What are we first- Jews or Israelis?
The debate that divided the government and the Israeli public lately - what is more important, the right to demonstrate or the right to pray raised the Identity discussion that we all know from our days in the youth movements- what are we more? Israelis or Jewish?
The minister of transportation Miri Regev stated that "the tension between Jews and Israelis tapers in the debate between the demonstrations and the prayers and is a product of hypocrisy and lack of relevance within the Israeli left".
In opposition to Regev's point of view, for everyone who defines themselves as liberals, there needs to be no dilemma and no conflict between these identities. The purpose of Zionism as expressed in our Declaration of Independence is clear about this issue, Israel is the national state of all Jewish people as well as the state of all its citizens with no differentiation between religion, race, and nationality. Jewish and Israeli Liberals feel an equal solidarity towards all Jews in the world as well as towards the non -Jewish citizens of Israel.
In the past years there is a rise in the Anti Liberal approach, that represents today the Likud party (un like the Likud headed by Menachem Begin and other leaders of the Revisionist movement that were liberals). One of the expressions of this attitude was the National Law that highly damaged the sense of equality of the non- Jewish citizens of Israel, in an attempt to divert the scale in favor of Judaism in the equation between Jewish and Democratic.
Liberal Jews on the other hand do not see any conflict between Judaism and Democracy. On the contrary, it was Judaism who granted humanity the first principles of Liberalism in stating that we are all born in the human form. It was this democracy and liberalism who enabled Jews to prosper in the liberal countries, first of whom the USA in contrast to blunt antisemitism in the non- liberal countries even if today they are pro- Israel from the wrong reasons.
From the Liberal side everyone has the right to demonstrate and pray as long as there is no harm to others and the rules of health are maintained. In many of the demonstrations I participated in, I saw a crowed that is being strict about the rules, wearing masks in the same way I saw many communities praying in the open air while observing the regulations of health in the high holidays Rosh Hashanah and you Kippur.
Despite of all said here there is a scenario where we will allegedly have to choose the horrible choice- What do we prefer, Democracy or a Jewish state. This choice will be forced upon us if we will not succeed in reaching a two-state solution with the Palestinians. At that point we will have to choose between our ability to preserve Israel as the national state of the Jewish people or prefer democracy because we will lose the Jewish majority in the state. In this case It is clear to me that I will sadly prefer to give up the Jewish character in order to prevent us from becoming an Apartheid state. Does this choice make me more Israeli then Jewish?
The answer is no, since the choice of Apartheid does not only contradict the democratic values but also the Jewish values. This choice will terminate the Israeli connection with the large majority of the Jewish people that has liberal views. More than 80 precent of the North American Jews will not regard themselves committed to an apartheid state.
There is no contradiction between Judaism and democracy and we are committed to guard the right to demonstrate and the right to pray. I am secular in every spear of my body but I am Jewish in my national belonging and by being a part of a Jewish civilization. That is why I believe that we can be a national state of the Jewish people even more if we separate religion from state. I believe that we can't prevent Jews from practicing what they believe in as commandments, just as it is wrong to coerce religion on secular people like myself.
That is why we can't let anti-Liberal elements to place a fake dilemma in front of our faces. We can't let the twisted interpretation of Judaism and nationalism to detach us from the values of Liberal Zionism, that allow us to preserve our unique identity along with preserving universal Humanistic values.
(This article was published in Zman Israel on 2 of October 2020)