Top Thinkers in a Special Project: What is a Jewish State?

Israel is a “Jewish state.” What is the meaning of this, and how does it align with the democratic nature of the country? These are the questions at the core of a contentious debate that has been raging since the establishment of the state.

To promote a deep and comprehensive discussion on this topic, the Jewish People Policy Institute, in cooperation with Academic Studies Press, published the book ‘A Jewish State – 75 Perspectives’, which includes 75 essays by illustrious thinkers on Jewish-Israeli identity.

Edited by Aharon Barak, Jeuda Reinharz, Yedidia Stern and Haim Zicherman, the essays were written by Jews and non-Jews – from Israel and around the world. Its pages include dreams and nightmares, poetic visions and rational analyses, harsh critiques, and songs of praise. This collection is a first-of-its-kind nexus of thought on nationality, religion, politics, culture, society, environment, economics, and security. It is essential reading for any future discussion of Israeli identity.

This website presents the essays in full alongside video clips of some of the writers discussing the meaning of the Jewish identity of the State of Israel. You can also watch the book’s special launch events, which included the participation of public leaders, intellectuals, and JPPI researchers.

Articles

Editors’ Introduction

By: Aharon Barak, Jehuda Reinharz, Yedidia Stern
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Editors’ Introduction

A key feature of Israeli life today is the lack of a broad social, political, intellectual, and experiential consensus on the proper vision for the state. Life amid controversy, though it has its positive side, can also be a dangerously destabilizing force.
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Jewish and Democratic – Common Ground for a Common Camp: The Start of a Conversation

By: Isaac Herzog
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Jewish and Democratic – Common Ground for a Common Camp: The Start of a Conversation

What we want, rather, is to stabilize the foundations on which our Jewish and Israeli discourse will continually renew itself – based on our commitment to each other and on our pledge to stick together, to take our fate into our own hands and move forward toward our shared future.
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The Mission of the Jewish State

By: Naftali Bennett
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The Mission of the Jewish State

what is Israel’s mission as a Jewish state? To provide Jews with security in their national home, to strengthen Jewish existence around the world while aspiring to bring Jews abroad to Israel, and to set an example for other nations by demonstrating how a moral Jewish state takes an intelligent and inventive approach to the challenges posed by the complex world in which we all live.
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What Israel Means to Me

By: Dennis Ross
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What Israel Means to Me

The Jewish state must remain a democratic, pluralistic one. To be Jewish but not democratic is an inherent contradiction. Nothing would betray Jewish values more than for Israel to surrender its democratic identity.
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The State of the Jews Writ Large

By: Stuart Eizenstat
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The State of the Jews Writ Large

Israel cannot adjust its positions simply because of outside criticism, but as it becomes a more conservative/right wing country, it runs counter to the moderate/liberal views of a majority of American Jews, particularly young liberal American Jews.
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A Spiritually Feminine Perspective

By: Rachel “Ruchie” Freier
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A Spiritually Feminine Perspective

There’s something about the Land of Israel. An invisible tether which tugs every Jew toward our homeland, and as a student, professional, wife, mother, and grandmother, my home is always there for me when I need it.
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Israel, Gateway of Hope

By: Jonathan Sacks
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Israel, Gateway of Hope

A day will come when the story of Israel in modern times will speak not just to Jews but to all who believe in the power of the human spirit as it reaches out to God, as an ever-lasting symbol of the victory of life over death, hope over despair.
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The State of Israel’s Values as a Jewish State

By: Aharon Barak
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The State of Israel’s Values as a Jewish State

The phrase “Israel’s values as a Jewish and democratic state” reflects the uniqueness of the State of Israel and of Israeli society. We are not like all the nations; we are not like other states. We are a democracy, and our values are those of any democratic country. However, we are also a Jewish state, and are values are therefore the values of a Jewish state. Israeli society must contend with this duality.
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What is a Jewish State?

By: David Grossman
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What is a Jewish State?

 Countless layers of Jewish-Israeli existence accumulated during the seventy-five years of the state's independence, and in fact began to form years before its establishment. Every moment of Israel's happening contains all the DNA of the twisted, vibrant and turbulent expression of the Jewish state known as the State of Israel.
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Things We See from There: What I Discovered When We Went to the United States for a Year

By: Sivan Rahav-Meir
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Things We See from There: What I Discovered When We Went to the United States for a Year

We may complain about the Israeli education system, and there’s certainly room for improvement, but let’s imagine what would happen if the Israeli-Jewish knowledge base that our education system transmits to students were available to all American Jews as well.
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The State of Israel – 75 Years, and What Next?

