State & Religion in Israel update
Current Israeli government policies related to state and religion do not reflect changes that have taken place in Israeli society in the last twenty years. While many legislators act as if nothing is new, significant desire for change in the relationship between state and religion is supported by the majority of Israeli citizens from almost all sectors of society. The gap between the public and the MKs (Members of Knesset) around this issue has grown. Many MKs have not defined their positions on these issues while others have, but do not make them known to the public. In both cases, the public has no rational basis to track or evaluate the positions and voting habits of their elected officials regarding issues that are so critical in their daily lives and for the future of the State.
With the help of The Jewish Pluralism Watch (JPWatch), we will update here on new developments and statements. Stay tuned!
JPW summery of the Winter Assembly of the 20th Knesset (approximate numbers): 400 comments by MK’s on matters of state and religion, 20 committees and lobbies that met to discuss these matters, 30 motions and parliamentary queries that were submitted to the Knesset and 62 bills that were discussed or submitted during the Assembly dealing with gender and LGBT equality, the Western Wall, Shabbat, kashrut, conversion, marriage and divorce, and religious services in Israel.
62 bills were introduced and discussed over the course of the short Winter Assembly, a third (20) of which were concerned with countering discrimination against the LGBT community, civil unions for same-sex couples, surrogacy, banning conversion therapy for minors, adoption and more. A further 11 bills concerning marriage and divorce in Israel sought amongst other things to allow civil marriage and divorce and to overturn the clause determining a prison sentence for couples who marry outside the rabbinate. 10 bills dealt with issues relating to Shabbat, such as operating limited public transport or bills proposing to revoke the so-called “supermarket law” (concerning the opening of supermarkets and restaurants on Shabbat). Other bills concerned issues of equality, gender, religious services, and conversion.
On June 15, Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beitenu), announced that after the upcoming elections, he would force an “emergency” coalition with the Likud and Blue and White parties to block ultra-Orthodox parties from entering the government.