Does Israeli Equal Jew? On a Shared Israeli Identity

Gershom Gorenberg

A few days ago, Haim, you responded to a challenge I raised in a post on the conversion battles. Your answer made me realize that I hadn’t phrased the question sharply enough.

I wrote: “We need to define a civic Israeli identity not dependent on halakhic status.” You wrote that I was right, but that it was sad that I was. And then you said:

The secular Israeli state’s way of determining who is Jewish—and therefore who belongs to the state’s majority culture and ethnic group—is a religious definition.

It seems to me that by beginning the discussion there, you are mixing two separate questions. One is: Can someone belong to the majority culture and society in Israel without being a member of the Jewish faith? The other is: Can Israel develop a civic identity that is shared by Jews and non-Jews, including Palestinians who are citizens of the state?

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