By: Ehud Olmert
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The State of Israel – 75 Years, and What Next?

The time has come to build our state rather than continuing to invest our economic and human resources in a land that is not ours, from which we will have to withdraw sooner or later – preferably sooner.
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“Enlarge the Place of Thy Tent”: Judaism and Democracy in Harmony

By: Ayelet Shaked
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“Enlarge the Place of Thy Tent”: Judaism and Democracy in Harmony

There are indeed 70 faces to the Torah. This is also true for Israel’s definition as a Jewish state. Yet although they may sharply diverge, there is no need, or reason, to shrink from making decisions in the spirit of the overall outlook that imbues real substance into Israel’s existence as a “Jewish and democratic” state.
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Bringing Jews Together in an Age of Polarization

By: Doron Almog
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Bringing Jews Together in an Age of Polarization

The melting-pot of Israeli society preserves within it the memory of two thousand years of exile, wars, and pogroms. Despite the disparities, disagreements, and tensions between the different sectors of society, the social melting-pot became the engine driving Israel to unprecedented achievements over the years of its existence.
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The State of Israel – From Adolescence to Adulthood

By: Yedidia Stern
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The State of Israel – From Adolescence to Adulthood

The actual collective picture is better than the image Israelis have of themselves. Still, the identity crisis casts its shadows on Israel’s sovereign existence, and its gravity should not be downplayed.
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Yisrael Aumann

By: Yisrael Aumann
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Yisrael Aumann

Israel is a Jewish state because the vast majority of the people living in it are Jewish, because its public sphere is Jewish, because to a great extent private life is also Jewish, and because it is located in Eretz Israel, the national home of the Jewish people for thousands of years.
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Israeli Judaism: The Continuing Chapter in the Jewish Story

By: Micah Goodman
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Israeli Judaism: The Continuing Chapter in the Jewish Story

Of all Zionism’s attainments, and of all that Israel has accomplished on the political, military, technological, and economic planes, history will remember, above all, the state’s cultural achievement: the creation of a climate that enabled the Jewish people to write a continuing chapter to the Jewish story.
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A Fluid Definition of Judaism

By: Kobi Oz
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A Fluid Definition of Judaism

A people can be scattered around the world, but usually they are concentrated in their homelands, and that’s a good thing. A people’s homeland is the cradle of its culture. However, the world benefits when portions of individual nations migrate from their own lands and return to them occasionally. This movement mixes, connects, and helps nations distinguish themselves while also integrating with each other.
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Democracy and Monotheism: A Proposed Direction

By: Meir Buzaglo
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Democracy and Monotheism: A Proposed Direction

Religiously-observant people who see democratic values as a threat are doubly mistaken: They are leaving democracy to manipulative forces that understand democracy’s mission to be one of antireligious secularization. At the same time, they fail to realize that updating Judaism for our times means progressing far along the road toward democracy.
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The Vision

By: Eliezer Melamed
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The Vision

The Jewish people’s “identity card” is the vision of establishing, in Eretz Israel, a great and blessed people that adheres to the values of faith, righteousness, and justice, and that brings blessing to all families of the earth. In order for us to realize this great vision, God gave us the Torah, so that by its guidance and mitzvot we may engage in bettering the world.
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The Covenant State

By: Yehuda Yifrach
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The Covenant State

If we are to formulate a clear vision for the Jewish state, let us say that Judaism should be part of the “basic values of the system.” A Jewish state organizes its way of life on the basis of focused dialogue between the world of Jewish values and the world of liberal-democratic values.
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A Jewish State: The State the Jewish People Deserves

By: Yehoshua Pfeffer
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A Jewish State: The State the Jewish People Deserves

The State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, whose character determines the character of the state. This character is the basic common denominator of the “people who dwell in Zion.” If we so merit, then the minorities among us, minorities that are not Jewish, will become attached to that vision out of respect and appreciation. If not, we will have to improve.
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From Jewish State to “Jewish Supremacy”

By: Nahum Barnea
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From Jewish State to “Jewish Supremacy”

I am a concerned Israeli. I’m afraid that when the dispute over the values embodied in a Jewish state dissipates, we will end up with something much simpler, much cruder: Jewish supremacy; a supremacy based not on values or heritage, but on ethnicity. White supremacy in the United States, Jewish supremacy in Israel.
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What Zionism Lacks at 75: A Border

By: Jeremy Ben-Ami
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What Zionism Lacks at 75: A Border

The only way to avoid choosing between being either Jewish or democratic is for the conflict with the Palestinians to be resolved by providing the Palestinian people with the opportunity to fulfill their just collective right to self-determination in a separate state of their own.
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A Mushroom State or Covenant State?

