Government allocations favoring the Orthodox, extra legal protection to Jewish holy sites and Orthodox hegemony over life-cycle events are among Israel's religious freedom violations highlighted in a US State Department report released Wednesday.
While Israel's Basic Law describes the country
as a Jewish and democratic state, "Government policy continued to
support the generally free practice of religion, although governmental
and legal discrimination against non-Jews and non-Orthodox streams of
Judaism continued," according to the report.
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The report pointed out that "Government allocations of state resources
favored Orthodox (including Modern and National Religious streams of
Orthodoxy) and ultra-Orthodox (sometimes referred to as 'Haredi') Jewish
religious groups and institutions, discriminating against non-Jews and
non-Orthodox streams of Judaism."
The report also took issue with the fact that three Messianic Jews who
attempted to immigrate to Israel during the reporting period were denied
and that national identification documents differentiate between Jews
The report pointed out that the state does not recognize conversions to
Judaism performed in Israel by non-Orthodox rabbis and does not support
non-Orthodox conversion institutions in the country. It also highlighted
that the only in-country marriages recognized by the state are those
performed by the "Orthodox Jewish establishment," and that exclusive
control over marriages rests with it. The report also points out that
the Orthodox Jewish establishment determines who can be buried in Jewish
The report also takes issue with Israel's policy on holy sites.
"The 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law applies to holy sites of all
religious groups within the country and in all of Jerusalem, but the
government implements regulations only for Jewish sites. Non-Jewish holy
sites do not enjoy legal protection under it because the government
does not recognize them as official holy sites," according to the
The report also cited the Egged bus company for operating sex-segregated
buses along some lines, the prohibition against women wearing prayer
shawls at the Western Wall and the government's disproportionate funding
of synagogues over the places of worship of other religions. It also
cited animosity between secular and religious Jews, as well as animosity
against Messianic groups.
The report applauded the Supreme Court for ruling that the government
must stop discriminating against non-Orthodox conversion institutes in
regard to state funding and the Education Ministry's approval of the
accreditation of the country's first fully independent Arab university,
Mar Elias College.