Halacha Vs. Democracy: Which Will Israelis Choose?

Over the past few days I have dug a little deeper into the implications of the Avi Chai survey.  In my previous post I tried to look on the bright side.  But this has not been the approach of many liberal commentators in Israel who are quite concerned about some of the responses.

Among the most worrisome is the answer to a question posed about halacha versus democracy.  Fully 44% of respondents indicated that if there were a contradiction between halachic values and democratic values, they would favor the halachic position.  This is coming from the nation that we rightly present as the only working democracy in the region.  But for how long?

The vision of the first Zionists (at least the ones that I like!) was a Jewish state in which Jewish culture would flourish and evolve.  While Jewish culture is definitely flourishing, I’m not sure that it’s evolving in the way that many of us have hoped.

Many halachic values and rules are in complete contradiction to modern values as we see them evolving.  Among these are the treatment of women and gays.  If Israel is to move forward as a 21st century nation, there must be more education for democracy.  I shudder to imagine a non-democratic, halachic state emerging.  It would certainly be the death knell of any strong connection between Israelis and Jewish communities located in modern, western democracies.

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About Jeffrey L. Falick

Jeffrey L. Falick is the Secular Humanistic Rabbi of The Birmingham Temple Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Michigan. He is also certified as a Senior Humanist Celebrant by the American Humanist Association and is president and founder of Humanists of Southeast Michigan.


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