Does Israel Need a ‘Nation-State’ Bill?

Our president, Reuven Rivlin, has entered the fray in the on-going discussions regarding the proposed “Nation-State” bill which is before the Knesset. He has stated his firm opposition to it, claiming that passage of the bill into the Basic Law, (Israel’s version of a constitution), can be harmful to Jews both in Israel and abroad.

I don’t quite understand his reasoning, but I respect him as a devout Israeli and a great national leader.

The proposed bill calls for declaring Israel the “Nation-State of the Jewish People”. How will it affect our non-Jewish population? How will it affect Jews not living in Israel who may be accused of dual loyalty?

Let us examine some population numbers. In 2018, the population of the Islamic Republic of Iran consists of 82,034,875 million people. 98% are Muslims (Sunni and Shiite) and the balance of 2% are Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and Bahai. Those minorities have representatives in the national parliament and are guaranteed freedom of religion.

In 2018, the population of the State of Israel consists of 8.456,391 million. 75% are Jews, 21% are Arabs (Muslims and Christians) and 4% are non-Arab Christians.

Likewise, they are represented in our Knesset and are guaranteed freedom of religion.

I personally cannot understand why adding “Nation-State of the Jewish People” can be harmful to any of our citizens who live in the State of Israel.

Facts are facts. The majority of our population by large is Jewish. Our State was founded and built by Jews. Our legitimacy was established in 1917 and recognized by the League of Nations in 1922 and again by the United Nations in 1947.

Muslim and Christian Arabs serve in our parliament. Muslim and Christian Arab judges sit on the benches of our courts, including our Supreme Court. Several are officials in our diplomatic and consular services abroad. Except for their names, no one could really distinguish them from Israeli Jews.

Will they be affected by an implementation of the Nation-State Bill? My answer is both Yes and No.

No. It will not affect their status or way of living or cultural and religious activities as citizens of Israel.

Yes. It will affect their mental state and attitude if they were to consider themselves second-class citizens of the Jewish State.

But like the minorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran, our minorities are protected under the law.

To whom does the Land of Israel truly belong? Our Bible indicates that it belongs to no one people. The Book of Psalms of King David, 24: 1 clarifies: “ L’Adonai ha aretz u’m’loah….” “The Land is the Lord’s and everything in it.”

Although in Jewish religious belief God’s dwelling place is in Zion (Jerusalem), His Sovereignty is the entire world.

The principle of God’s ownership of the Land of Israel is repeated 56 times in both the Jewish and Christian bibles.

In Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:23, God speaks to Moses and commands him to speak His words to the Children of Israel: “Daber el bnai Yisrael v’amartem….” “Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them…”: the Land shall not be sold in perpetuity, KI LI HA-ARETZ… because THE LAND IS MINE”.

In that brief statement, God assures the Children of Israel (and of the State of Israel) that we are sojourners who may reside in the land but the ownership of the land belongs only to God.

With the debate on the Nation-State bill taking place in the heat of the Israeli summer, that heat may also be felt in the air-conditioned chamber of our Knesset.

Whether the bill is passed or defeated, the government will not collapse and the Jews of Israel can go about their daily activities, happily and content, as citizens of a Jewish State called Israel.

Am Yisrael Chai L’Olam….. The people of Israel are eternal.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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