Much work remains ahead of us this Passover...

What has not changed in the last year from previous years?

How much has changed (or not changed) since last year in the arena of religion & state in Israel?

Sarajevo HaggadahSarajevo Haggadah

That all these years Israel’s religious parties have been trying to overthrow the government whenever it steps over, to even the slightest extent, the parameters of Israel’s State-enforced religious coercion [known as the "status quo"]. They aim to bring Israel closer to a Torah-state, as much as they can. This year it was MK Idit Silman who pulled the rug out from under the coalition’s bare majority on the grounds that the Supreme Court and Health Minister Horowitz had crossed a “red line” and she would “not be able to lend a hand to harming the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and the people of Israel.”

That all these years, the majority of Israel’s Jewish public has desired freedom of religion and conscience, which were promised in the State’s Declaration of Independence, contrary to the cynical policies of politicians who prefer to buy the ultra-Orthodox parties’ votes at the expense of Israelis’ individual liberties and human dignity. This year, MK Karhi [Likud] announced an initiative to enact a law to prevent the Supreme Court from ruling on a petition filed by Hiddush together with the Secular Forum and a group of IDF soldiers' parents to allow chametz to be kept and eaten in the private domains of secular and non-Jewish IDF soldiers. He justifies this with demagogic arguments about the ‘People's Army’ and the ‘will of the public’, but most Israelis support permitting the possession of chametz in the private domains of individual soldiers, side-by-side with strictly adhering to kashrut laws in military kitchens and dining rooms. The ‘People's Army’ is largely non-religious, and many are not even Jewish, or at least not Jewish in the eyes of the Chief Rabbinate.

That all these years, the Chief Rabbinate has claimed that all the the severe decrees it imposes are obligatory according to Halakha and are essential. This year, the Rabbinate is doing it again, big time: It is claiming that religious patients cannot be hospitalized during Passover if chametz is permitted in hospitals. However, since the Supreme Court ruled on this matter two years ago, we are not aware of any religious patient who refused hospitalization on Passover, just like in all other countries throughout the world. The Rabbinate claims that religious soldiers will not be able to serve in the military on Passover if other soldiers are permitted to possess chametz in their private domains, but Orthodox rabbinic authorities in other countries rule the opposite because halakha permits this. The Chief Rabbinate fights against modern Orthodox conversions and kashrut certifications, which are conducted according to halakha, only because it is acting according to the positions of extremist and ultra-Orthodox religious circles and refuses to acknowledge that there is a diversity of opinions within halakha.

That all these years, the Supreme Court has served as a beacon for the protection of the democratic values and individual liberties, from freedom of expression, gender equality, and human dignity to religious freedom.

That all these years, the Supreme Court has served as a beacon for the protection of the democratic values and individual liberties, from freedom of expression, gender equality, and human dignity to religious freedom. This year the Court is once again facing the reality of continued religious coercion on IDF bases. The military authorities are not satisfied with ensuring kosher food in IDF kitchens, dining rooms, and canteens but demand going beyond this. They want to impose Kahsrut observance on secular and non-Jewish IDF soldiers even when it comes to their personal possessions. In recent years, the Supreme Court has found itself under a brutal and violent attack. It comes from individuals and parties seeking to castrate the judiciary, undermine its independence, and erode its powers, so that the Supreme Court not stand in their way and interfere with their trampling upon the values of democracy and individual freedoms.

And one more, for the year to come:

That all these years [since Hiddush’s establishment in 2009], we have been battling for the advancement of freedom of religion & equality in Israel, in collaboration with activists and organizations in Israel and the Diaspora, through the courts, outreach to policymakers, and in the court of public opinion. Next year, together, we will be stepping up our efforts to advance these values, for without them - it is impossible for Israel to be a "Jewish and democratic" state; and we will strive to bring about landmark Court decisions in the fields of marriage freedom, gender equality, equality of resources for the needs of non-Jewish communities, and strengthening Israel as a beacon of freedom, enlightenment, and pluralism.

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