An Israeli think tank has recommended that the Israeli government should promote Jewish holidays not as a religious event but rather as Jewish culture.
The leadership of the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) – co-chair Dennis Ross and president Yedidia Stern – presented an executive summary of the institute’s “2022 Annual Assessment of the Situation and Dynamics of the Jewish People” during the government’s weekly cabinet meeting. The project manager for the assessment is researcher and journalist Shmuel Rosner.
The institute stated that the Israeli government should “promote the unifying presence of Jewish holidays in Israel’s public and private spheres.”
In the explanation, the writers specified that “those who plan holiday activities should use the language of Jewish culture rather than of Jewish religion. This is especially the case when the activities are intended for a secular and traditional nonreligious public with reservations, sometimes significant ones, about anything couched in religious language.”
“those who plan holiday activities should use the language of Jewish culture rather than of Jewish religion. This is especially the case when the activities are intended for a secular and traditional nonreligious public with reservations, sometimes significant ones, about anything couched in religious language.”JPPI
Among the JPPI’s recommendations to the government was establishing dialogue with Jews who support the Democratic Party, to secure its support in advancing Israel’s position on the nuclear Iran issue. The JPPI recommended that Diaspora communities, in turn, should secure assistance from Israel in establishing projects for Jewish education.
The JPPI also advised that philanthropy in Israel should be encouraged; that a proper response to the increasing number of Israelis not recognized as Jews must be formulated; and that the “continued rapid growth of the ultra-Orthodox community requires intra- and extra-sectoral attention.”
Former US advisor
Ross, a former senior adviser to three US presidents, made it clear that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had quieted criticism of Israel within the Democratic Party. Some members of the party have portrayed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the main threat to world peace.
However, Ross warned that taking the two-state formula off the table could lead to a Palestinian claim to equal rights within one state. Such a claim would gain sympathy from the American electorate.
During the discussion, Stern outlined the main points of the report.
“The core beliefs and emotional ties that ‘made us one’ are weakening dramatically, while questions from the ideological and identity fringes are growing within Israel and outside it,” he said.
Stern emphasized the need to prepare a comprehensive and strategic plan that would give meaning to the 2018 Nation-State Law, which obligates the State of Israel to act to cultivate Jewish identity and affinity for Israel in the Diaspora.
In the report, there are a number of new and interesting recommendations to the Israeli government.
“Israelis must understand what it will mean to live in an era when antisemitism is a persistent factor in Jewish life and prepare for that era accordingly, while formulating plans for appropriate explanatory, diplomatic and security activity,” the report said.
The JPPI advised the government to “entrust the response to antisemitism to a single integrative body with powers and implementation capabilities.”
Israeli government responds
The government ministers who referred to the JPPI’s report said that the Israeli government has not paid enough attention to the challenges facing the Jewish people.
The government faces a myriad of issues, the report noted, particularly the preservation of Jewish identity and the sense of peoplehood in both Israel and the Diaspora; cohesion between the Jewish communities of Israel and abroad; the consequences of escalating antisemitism worldwide and its negative impact on identification with Judaism and Israel.
Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev commented that the institute’s Annual Assessment shows a decline in many indicators of the current situation.
“We as a government fail to deal with the Jewish world,” Bar-Lev said. “We do not take enough responsibility for the well-being of the Jewish people.”
Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, joined by Acting Jewish Agency Chairman Yaakov Hagoel, called for the preparation of a plan for improving Jewish education in the Diaspora.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai pointed out the necessity of establishing a coherent system for combating antisemitism and called on the government to take active responsibility for enhancing the well-being of Diaspora Jews.