Conservative Movement seeks to bring religion and state center stage in election

The campaign claim of a constituency 600,000-strong of voters concerned with issues of religion and state.

YIZHAR HESS (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Jewish Pluralism Watch, an institute of the Conservative Movement in Israel, has begun a campaign to bring issues of religion and state to the forefront of the electoral debate because, it says, the topic is being largely ignored by the main political parties and Knesset candidates.
Some 600,000 Israeli citizens for whom issues such as civil marriage, equal funding for non-Orthodox Jewish denominations, the liberalization of laws governing Shabbat in the public domain and others are extremely important and that it behooves Israeli politicians not to ignore this sizable sector of the population, the campaign argues.
“This group of people is worth approximately 10 Knesset seats, but our voice is not being heard,” Yizhar Hess, the director of the Conservative Movement in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “There is a reality, however, in which the political parties are running away from these issues and Knesset candidates are avoiding questions on them, and we are trying to educate politicians that it is politically profitable for them not to do this.”
The campaign claim of a constituency 600,000-strong of voters concerned with issues of religion and state comes from one of the findings of the 2013 Israel Democracy Index, in which when asked if they feel a sense of belonging to any of the different Jewish denominations, 3.2 percent of Jewish respondents said the Conservative Movement and 4 percent said the Reform Movement.
Hess noted that along with those identifying with the Reform and Conservative movements, those in the liberal Orthodox and pluralistic congregations are also keenly interested in reforming aspects of religious life.
To generate a greater dialogue on such issues, the Conservative Movement’s campaign encourages those concerned to participate in political events, rallies and house meetings with Knesset candidates, and ask them questions about their stance on some of the central concerns regarding religious life in the country.
The Jewish Pluralism Watch institute is itself hosting a number of political panel discussions involving candidates focusing on religion and state; the next one will be staged on March 3 at the Hod V’Hadar Congregation in Kfar Saba.
Hess said that the issues are not being addressed because people perceive other concerns, such as security and the cost of living as more important, and noted that the outgoing Knesset had made little headway in addressing the issues despite promises that were made.
“The last Knesset was a big failure in terms of tacking the standout issues regarding religious life. It was a big missed opportunity,” he said, adding that Yesh Atid had 19 MKs yet failed to make progress on civil unions and other important concerns.