Losing Our Religion: The Unfortunate Need for a Secular Israeli Identity

Haim Watzman

In his recent post on the conversion obstructionism of Israel’s established church, Gershom wrote: “We need to define a civic Israeli identity not dependent on halakhic status.” He’s right, but it’s sad that he is.

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. True, that’s partly an artifact of Israeli politics, but not just. It’s a definition with roots in deep in Jewish religion and history, and in the way the Jewish nation views itself. And it’s something to be proud of.

The halachic position is that a person need not be Jewish to be close to God. Being a member of the Chosen People means being subject to special duties, but it gives you no monopoly on righteousness or spirituality.

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