By: Chaim Navon
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A Mushroom State or Covenant State?

A Jewish state does not mean a halachic state. That is not relevant so long as all Jews in Israel do not choose to lead a life of Torah and of mitzvah observance. On the other hand, a democratic state does not mean a state founded on progressive values in their radical sense.
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Israel as an Inspiration

By: Howard Kohr
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Israel as an Inspiration

Israel’s path to the confident Jewish State it is today was not predictable. And in critical ways, without America’s friendship and support, it would not have happened at all. But America’s soul and America’s spirit owes much to the biblical roots of the Jewish people.
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A (Levantine) Jewish and Democratic State

By: Yifat Bitton
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A (Levantine) Jewish and Democratic State

The Israeli legal system should consider opening its doors not only to the liberal value system on which democracy is graciously founded, but also to the local, Middle Eastern and traditional values present in its environment.
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A Nation Running from Itself

By: Aluf Benn
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A Nation Running from Itself

The State of Israel, perhaps unique among the countries of the world, may be the only that refuses to refer itself by its nationality – “Israeli.” It disbelieves the existence of an Israeli nation, and as it grows older it has become ever more entrenched behind its “Jewish state” definition and has rejected the idea of “Israeliness.”
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Israel’s Role toward the Diaspora

By: Elliott Abrams
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Israel’s Role toward the Diaspora

Israel as a Jewish and democratic state has already become the center of world Jewish life, and its population growth and vitality will make that role even more important as it passes from 75 to 100 years old. It must, given its military prowess and growing economy, take its rightful place among the democratic states in what used to be known as the Western alliance or the ‘free world.’ And it must reach out to the Diaspora communities not to seek help but to offer it.
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To Be a Free Nation in Our Land …

By: Motti Golani and Jehuda Reinharz
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To Be a Free Nation in Our Land …

Now that Israel is long past the founding stage and its story has ceased to be that of a powerless minority, it would do well to reacquaint itself with the positive aspects of Weizmannism – an exemplary, measured, moral, and self-confident approach oriented toward promoting a diverse Jewish-Israeli identity through ongoing dialogue, rather than via the political power of an orthodoxy extremist in the identity or the political spheres
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The Imperative of a Pluralistic, Jewish, and Democratic State of Israel

By: Rick Jacobs
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The Imperative of a Pluralistic, Jewish, and Democratic State of Israel

While I deeply believe that Israel should be a Jewish as well as democratic state, there are many ways to be a Jewish state without elevating one expression of Judaism over the others and denying the fundamental rights of so many Jewish citizens, and without denying non-Jewish citizens equal rights.
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“Here the Divine Presence Will Reside”

By: Hagai Segal
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“Here the Divine Presence Will Reside”

The Declaration of Independence promises that Israel will be “based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel.” To our great pride and satisfaction, the state is indeed guided by those precepts, or at least aspires to be, though it is still far from conducting itself as envisaged by the Prophets. The Declaration’s drafters themselves made selective use of the prophetic vision, to great rhetorical effect.
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“Just a Word of Hebrew Pierces My Veins and My Soul” A Jewish State as Culture

By: Dina Zilber
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“Just a Word of Hebrew Pierces My Veins and My Soul” A Jewish State as Culture

How can one encompass an entire world – “What is a Jewish state?” – within a single short article? One cannot, nor is it necessary. If, nevertheless, we are obliged to compress all the abundance, richness and joy embodied in the existence of a Jewish state into one word, I think that word should be: “culture.”
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By Right, Not Might

By: Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau
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By Right, Not Might

Safeguarding the state’s identity exacts a price here and there in terms of inconvenience and restrictions of various kinds. But the nation’s resilience requires that we pay the price necessary to uphold its values, certainly those that define its identity and justify its existence.
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Israel is the State of the Jewish People – Not a Jewish State

By: Alan Dershowitz
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Israel is the State of the Jewish People – Not a Jewish State

