A dogmatic opinion about Israel’s identitarian existence in the 21th century

The State of Israel was founded in 1948 under the ideals of forming a democratic state, where religious freedom is validated and where all its members must be treated under the mantle of equality before the law. This includes the idea of ​​respect for others and yes, these precepts also include the Bedouin and Druze Arabs, Circassians and the Haredi community. These principles emphasize the need to have a Jewish state in which all Jews can live in peace, and where they can exist without any social or religious complexes. A state in which its future cultural and linguistic characteristics, through Hebrew, can flourish as one day the Land of Israel did during the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel. But the question we must all ask ourselves is:  If there are 22 Arab countries and 55 Muslim countries, why does this Semitic group cannot have a Jewish state? Selfishness. This word fully define what many countries in the region feel, and therefore, are opposed to the concept of a Jewish state. And of course, they promote their hatred through the support of legitimacy that the international community offers them. However, the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 recognize the national eagerness of the Jewish people in their “national home” and legitimize their aspirations. Without doubts, a historic slap that the Muslim world and the Arab world will have to deal with forever.

On the other hand, it is important to recognize that because Israel does not have a constitution and because the 1948 Declaration of Independence leaves many political and legal doubts, we do not know with complete certainty whether if Israel is a Jewish state or a state for the Jews. The Supreme Court of Israel, until this day, has not even been able to give its full assurance on this since it is a question that generates many doubts and passions about it within the diverse social framework that reigns in the country. This is why the only way that Israel can name itself as a Jewish state would be through international recognition and with the drafting of a constitution; not through Israel’s Supreme Court. On the other hand, Israel has a population in which 75% of its citizens are Jews, while 20% of the population is Arab (Bedouin, Muslim, Christian, etc.). Interestingly, Israeli Arabs (who were under military administration until 1966) are citizens of the State, are exempt from military service (like the ultra-Orthodox Jews) and can practice their religion without any persecution. Moreover, the controversy of the burkas in France is seen in Tel-Aviv as an aberration and has received the strong repudiation by Israeli Arab organizations and Jewish organizations living in the cosmopolitan city.

And this is where we should reflect on how wonderful and special Israel is. Traditionally, we think of a country that bases its existence and name on a particular religion. In milliseconds we relate it to an authoritarian theocracy, and where the imposition of beliefs is the order of the day. However, within its functional nature, this small nation teaches us that foundational laws and orthodox laws can coexist together within a modern state, and that theocracies are just an excuse to avoid the participation of all sectors. That pluralism and democracy can shine in a region so unfamiliar of this basic Western elements. In 1947, David Ben-Gurion, in full “mamlachtiyut,” managed to agree 4 fundamental principles with the Orthodox political party Agudat Yisrael in what is known as the “Status Quo Agreement.” This agreement was based on 4 basic principles: the future State of Israel would undertake to observe Shabbat in all its public institutions, and Jewish dietary laws (kashrut) would be respected in kitchens and celebrations concerning the Israeli State. Also, the future State would finance religious schools in addition to that they would enjoy administrative and educational autonomy. Under this agreement, rabbinic courts will also maintain their powers in matters of marriages and divorces (family laws). Thus, civil marriage would not exist in Israel.

Despite this, and although Israel does not celebrate civil marriages, the government recognizes the nuptials carried out outside the country. For example, in 2015 more than 10,000 civil marriages were recognized by the state. Many of these marriages are celebrated in Cyprus because of the closeness that it has with Israel and because of the low cost of these types of events on the island. Undoubtedly, the State of Israel is a mixture of the modern democratic and Western world. It seeks to constantly mutate its foundational bases, along with its 15 basic laws, so that religious and secular people can live together in a world that is becoming highly diverse every day. This is why I do consider Israel as a Jewish state. But also, it is a state for the Jews, which shows that living together in a framework of social and cultural heterogeneity is possible. Israel is not only an example for the world today, but it incorporated the ideas of those American Jews who during the hearings for the drafting of what would later be called as the Balfour Declaration opposed a homogeneous Jewish state. And yes, here we are, in an economically prosperous Israel, but a country that for the past two years has increased by 7% the value of homes while in Judea and Samaria the houses are cheaper. An Israel that seems not to end a military occupation in Judea and Samaria. An Israel that the Ultra-Orthodox Jews do not recognize, but which benefits from the State’s income. An Israel that still allows its detractors within the Ultra-Orthodox and Arab world to hold representatives in the Knesset (parliament), and an Israel where Conservative and Reformist Judaism is not well-seen by the long-established State’s rabbinic formation.

An Israel where even the views of population exchange that Avigdor Lieberman proposes exists and an Israel where it is necessary to fight vigorously to end racism toward Ethiopians, Christians and other minority groups in the country. An Israel that seems to have forgotten the whereabouts of the 10,000 Mizrachi Jews that suddenly died or disappeared during the years of the Mass Aliyah. And why not, an imperfect Israel with many problems that brings us closer to having an ideological civil war, than to achieve peace with the Arabs and the Palestinians. But what I am sure of is that even if these topics are a little harsh, Israel as a nation, as a society and as a Jewish state, will prevail. Now, why do the Arabs reject Israel as a Jewish State for peace, why does the international community support them? Article 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of Argentina reads as follows: “The federal government upholds Roman Catholic apostolic worship.” If a future Israeli constitution were to say that Israel is a Jewish State, will they attack Israel? However, I have never heard a criticism in the modern world against Argentina for this or against any of the Islamic theocracies in the Middle East due to this type of denominations of state. In spite of this, Israel seeks to demonstrate that theocracies and the fact of being a Jewish State does not limit them to not having to respect other ethnic and religious groups to achieve their goal of having their own State. Not in Uganda or in Argentina, but in Eretz Yisrael.

About the Author
Jose Lev Alvarez Gomez is an American-Israeli who completed a B.S. in Neuroscience with a Minor in Israel Studies and Pre-Med Track at The American University (Washington, District of Columbia) and a bioethics course at Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts). After his undergraduate studies, he went on to become a sergeant in the Israel Defense Forces special forces unit 888 and obtained two M.A. degrees: International Geostrategy and Jihadist Terrorism at INISEG (Madrid, Spain), and Applied Economics at UNED (Madrid, Spain). Currently, he is a rising senior medical student completing clinical rotations while doing a third master’s degree in Security and Intelligence Studies at Bellevue University (Bellevue, Nebraska) and serving in the United States Army Reserve as an OCS candidate. Jose speaks eight languages, has written more than 130 opinion articles, and enjoys Chopin’s and Debussy’s music.
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