Democracy and Judaism in Israel: Body and soul, or rival religions?

That depends on how you define democracy – which is why the ‘Jewish vs. democratic’ debate has become so fraught.

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February 4, 2015 13:38
Knesset

Knesset. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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In response to my column last month on the false choice between Israel’s Jewish and democratic characters, a reader asked a logical question: You yourself argued that Israel has no raison d’etre if it isn’t a Jewish state; being just another Western democracy isn’t enough. So why do you think “Jewish” and “democratic” deserve equal weight, instead of prioritizing Israel’s Jewish character?

Answering that requires defining “democracy,” because in recent years, two almost antithetical concepts have been sloppily – or perhaps maliciously – subsumed under this term. One of these concepts is frequently at odds with Israel’s Jewish character. But the other is as vital to the Jewish state’s continued existence as the body is to the soul.

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