Israel is the national manifestation of our current Jewish civilization – though not its only manifestation. To characterize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people is to recognize its diversity as well as its commonality.
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Urgently Needed: A State Education System for Israel

By: Shay Piron
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Urgently Needed: A State Education System for Israel

Israel needs to encourage the establishment of integrated schools for religious and secular pupils, where the encounter between the communities will not superficialize or erode each individual community but rather fortify the communities and deepen their respective identities.
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Zionism Remains a Freedom Struggle

By: Bret Stephens
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Zionism Remains a Freedom Struggle

An argument is sometimes made that the term “Zionism” no longer means much. In this reading, Zionism was a 19th- and 20th-century project to regain a secure and recognized Jewish homeland. It succeeded in 1948. Those who approve of the project have gotten on with it; those who don’t approve need to get over it. End of story. But leaving aside the fact that this homeland is neither universally recognized nor truly secure, this view of Zionism sells its true meaning short.
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The Struggle for Israeli Nature: Reshaping Judaism and Zionism Narratives

By: Netta Ahituv
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The Struggle for Israeli Nature: Reshaping Judaism and Zionism Narratives

The Jewish intellectual world has yet to produce a leader of stature, comparable to the Pope, who might advocate for a change in our relationship with nature. During the 20th century, the Jewish people’s physical and spiritual survival was in jeopardy, leaving no physical or mental resources with which to address the earth’s survival.
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“Judging the Judges” in a Jewish and Democratic State

By: Sharon Shalom
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“Judging the Judges” in a Jewish and Democratic State

Israeli society, Jewish and non-Jewish, needs to make the right and appropriate choice: that of every group and individual integrating its glorious past with the new reality imposed upon it as a necessary part of the process of establishing the state. Difference is not a flaw. It is a fact. Lack of mutual love and respect are the disease.
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A Jewish State Marked by Solidarity

By: Miron C. Izakson
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A Jewish State Marked by Solidarity

The “Jewish and democratic” pairing in any case represents what chemists would call a compound, not a mixture. Neither of these components should be discussed separately; each of the two foundational values should strive where possible to display that aspect of it that best “speaks” to its counterpart.
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Jewish and/or Democratic in Numbers

By: Tamar Hermann
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Jewish and/or Democratic in Numbers

What it means for the State of Israel to be defined legally and cognitively as “Jewish and democratic” (in that order) has for years been at the center of public and political debate and will likely remain so in the future. How do Israeli citizens understand this dual definition?
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Can We Know the Future of the State of Israel?

By: Shmuel Eliyahu
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Can We Know the Future of the State of Israel?

The Bible does not mention the State of Israel by name, but it talks a great deal about all the processes that make up the state. Hundreds of prophecies on dozens of topics relate in great detail how Israel comes to achieve statehood and describe the processes underway on the global plane parallel to the founding of the state.
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Democratic Values and the Jewish State: A Work in Progress

By: Blu Greenberg
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Democratic Values and the Jewish State: A Work in Progress

Learning ways to manage controversies between state and religion can also teach individuals and institutions ways of dealing with conflict in other areas of life. These include interpersonal relationships in matters as simple as how to listen to the other, how to find growth in controversy, how not to abdicate responsibility prematurely, and how to figure out when to choose tenacity and when to compromise.
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75 Burning Candles

By: Zeruya Shalev
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75 Burning Candles

It seems to me that the way to overcome the problematic genetics of Jewish sovereignty is to set limits to it – not just mutually acceptable physical limits but also a healthy boundary between religion and state.
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The State of Israel and the Jewish People in the Diaspora

By: Pinchas Goldschmidt
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The State of Israel and the Jewish People in the Diaspora

I believe that the time has come within Israeli internal politics for every sector and tribe to set aside the inter-sectoral conflicts of the past and to think about how we – together – can ensure the future of all Israeli citizens and the state’s continued connection with Diaspora Jewry.
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Israel – a Jewish and Democratic State, or a Democratic and Jewish State: Toward a New Framework for Jewish Existence in Israel

By: Avi Sagi
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Israel – a Jewish and Democratic State, or a Democratic and Jewish State: Toward a New Framework for Jewish Existence in Israel

The basic infrastructure that gives the state its legitimacy is rooted in the democratic model itself and in the contract at its core, and not in its Jewishness. On the contrary, Israel’s democraticity is the basis for Jewish flourishing, as we shall presently see. Israel is indeed a “democratic and Jewish state.”
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Israel as a Measure of Jewish Moral Fiber

