An Update from Hiddush

The Struggle Against Dictatorship and a “Torah State”

The Hiddush team is ready to contribute our part in the struggle against the legal overhaul that seeks to change the backbone of democracy in Israel

Stanley P. Gold and Rabbi Uri Regev, May 22

Dear Friends,

The Hiddush team has returned from their summer vacations with renewed vigor, both to cope with the current challenges facing us in the field of religious freedom and equality, and to contribute our part in the struggle against the legal overhaul that seeks to change the backbone of democracy in Israel.

These two objectives overlap to a great extent. As we have often illustrated in the past, a central element of the legal revolution is the desire of the ultra-Orthodox parties and their partners to be freed from the yoke of the Supreme Court, which has repeatedly blocked issues such as the refusal to share in the civil and security burden, Who is a Jew, Gender equality, state funding and more, due to their illegality and unconstitutionality. The ultra-Orthodox parties have managed to twist the arms of their coalition partners from the right, left and center to acquiesce to their demands on all these issues, with only the Supreme Court occasionally serving as an insurmountable barrier.

These two objectives also overlap in the many (and more and more frequent) remarks by public figures and speakers from the protest movement, who now link the struggle against the “dictatorship” with the push toward a "Torah State” – theocracy, as they have never previously done until now.

All the commentators point out that the main legislative challenge that the coalition will face when the winter session opens on October 16 is legislation of the conscription law. This is a challenge that is no less formidable that that of squaring a circle. On the one hand the court has already repeatedly nullified a number of bills that purported to legally legitimize the mass evasion of military service by Yeshiva's students. They ruled these legal provisions as unconstitutional and a severe breach of the principle of equality. On the other hand, however, the ultra-Orthodox leadership refuses to agree to compulsory military service for yeshiva students, nor even to set any binding quotas, economic sanctions, etc.

Last week, the day after the legislation of the amendment regarding the reasonableness test, ultra-Orthodox MKs tried to fire an opening shot for the next Knesset session by proposing, The Basic

The ultra-Orthodox parties have managed to twist the arms of their coalition partners

 Law: Torah Study, which aims to establish a constitutional principle according to which the study of Torah in yeshivas is equivalent to military service.

When the coalition negotiations took place, the ultra-orthodox parties had already demanded this, and the Likud gave in to their demand at the time, but now, as soon as the bill was placed on the Knesset agenda causing public outrage and widespread criticism, an attempt was made to backdown from this move on the grounds that "the timing is not good." That is, it is not about second thoughts regarding giving the entire growing ultra-Orthodox sector the opportunity to evade military or national civil service, but only about the need to find a more convenient date for this to happen.

As we have done every year, the large-scale polling we commissioned for the 2023 Israel Religion and State Index, has just commenced. It will be published on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New year. The survey will examine public opinion regarding equality of the military and civil burden and many other controversial issues in the field of religion and the state. We await the findings with great interest as they will give us an indication of the public's positions on these issues at this crucial time. We estimate these will once again disprove the pretentious claims of the speakers from the religious parties and the government that the coalition majority represents a majority of the Jewish public that supports their positions on Judaism and tradition. Stay tuned for this important annual survey by Hiddush. We are working on several different fronts, both public and legal, to protect the backbone of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and to fully realize the long overdue promises of the Declaration of Independence for religious freedom and equality.

We invite you to visit and “like” our facebook page for frequent updates, to support the work of Hiddush to ensure religious freedom and equality in a democratic Israel by making a donation, and to share our work with your colleagues and friends.

Best Wishes,

Stanley P. Gold & Rabbi Uri Regev

Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel

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