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24.6.2016. 17:22

MK Elazar Stern discusses the future of religious life in Israel, the importance of its liberalization, and the dangers of alienating Diaspora Jewry.

Ministar Elazar Stern dikutirao je o budućnosti religioznog života u Izraelu, i važnosti njegove liberalizacije te o  opasnosti da se  udaljavanja  od Židova u dijaspori.

Donosimo njegove odgovore i intevju za časopis  "Magazin"


Stern sat down with the Magazine to discuss the future of religious life in Israel, the dangers of the current situation, and the effect of these issues on the state’s relationship with the Diaspora.

How do you see the current relationship between the state and Jewish religious life in Israel? 

The state is distancing its citizens from Judaism, among other ways, by making religious services stricter , which makes such services completely irrelevant to, and undesirable for, the average Israeli.

People are fleeing from religious marriage.

They are already uninterested in getting married with a rabbi and say to themselves, ‘Either we’ll live without getting married or we’ll go to Cyprus’ to marry in a civil ceremony.

It is the same thing with conversion.

When immigrants from the former Soviet Union came who weren’t halachically Jewish, they were interested in undertaking such a process. A ‘normal’ conversion should have been made available for all of them,

There’s a similar situation with kashrut r ight now, where an alternative, independent kashrut licensing authority has sprung up because we’ve created a lot of hatred among food business owners and the public, and there’s now a connection between kashrut and corruption.

The same thing has happened with conversions and the establishment of the independent Giyur Kahalacha conversion authority.

Why are these independent religious services important

To save the Judaism of the state, we will need to create these alternatives, and I hope that they will in turn create a hope for a normal, sane Judaism that people will want to be part of, even if they don’t wear tzitzit and a yarmulke like I do....

How do these issues affect the relationship between the state and the Diaspora

The State of Israel needs the Diaspora.

For the future, for its foreign relations, for a lot of things. In my opinion, it’s not that we need them but that they are our bothers. This is the challenge. The Diaspora also needs to preserve the State of Israel as an anchor, even for the sake of their communities, because it can serve as a place those in the Diaspora can identify with. It’s an educational tool, a tool to unite people.

But if the State of Israel puts a question mark over the Judaism of Diaspora Jewry it will distance them from the Jewish state. It will destroy an important anchor for them, cause internal fractures within Diaspora Jewry itself, and then we could lose them altogether.

It will decrease their attachment to the State of Israel and also increase assimilation by alienating Jews outside of Israel from a central aspect of their Jewish identity.

The haredim don’t understand this, and the prime minister is afraid of the haredim, as is [Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali] Bennett.

If we say to some people, ‘You’re not Jews’ or that ‘You can only be Jewish according to our path,’ then we will lose secular people in Israel, and Reform and Conservative in the Diaspora.

We need as little coercion as possible.

We need more legitimacy for Jewish pluralism, for women’s equality, and we need to take as much responsibility as possible for the existence of the Jewish people and not just the State of Israel.

Once we do this, religious services can be made more welcoming.  

Should we leave Judaism and religious life to be run by every individual Jewish community in the country like it is done in the Diaspora


Should we separate between religion and state before it’s too late? 

Not yet.   

Should the state fund non-Orthodox religious services?
Without doubt, yes.
Should non-Orthodox rabbis be able to stand for state paid positions such as a municipal chief rabbi? ... 

Nevertheless, communities who want a Reform or Conservative rabbi should be able to choose them, and the state should support this...

Do haredim represent the majority of the State of Israel?

They are a minority who, through the power of a political mechanism, impose upon us a whole lot of things. Okay, that’s democracy? 

I want Jews in the Diaspora to feel that Israel is their home even if they live outside of it. Not because they give money, a Saudi sheikh can also give money, but because I want them to see this country as their home, even if they don’t give money. This is in my interest no less than it is in their interest. Should we not fight for every one of our brothers?