Development of Government and Religion in the State of Israel
The Development of Government and Religion in the State of Israel (Kindle Edition)
Few western nations have religion so tied into their national psyche as the State of Israel. Surrounded on all sides by Arab Muslim theocratic monarchies, in the cases of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, or quasi-totalitarian states, in the cases of Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria, Israel is herself in many ways a contradiction. Israel is not a theocracy, but rather a democracy burdened by an official state faith and by religious legislation that often serves more to divide than to unite its people.
Founded in the secular, socialist European tradition, Israel now struggles with its identity as an increasing number of religious extremists who deny the basic maxims of democratic politics pull the state toward the right in an attempt to establish a theocratic state. One of the greatest problems Israel faces today is the struggle toward modernity; while the mainstream Israeli government, bolstered by a string of secularist decisions by the Israeli Supreme Court, embraces the challenges of the modern world, the Orthodox community and its increasing political clout is seen by many as rejecting modernity, “a by-product of the observance of Jewish law and its integrity.”
The development of government and the evolution of religious sentiment in the State of Israel have roughly paralleled each other during the last fifty years, following a steady movement to the right that began in earnest in the early 1970s, picked up speed in the 1980s, and reached its full efflorescence with the elections of 1996 and 1999. The government’s move to the right has been met with, or perhaps instigated by, the retreat of modern Orthodoxy and the strengthening of ultra-Orthodox tendencies.
This work, a short critical essay on religion, government, and the State of Israel, considers the history and development of Israeli democracy and the interplay of religion and government in the Jewish state. One of the essay’s major themes is the ways in which these complex relationships have impacted Israel’s move toward modernity and the Jewishness of the State of Israel.
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