Following Hannukah, the festival celebrating religious freedom, let us remember that of all places in the world - the battle for religious freedom and equality for Jews in Israel is not yet over!
Make your end-of-year contribution to Hiddush, to participate in this critical battle, and help us fight for these core values in the coming year.
Hiddush bringing an end to mass fraudulent
exemptions from IDF service
Six years after the enactment of an amendment to the Security Service Law to establish a process for revoking thousands of women's exemptions for falsely claiming to having religious lifestyles that conflict with IDF service, the law has remained a dead letter. The prerequisite regulations have not been enacted, and the amendment could not be implemented.
Hiddush stepped in with its petition to the High Court after not receiving satisfactory answers from the Knesset and the Defense Minister. Only then, with the threat of imminent Court action, the authorities finally turned around and took the necessary initial steps to put an end to this travesty. Just a few days before this week's scheduled Court hearing, has the Defense Minister submitted the long overdue draft regulations, has the Knesset appointed the required ad hoc committee to approve them, and has a date been scheduled for the deliberations on January 2. Now it remains to be seen how long it will take for the draft regulations to be approved, or whether the ultra-Orthodox political parties and the Chief Rabbinate will interfere to prevent this, given their overriding objection to women's military service.
In the hearing this week, the State, without bothering to apologize for the multi-year delay, attempted to squash the petition, stating that now that the draft regulations have been submitted, the committee appointed, and the hearing scheduled, that the petition has exhausted itself and should be withdrawn. Needless to say, Hiddush objected to this self-serving position; and the Court concurred, requiring that the State report within 60 days as to the progress made, at which point the Court will consider the need for subsequent action. This made it clear that regardless of the possible need for further action, costs would be awarded against the State, in favor of Hiddush.
The "Who is a Jew" battle
is going to erupt again.
The question now is how soon is the Who-is-a-Jew battle going to be reignited, following a report that the State is attempting to gain more time by asking the Supreme Court to continue the freeze on all the pending Who-is-a-Jew cases. The State will claim that more time is needed for the committee, headed by Moshe Nissim, who was appointed by the Prime Minister to supposedly reach a mutually agreed upon solution to this age old conflict.
Back in June 2017 the governmental legislative committee approved the legislation of the conversion bill dictated to the Government Coalition by the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic Shas party and its head Arye Deri (Israel's Minister of the Interior who is in charge of registration of Jewish status and the granting of rights under the Law of Return). At the time, it was part of a larger package extorted by the ultra-orthodox parties that included the suspension of the Kotel agreement. This brought about expressions of great anger on the part of Jewish global leadership.
At the time - in June - Netanyahu, acting as a sophisticated and experienced "fire fighter," was focused primarily on damage control and lowering the flames.
Will the non-Orthodox movements agree to further postponement? Isn't it time to recognize that the committee process is futile and aimed only delay tactics? Will the movements and Diaspora leadership surrender to the Prime Minister's wise political maneuvers, aimed at separating the contentious issues and addressing them piecemeal, rather than allowing their full impact to be aired out and resolved?
We believe that the time has come for a showdown. We believe the time has come to focus on the essence of the challenge - not merely on its symptoms. It's important to follow an approach counter to that of the Prime Minister. For too long, we have gone along with separating the issues that are truly connected at the core. Thereby, we have limited their significances and real weights. It's time to review this strategy and realize the following:
1) The need to seek a holistic, inclusive, and systemic resolution of oft-repeating clashes over issues of religion and state. This is the path Uri Regev, Hiddush's head, has taken in collaboration with leading Modern Orthodox rabbi Marc Angel in developing the Vision Statement for a Jewish and democratic Israel.
2) In pursuing this path, we should fully appreciate the fact that we are resonating to the will and the desire of the overwhelming majority of both Israeli and Diaspora Jewry, as well as breathing life into Israel's own founding promise. The only ones opposed are either those who are motivated by a theocratic ideology, wanting Israel to become a Torah state, or those politicians who are willing to sell off both human dignity and civil liberties in return for political pittance.