By: Susannah Heschel
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Israel as a Measure of Jewish Moral Fiber

Rising antisemitism around the world makes the State of Israel essential and the need for justice and peace with Palestinian Arabs also essential. Ultimately, Israel is a measure of Jewish moral fiber, a demand that "justice prevails over power, that awareness of God penetrates human understanding."
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Israel Between Nationalism, Religion, and Liberalism

By: Moshe Halbertal
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Israel Between Nationalism, Religion, and Liberalism

The most important and central issue with which the State of Israel has to contend is that of determining its character as a democratic Jewish state. Resolution of this issue will determine the state’s identity and, for good or ill, its future and its very legitimacy. At the heart of the tension lie two questions: What constitutional and legal elements may be derived from Israel’s “Jewish” component, and how do these elements accord, if at all, with the state’s liberal-democratic obligations?
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A Jewish State That Recognizes a Person’s Humanity

By: Binyamin Lau
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A Jewish State That Recognizes a Person’s Humanity

 
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Between Myth and Detention Center

By: Ofri Ilany
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Between Myth and Detention Center

From a birds-eye view, the modern project of reestablishing Jewish sovereignty is one of the most stirring political stories of the new age. It is not surprising that some of the modern era’s greatest intellectuals were taken with the vision of a renewed Jewish state and of the Jews’ return to their ancient land. Despite being secular, I find great value in this romantic vision.
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“Will Two Walk Together Unless They Are Agreed?”

By: Haim Zicherman
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“Will Two Walk Together Unless They Are Agreed?”

A life-affirming leadership should strive to expand the common ground between Israeli society’s different subgroups by employing the two central values of the state: Judaism and democracy. One the one hand, civics instruction should be provided to Haredi pupils, in the spirit of what Chazal had to say about the necessity of the fear of government. On the other hand, pupils in the state education system should be familiarized with Jewish tradition and culture.
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The State of the Jewish People, Substantive Democracy and the Republic of All Its Citizens

By: Fania Oz-Salzberger
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The State of the Jewish People, Substantive Democracy and the Republic of All Its Citizens

the state of the Jews will not enjoy stability or peace without also becoming the state of all its citizens as well; not as a substitute for, or an evasion of, Israel’s national-Jewish character, and not as a renunciation of Judaism’s important and inspirational presence in Israeli culture and in the Israeli public realm, but as a shared sphere of civic activity for the public good of Jews and non-Jews in Israel.
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A Country is Born

By: Éliette Abécassis
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A Country is Born

A Jewish state is a state where the vision of the Jews can be fulfilled: to be together in this land and make it a role model, a human and moral utopia, a land where everyone can live together, and in harmony with the world.
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For the Land Shall Be Full of Judaism

By: Moshe Grylak
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For the Land Shall Be Full of Judaism

The State of Israel, does indeed have major accomplishments to its credit in all areas, and this remarkable success is a cause of wonder across the globe. Without going into detail here, this little country has become an international empire in several fields. And yet its worldview, even today, is diametrically opposed to the concept of am haTorah, “the people of the Torah,” which is itself the secret of our survival.
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Keeping Israel Jewish without Politics

By: Yaakov Katz
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Keeping Israel Jewish without Politics

Creating a free market for religion would not only heal internal domestic tension but would also improve Israel’s relationship with the Jewish communities across the Diaspora. Israel is a Jewish state, and to retain that status, it needs to give Jews from around the world a feeling that they can look at Israel as their home.
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A Raison d’etre for a Future Israeli-Jewish Democracy

By: David Passig
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A Raison d’etre for a Future Israeli-Jewish Democracy

The new Israeli-Jewish entity wants to be recognized as a Jewish state and not only as a state for Jews. Therefore, it should also formulate a national covenant of destiny as the next stage in its development. Not only that, but it needs a covenant of destiny embodying a unique Israeli-Jewish and democratic destiny that will also be acceptable to the state’s non-Jewish minorities.
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Why the Biblical Ruth Would Not Marry Boaz in the State of Israel

By: Eva Illouz
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Why the Biblical Ruth Would Not Marry Boaz in the State of Israel

Israel never wanted to become Israeli: this is the tragic paradox of a nationalism that never dared to become one. What would it mean to become Israeli? It would mean for the state to let the diversity of definitions of Jewishness flourish and expand; it would mean building a common culture ample enough to become a meeting point for Jews and non-Jews. This would strengthen its democracy and, ironically, its Jewishness as well.
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A Jewish Nation-State Can Also Be a State of All Its Citizens

