MKs call for greater religious pluralism following ‘Post’ poll

Oren: Israel must be a nation state for all Jews • Lavie: Public wants ‘more inclusive Judaism’

One of the earliest images showing Jews praying at the Western Wall (photo credit: BONFILS)
One of the earliest images showing Jews praying at the Western Wall
(photo credit: BONFILS)
In reaction to a poll showing that 62% of Israeli Jews believe that the state should formally recognize the Reform and Conservative denominations, several MKs have called for greater religious pluralism.
The poll, commissioned by The Jerusalem Post and the American Jewish Committee, also showed high levels of support for the stalled Western Wall agreement among Israeli and American Jews, while 54% of Israeli Jews said they were opposed to the Orthodox monopoly over matters of religion in the country.
MK Michael Oren of the Kulanu party, a member of the governing coalition, emphasized Israel’s claim to represent all Jews, and said that the state should fulfill this goal.
“Israel defines itself as the nation-state of the Jewish people, not just Orthodox Jews, or just Reform and Conservative Jews, but all Jews, so Israel must live up to itself and to its self-proclaimed definition,” Oren told the Post.
Of the nine MKs from the religious parties United Torah Judaism, Shas and Bayit Yehudi contacted by the Post, all declined to comment on the poll findings, including the respective party leaders Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, Interior Minister Arye Deri and Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett.
Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern said that the reason for ongoing Orthodox control of religious life was due to the desire of the prime minister and others to preserve the coalition.
“Unfortunately, these statistics do not interest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett,” said Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern.
“Despite the fact that they understand the importance of the connection with Diaspora Jewry and the different streams in Judaism, they are abandoning the majority of the Jewish people in the Diaspora and our very important connection to US Jewry in order to strengthen their coalition,” he continued.
Several lawmakers from the opposition told the Jewish Pluralism Watch institute that the findings showed that government policies do not reflect the will of the majority of Israeli citizens and or address the dangers of alienating Diaspora Jewry.
“I have repeatedly emphasized to the government that its activities against the Reform and Conservative denominations, such as freezing the Western Wall compromise agreement, the passage of the discriminatory mikve law, failure to recognize the marriages and conversions, and the Orthodox monopoly in general not only alienates Israeli Jews from Judaism but also alienates US Jews from Israel,” said Meretz MK Michal Rozin. “This is a national problem, which is likely to have effects on Israel’s security as well,” he said.
MK Aliza Lavie of Yesh Atid said that the poll results demonstrated that a large portion of the public wanted to see “a more inclusive and respectful Judaism” and that such a goal is obtainable.
“The results show that while politicians and politicos are busy inflaming passions and divisiveness among the different sectors, the majority of the public is looking for the common denominator and has put an emphasis on the foundations that unite us, which is Jewish identity,” said Lavie.
MK Nachman Shai of the Zionist Union argued that while the findings regarding US Jewry’s support for religious pluralism were not surprising, he said it’s a disappointment when Israel’s policies on such issues were justified.
Shai said he had recently returned from a visit with several MKs to four Jewish federations in North America where such frustration had been relayed to him, especially given what he described as the widespread support North American Jewry gives to Israel.
Regarding the high level of support for state recognition of the progressive denominations, Shai said it was clear that the government’s modus operandi was totally different from this position.
“The Israeli public is apparently more open and more self-secure, and does not worry about new and different approaches,” said the MK.