy to govern such a race. They  
acknowledged no king but Jehovah, no laws but the precepts of their holy  
books … It is only in severity that the Jews can be admired.”  
The Chosen People  
The author remembers that, “Expressions like ‘the Chosen People’ or ‘Thou  
hast us Chosen’ were used sneeringly when I was young, merely to express  
some dismay about the less appealing aspects of contemporary society. These  
days it is no longer amusing. Too many Israeli Jews sincerely believe that  
boons and privileges have been designated for them personally by the good  
Lord, who had marked us as his special favorites. The dominant versions of  
present-day Jewish Orthodoxy have very little in common with the Spanish  
Golden Age poets and philosophers who considered their Jewish faith a  
spearhead of progress and morality for all mankind … The Halacha’s rituals  
keep religious Jews busy most of their waking hours. To outsiders, the  
multitude of rules and regulations in Judaism seems tiresome and bizarre.  
But a simple analysis indicates that almost every one of the commands of our  
religion is cleverly conceived to achieve two chief strategic goals: the  
preservation of the community in isolation from its non-Jewish environment,  
and the preservation of community control in the hands of the elders.”  
Despite the fact that the majority of Israelis do not consider themselves  
Orthodox and secular political movements have emerged calling for an end to  
the domination of civic life by state-employed Orthodox rabbis, this has not  
changed the fact that, as the author explains, “Our country is the only so-  
called Western-style place where one may not become legally married without  
religious certification. Interdenominational marriages are therefore  
impossible. Nonreligious Israeli Jews have long given up complaining about  
this infringement of their personal freedom … Cyprus and Tuscany are the  
most popular destinations for the growing number — some say 20 per cent — of  
Jewish Israeli couples (and obviously all mixed couples) wishing to or  
having to be legally wed without a rabbi officiating.”  
For thousands of Israelis, marriage abroad is the only way to  
institutionalize their relations, due to a variety of state-enforced  
religious taboos. “For a start,” Yeshua-Lyth points out, “Non-Jews may not  
marry a Jew. A Jewish man may not marry a divorcee or a convert if his name  
is Cohen or Kaplan, or any other derivative of the tribal name of Jewish  
priests. Nobody is to be married if his or her father is not the man his or  
her mother had been legally married to at the time of … conception … The  
marital laws of the State of Israel make a maze of unintelligible  
instructions that might be mildly amusing if not for the hassle and real  
pain they inflict on so many innocent people.”  
Zionism as a Colonial Movement  
While many have referred to Zionism as a colonial movement, Yeshua-Lyth  
identifies an important distinction between the colonialism practiced by  
imperial powers such as Britain and France, and that embraced by Theodor  
Herzl and his followers: “Zionism was making its first moves in the era when  
colonialism was considered an act of progress, which is why it was such a  
source of inspiration for Theodor Herzl. The father of modern Zionism was  
convinced that the tragedy of Eastern European Jews would be solved if these  
people were to reinvent themselves as enlightened colonial people. There was  
only one problem: the Jewish religion blocked any chance for colonial  
dynamics of the kind that might have been beneficial for the indigenous  
inhabitants of its new territories … Just like their parents in the small  
towns and in the allocated Jewish regions of Poland and Russia, the Jewish  
pioneers of Palestine were committed to the legacy of self-segregation.”  
Traditionally, national and ethnic groups moving to new lands — such as  
Greek, Roman and Muslim occupiers or European empire builders, never failed  
to make efficient use of their deities on the way to achieving control, and  
preferably cooperation, of the indigenous population. “Priests and  
missionaries always came along with either armed forces or settling  
civilians,” writes Yeshua-Lyth, “effectively supporting the territorial  
takeover with the word of whatever god they had on offer. Judaism, a  
religion that for hundreds of years has devoted most of its energies to  
fending off the ‘danger of assimilation,’ could never offer even the  
pretense of opening arms and ranks for newcomers. The new, dynamic,  
ambitious, ethnic-national group that landed in Palestine with the Zionist  
message was hermetically sealed to outsiders. It had nothing to offer the  
veteran inhabitants of the land or any newcomers who were not Jewish …  
Zionist ideology adopted the view that Jews were the ‘true natives’ of the  
land it settled, and managed to regard the non-Jewish natives as invaders;  
with the great taboo on any social mingling, the Zionist paradox started its  
unholy, precarious role.”  