By: Mohammad Darawshe
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A Jewish Nation-State Can Also Be a State of All Its Citizens

We need to inculcate the concept of a shared society, where Jewish and Arab citizens are taught from an early age about mutual legitimacy in the citizenship club, and where they learn to recognize and accept each other. Citizens must be given the tools to understand the language and culture of the other, and to experience these things as beneficial to the shared public realm. In this way, a sense of closeness and sympathy will develop between all the country’s citizens.
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Feeling at Home in a Jewish and Democratic Israel

By: Shuki Friedman
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Feeling at Home in a Jewish and Democratic Israel

If Israel leans sharply toward one “side” and greatly disfavors one of these two pillars – Jewishness or democracy – it will lose its distinct moral character. It must be agreed that these values-based pillars will continue to serve as a robust basis for any structure built upon them.
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How Much Homeland Do We Need?

By: Nasreen Hadad Haj-Yahya
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How Much Homeland Do We Need?

In order for Israel to successfully realize its potential and celebrate its 100th birthday, the Jewish population must understand that the Arab population in Israel is not its enemy. On the contrary, it is a friend who shares a broad number of mutual interests.
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A Jewish, Democratic, and Multicultural State

By: Menachem Mautner
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A Jewish, Democratic, and Multicultural State

When we speak of Israel as a “Jewish state,” we must remember that it also has to be a liberal democracy, if only in order to provide the appropriate protections to its resident Arab minority.
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A Shared Vision for the Jewish State

By: Moshe Arbel
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A Shared Vision for the Jewish State

The appropriate path for Israeli society to follow on its way to a Jewish state worthy of the name, a state whose population enjoys high levels of social capital and a high degree of consensus, is the path of Jewish common ground – as seen in our ancient sources that call upon us, again and again, to assist the poor and give aid to the orphan, the widow, and the stranger, the blind and the weak.
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“Jewish and Democratic” – What’s It Like in Real Life?

By: Anita Shapira
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“Jewish and Democratic” – What’s It Like in Real Life?

Is the state of the Jews about to turn into a theocracy, as its opponents predicted? We are still far from such a situation, but the processes underway before our eyes are frightening.
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Conservatism Versus Revolution: Can We Return to the Declaration of Independence?

By: Nissim Leon
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Conservatism Versus Revolution: Can We Return to the Declaration of Independence?

What is meant by the State of Israel’s Jewish identity? Some view the Jewish state as a vehicle for an independent sovereign Jewish existence, one that preserves its own Jewish identity and the Jews themselves. Others, however, see the Jewish state as a medium for the establishment of a different, just, egalitarian, revolutionary society, for which Jewish historical experience can provide useful lessons and a source of inspiration. Both of these approaches – the conservative approach that wants to stave off risk, and the revolutionary approach that wants to fulfill potential – are rooted in the State of Israel’s founding document: the Declaration of Independence
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Who Is Qualified to Decide on Ideological Questions Pertaining to Religion and State?

By: Yitzhak Pindrus
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Who Is Qualified to Decide on Ideological Questions Pertaining to Religion and State?

The place for deciding on ethical questions should be the Knesset alone, as it is the Knesset that is able to most faithfully reflect the will of the people, and to achieve practical compromises that make coexistence possible.
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The Triple Thread: On Hebrew Culture as a Connecting Identity

By: Ruth Calderon
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The Triple Thread: On Hebrew Culture as a Connecting Identity

Establishing the state’s identity as a cultural identity in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence would prevent divisiveness and hostility, and enable all Jewish communities in Israel and abroad to join forces for the building of a nation-state for the Jewish people in Eretz Israel.
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A State whose Everyday Life and Conduct Breathe Judaism

By: Menachem Brod
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A State whose Everyday Life and Conduct Breathe Judaism

The “Jewish state” definition means a Jewish collective conducting its affairs in accordance with Jewish values and actualizing through the state the model of a people living in the public realm as a Jewish people.
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Not On One Leg

By: Sallai Meridor
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Not On One Leg

A combination of leadership and education would have the power to ease anxieties and engender the desired historic consensus and peace at home: the State of Israel – the nation-state of the Jewish people and the state of all its citizens.
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A Return to the Bar-Yehuda Definition

