Israel’s ultra-Orthodox minority, which has long benefited from state financial assistance and exemptions from military service, should be protected, but its monopoly on personal status issues must end. This monopoly chains women to husbands who refuse to grant them divorces and prevents secular, Reform and Conservative Jews from determining the character of their own wedding ceremonies. It also provides no legal marriage option for the hundreds of thousands who immigrated from the former Soviet Union under the Law of Return (which accepts anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent) but who are either not themselves Jewish or whose Jewishness the Orthodox authorities question.
Although democracy requires the protection of religious liberty and civic equality, a strict, American-style separation of church and state will not work for Israel. It would alienate Israel’s religious Jews, and even the country’s most secular Jews would find such a separation foreign to a country founded as a Jewish state with a Jewish ethos and majority. It would also undermine the commitment Israel has made to support its Muslim and Christian communities. Israel should continue to pay for religious education and services for Jews and non-Jews alike.
It should also retain non-coercive public symbols of Jewish affiliation, like kosher government kitchens and public observance of the Sabbath. The Star of David on the flag will be more palatable to non-Jewish citizens when Arabs are treated more equitably as a national minority.Israpundit � Blog Archive � Can Israel agree on a new constitution?