Many outside of Israel see a major distinction between the Labor Party and  
Likud but Ofra-Lyth shows that in their attitude toward the Palestinians,  
both parties are largely in agreement. She points to the fact that, “The  
socialist secular Israeli Labor Party continued to run the political scene  
for ten years following the Six Day War. It did not even occur to a single  
Labor leader that the new, devoted laborers from Judea, Samaria and the Gaza  
Strip should be given access to the Hebrew ‘Melting Pot.’ This was not  
because they spoke Arabic, or because they were poor or different  
culturally, or too dark skinned for the ruling classes in Tel Aviv and  
Jerusalem. After all, this also characterized most of the Yemenites, the  
Moroccans, and the Iraqis in the shack camps that still decorated the  
cities’ fringes. The Palestinians actually learned Hebrew very fast, many of  
them were well paid, and their standard of living rose accordingly, some of  
them had skins as fair as any Israeli Jew, and quite a few had academic  
qualifications or academic ambitions. But they were not of the Jewish  
religion, which meant they did not belong in the Jewish Israeli nation.  
There was no way that even a single one of them could make his or her way  
into the society that took their services for granted.”  
Orthodox Judaism and Islam  
Ironically, in the author’s view, Orthodox Judaism and Islam have a great  
deal in common, particularly when it comes to the treatment of women.  
“Islam, very much like Judaism, considers itself a religion of charity and  
mercy, but is entrenched in a staunch masculine hierarchy. Both religions  
force a very strict modesty code on women, dictating dress instructions that  
should neutralize the sexual provocation that they are supposed to embody.  
In both religions, women may not be actively involved in public prayer, or  
any other form of worship except within the home environment, while serving  
husbands and other family members. Mosques are men-only areas, while the  
synagogues have special alcoves to keep women concealed.”  
The immigrants from Russia have reinforced Israel’s right-wing politics.  
“These newcomers,” writes the author, “have developed a political frame of  
mind fervently supporting the occupation and passionately hating the  
‘Arabs.’ In heavy Russian accents, they recite the worn-out mantras about  
our ‘rights over the country’ … Never mind that so many of them have nothing  
to do with Judaism, except sometimes having a grandmother who married a Jew  
many years ago and forgot about it until it was discovered to be a key to a  
better socio-economic future for her all-Russian or Moldavian grandchildren.  
… At the roadblocks that make their lives miserable in the occupied  
territories, our Palestinian cousins often come across Russian-speaking  
Israeli soldiers who find it hard to follow their own fluent Hebrew …”  
Yeshua-Lyth finds it difficult to “fathom Israeli liberals who are truly  
appalled by the spirit of their fellow nationals; who are prepared to  
demonstrate, protest, and sign petitions against the land grabbing, the  
separation fence, the checkpoint harassments, the looting of olives, the  
destruction of homes … but they do it all to protect their fantasy of a  
would-be proper, democratic Jewish state. It never occurs to them; they  
would adamantly deny that by making our religion the law of the land, we  
renounce any claim to proper democracy.”  
Separate Religion from State  
She tells her readers that, “Religious and cultural communities, just like  
bird flocks, need no state laws to preserve their unique heritages. Jewish  
preservation of the last 2,000 years is the best proof … In this small area  
blessed by God as a meeting of three continents, some of our ancestors  
managed to launch useful social paradigms and produce truly sublime texts.  
The whole of humanity took notice … They have little or nothing to do with  
the present, weird, flawed, political-religious regime … If you want to save  
Israel, you might as well just declare it a normal state and start to  
consider all people under its sovereignty as equal citizens living in one  
territory. It is not such an impossible mission. The world is full of such  
states and of such nations, which do not waste time and energy grading  
inhabitants according to what religion that their mothers were born into.”  
The author concludes that, “I know for a fact that my fellow Israelis — some  
of them my dearest friends and beloved family — honestly believe that we  
‘happen’ to live in a complicated, unstable, explosive area. I try my best  
to make them see that there is nothing wrong with the area or with the  
neighbors, our ‘cousins’ of other denominations. It is our own peculiar  
choice of differentiating people according to their mother’s religious  
affiliation that created most of the present mess. How dare we criticize the  
Muslim Brothers for trying to change the Egyptian Constitution in favor of  
Sharia--when our own state never even ventured to produce a constitution,  
for fear it might not be compatible with the Halacha? Would our own ‘dear  
brothers’ of the faith ever stand up for equal rights for their sisters? And  
as for my so-called secular Israeli Jewish fellows: why are the only Halacha  
laws they truly respect and follow the reshaping of baby boys’ organs and  
the strict bans on fraternizing with non-Jews?”  
This book is an eloquent plea that Israel separate religion and state and  
move toward becoming a genuinely democratic society. It comes from one who  
loves her country, but wants it to become the kind of society in which she  
can truly take pride.  

< return to article list
© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.