By: Yossi Beilin
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A Return to the Bar-Yehuda Definition

The state will not be more Jewish if it keeps out people who see themselves as Jews or if it refuses to designate as Jews those whose fathers are Jews or whose attachment to their Jewishness is clear as day. On the contrary: Israel will be much more Jewish if it realizes the vision of Minister Yisrael Bar-Yehuda and opens up a civil pathway to the recognition of Jewishness, alongside the rabbinical pathway.
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Absorption and its Difficulties

By: Alex Rif
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Absorption and its Difficulties

The religious establishment in Israel relates to the entire aliyah from the FSU with suspicion and hostility and their every meeting with religious institutions from birth to death is fraught with difficulties. Those of us who are Jewish according to Halacha have to undergo a humiliating process with the rabbinate to prove our Judaism.
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A Happy Birthday – Denied

By: Fiamma Nirenstein
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A Happy Birthday – Denied

Zionism's greatest success is its simplest one: for the first time in history, in Israel, the Jewish people can powerfully protect themselves.  Not only can they find protection here, as Ukrainian and Russians Jews recently have, but they also find solace from the resurgence of antisemitism in Europe and America.
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Toward a Jewish State with Jewish Values: A Diaspora Vision

By: Ephraim Mirvis
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Toward a Jewish State with Jewish Values: A Diaspora Vision

The bridge between Israel and the Diaspora needs to be continually strengthened and deepened. We must not underestimate the importance of Israel as a leader in the pursuit and implementation of the highest standards of Jewish values and as an inspiration to the entire Jewish world to follow suit.
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What Would We Choose at the Moment of Truth – Judaism or Democracy?

By: Natan Sharansky | Rachel Sharansky Danziger
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What Would We Choose at the Moment of Truth – Judaism or Democracy?

So long as we regard the state’s religious character as a matter of the identity of the state itself, no subpopulation can sit down at the discussion table with true willingness for compromise. Yet if we agree with the contention that the state is an apparatus meant to ensure the Jewish people’s survival and continuity, then the discussion ceases to be one of values and becomes, instead, one of means, i.e. – what are the means that will serve this end without undercutting the state’s other functions as a democratic state?
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Democratic and Jewish, in Accordance with the Principles of Israel’s Declaration of Independence

By: Amal Assad
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Democratic and Jewish, in Accordance with the Principles of Israel’s Declaration of Independence

Jews and non-Jews can reach full consensus regarding the character of the state as Jewish and democratic, without derogating in any way from the state’s uniqueness as the nation state of the Jewish people, and without derogating in any way from the full equality of all of the state’s citizens.
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The Jewish State We Should Be Hoping For

By: Michael Walzer
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The Jewish State We Should Be Hoping For

What is a Jewish state? It is a state with a Jewish majority, which treats its minorities the way Diaspora Jews throughout the world demand to be treated. It is a state that is faithful to the historical experience of exilic Jewry – ending the exile but also remembering and learning from it. And finally, it is a state that provides a protected space within which every version of Jewishness and every kind of Jew can flourish.
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Jews and Arabs in Israel: Dancing Toward a Better Future

By: Mohammed S. Wattad
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Jews and Arabs in Israel: Dancing Toward a Better Future

As a Jewish state, Israel is the homeland of the Jewish nation, thus entitling all its members to a unique key to enter the house. However, every legal citizen, whether a Jew or not, must be treated fairly, equally, and equitably within that house. 
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What’s Jewish About a Jewish State

By: Donniel Hartman
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What’s Jewish About a Jewish State

The fear of Israel being the state of all its citizens is that it will lose its Jewish majority and will consequently cease to exist as the homeland of the Jewish people. This fear was coherent in the state’s early decades. Today as we celebrate our 75th anniversary, there are close to 7.5 million Jewish citizens in Israel, and 2 million non-Jewish citizens. Our challenge for the future is to admit victory and develop new policies that reflect our current reality, and not that of 75 years ago.
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Navigating the Tension: The Challenges and Opportunities of Being a Jewish and Democratic State

By: Chat GPT
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Navigating the Tension: The Challenges and Opportunities of Being a Jewish and Democratic State

As the State of Israel looks toward the future, it will be essential for the country to confront these challenges and find a way to reconcile its Jewish and democratic values. This will require a willingness to engage in difficult conversations and to make difficult choices, but it is ultimately the only way to ensure a bright and prosperous future for the State of Israel.
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