Israel’s infamous “status-quo” was born out of necessity: the United Nations insisted that for the Jewish people’s governing body to accept the 1947 Partition Plan, they must guarantee the freedom of every religious movement under their rule. That’s what propelled Ben Gurion, one of Israel’s most secular leaders, to accept an agreement that prioritises religious values over liberal ones on a number of issues, such as business and public transportation on shabbat, education, and Haredi enlistment in the IDF.
Since Israel’s establishment, any proposed change to the secular-religious relationship has been shut down by the status quo argument. But times and circumstances change. What once made sense may no longer be relevant. Is it possible to succeed in today’s modern labor market without basic command of the English language, or computer and math skills? So while it once made sense to exclude religious schools from teaching those core subjects, in today’s world it is wrong to ignoring this necessity. That’s why after graduating from Yeshiva a lot of students sign up for computers, English, and math classes. Because they themselves realise that without those tools they are almost “handicapped”. So why doesn’t the government enforce a basic curriculum in all schools? Status quo.
The sanctity of Shabbat cannot be overstated. But Israeli shopping centers, hiking sites, and highways are overcrowded every weekend. There is a merit in saying Shabbat should be a day of rest, and for that we have rules regulating employees’ working hours and rest days. The government, as the biggest employer in the market, can decide that Shabbat would be the resting day for its employees’. But why do they make this decision for the rest of us? Why does a business owner that decides to open shop on Shabbat receive a fine (Ironically, from a government employee working on Shabbat)? Why can’t low-income families use public transportation and go to the beach or go hiking? Status quo.
The status quo agreement was never meant to be permanent. It was a framework for the relationship between religious and secular people in the State of Israel to come, and all issues were meant to be resolved in the-yet-non-existent constitution. Those agreements were true to their time, and as the American people were smart enough to amend their constitution when social change called for it (Equal rights for women, end of slavery, to name two significant ones), we should be able to do the same.