Religious Secular Divide Essay

2304 words - 10 pages

Israel is a state founded on the ideology of being a land for the Jewish people. To be able to accomplish this feat, it has been reasoned by Theodor Herzl, in his publication “Der Judenstaat” (1896), that the Jewish people see themselves as more than a religious body, but rather as a nation which is able to create political institutions in a land of its own. While presenting this idea, Herzl also put down a separation of church and state, creating a non-theocratic state. He claimed that “Faith unites us, knowledge gives us freedom.” The debate over how much of an input religion should have in Israeli policy and public life is continuing today. Different groups of Israelis with diverse ...view middle of the document...

The ultra-orthodox, as a large proportion of the population, and one which is growing rapidly, have a large impact on the outcomes of elections and therefore the role of religion in Israeli politics and law, moving into the future.
In the Israeli parliamentary system there are parties which are formed on the basis of their religiosity. Between 1949 and 1984 the religious parties gained between 11.8% (1951 and 973) and 15% (1961) of the total national votes and between 1951 and 1984 the percentage of the total religious vote for the National Religious Party dropped from 69.4% to 31.5%. There are many factors contributing to this drop, including an overall decline in the religiosity within the National religious population and the formation of other religiously based parties. Notably, in 1984, the newly formed Shas party gained 26.5% of the total religious vote, correlating to a drop of approximately 15% for Aguda between 1981 and 1984. Currently there are two ultra-orthodox parties, United Torah Judaism, which is a joint list of Agudat Israel and Degel Hatorah, who formed for their first elections for the 13th Knesset in 1992. The Shas party is an ultra-orthodox Sephardi party, who were formed in 1984 as a show of disapproval when they were not well represented on the Agudat Israel list. Shas aim to repair the “continued economic and social discrimination against the Sephardic population of Israel.” The party has a very distinct purpose, representing a minority component of the population, being the ultra-orthodox Sephardim and also gain support from non-Hasidic Ashkenazim. The voting patterns of the orthodox communities are often able to shape the coalition. By voting in Members of Knesset from smaller religious parties, if the Member of Knesset is willing to “prop up the coalition government” the leading parties are more willing to accept specific concerns relating to religious legislation.
The religious status quo arrangement was written in a letter in 1947 from David Ben Gurion and leadership within the Jewish Agency to Agudat Israel, a non-Zionist Orthodox group, it’s purpose was to gain the support of the religious leaders. The letter outlined four areas of guarantee to assure the religious leaders that the formation of Israel would not jeopardise the value system and practice of Orthodox Jews. These were that “Saturday would be a day of rest, governmental institutions would serve Kosher food, Orthodox courts would have jurisdiction in issues of personal law (particularly matters of marriage and divorce), and religious educational institutions would have autonomy.” Elements of this agreement were and many still are legislated. As far as keeping Shabbat as a rest day, the Law and Administration Ordinance of 1948 and the Working hours and Rest Law of 1951 “prohibits employment on the Sabbath” with the exception of imperative services which are necessary to the public or if the state is in a situation when security or the economy of...

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