June 27, 2013 | 12:30 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
A few months ago, I read that a group of MK's from the coalition calls for a bill to determine Israel as Jewish first, and democratic second. Now the vote is closer than ever, as newspapers in Israel are filled with opinion columns and updates, and the fear of the bill's passing is growing bigger.
Should the bill pass, Israel's official definition as "a Jewish and democratic state" would change to "a Jewish state with democratic features." This might cause some uneven rulings in the courtrooms that would prefer Jews over other religions and identities by law. Nowadays, it is very difficult as is to maintain the balance between Israel's somewhat conflicting two features, but the law states equality. If the bill would pass, there would be no doubt that here, in Israel, there are people who are superior and people who are inferior, on a religious basis.
There are people of other religions and identities living in our midst, and whether it was what our founders wanted or not, it is our reality. Israel is the home of people of many nations with many beliefs. It is a multicultural, democratic and liberal place, and no matter what our haters say, it is true. To strip some of Israel's citizens of their equal rights would not demote the "democratic" feature to second place of importance, but eliminate it completely. Leaving a window to judges without healthy judgment to rule in favor of people of a certain religion is all but democratic.
This bill probably won't pass, and our Ministers of justice and treasury stated they will oppose it, but its bad taste would still remain, simply because it symbolizes something far more profound than yet another bill, especially when being discussed in the same breathe with yesterday's US Supreme Court ruling, clearing that part of DOMA are unconstitutional.
Most Israelis are warm, open-minded people. They are liberal, free and accepting, open-minded and having one of the biggest Pride parades in the world only proves it. But as relatively advanced as we are, we still have one big barrier on the matter of complete equal right on the matter- laws that do not reflect the majority's opinion. In 2013, Israel is still being dominated by some Orthodox rules, which are fitted to the Middle Ages. We find ways to go around them (same-sex marriage abroad, or the new avant-garde reform weddings where the woman does not need to feel unequal,) but sadly accept the fact that the law is not going to change.
After reading of the celebrations in the States yesterday, I was immediately filled with hope that maybe we, the only Democracy in the area and one of the countries with the most liberal people, would be next. But then, I remembered the number of times Ministers and M.K's unsuccessfully tried to pass a law legalizing same-sex marriage. I also noticed that in today's paper, there was a very big article about the celebrations in the US, and not a word there about our future on the matter. This, combined with the proposal to make us more Jewish and less democratic, pushes institutional liberalization further away. However, there is a ray of sunshine. This Knesset went through a major change when a record number of young, new MK's were elected. Soon, I hope, we will witness further exchange there, as young, open minded, new-generation of MK's will take their seats. Then, I'm sure, our court will join yours.
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