Unresolved issue

And again the public discussion on the conflict between the Jewish values and the democratic values in Israel makes headlines.
The end for the discussion is not on the horizon, but it does give us another opportunity to debate on this fundamental issue, which affects almost all aspects of life.

I agree with most of the sections of the new law proposal: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish people. Nonetheless, the proposal still leaves behind a vacuum in several realms, which causing an imbalance between the Jewish values and the democratic values of Israel.
For example, as regards the status of the Arabic language in the state – Instead of ignoring it and erasing it from the new law proposal (the issue was discussed in Dichter’s law proposal), it should have been included.

But the discussion is way more intrinsic. If you already regulate the Jewish characteristics of Israel, and there is indisputably paramount importance in regulating it, there is also need in regulating the democratic characteristics of Israel. Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. The Jewish values and the democratic values are intertwined and together create this special and second-to-none society. We cannot “ignore one side of the equation”, but to care of both aspects.

I am writing this first and foremost as a Jewish person. We are a singular story. A story of a small people with great history, an ancient people with culture of thousands of years. Our journey in the wilderness was not just a journey to the Promised Land, but to a promising future. In the beginning of our journey, we received the Ten Commandments, the most basic values which the whole civilization is founded on. “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire”, “All Israel responsible for one another”, Tikkun Olam – these are just small part of a long list of values which the Jewish people have embraced for thousands of years. Empires rose, empires fell. The Jewish values have remained rock solid.

On the other side, we have created democratic society, in which every citizen is free to dream, act and think. Society that encourages creativity and involvement. Excellence is in the hearts of the Israelis. If there are people who are afraid to think and dream, the Israelis are afraid to stay in place. This fear helps us move forward, this is what gives rise to the start-ups, the innovation, technology and medicine – all subjects which Israel’s good at.

The journey to the promising future is not yet over. We have to keep walking in the journey for sustainable peace and security in which Israel lives peacefully by its Arabic neighbors and there is economic and social cooperation between Jews and Arabs.  No less important is the journey for social justice: each citizen serves the country or his community for limited period; each can marry his/her fiancé/fiancée; every citizen lives with dignity in his own home, which he can buy and hold; No child is starving. We must strive and work for an Israel in which every child gets free education until he earns his bachelor.
Each gets the opportunity to follow his dreams and fulfill them.

The discussion on Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is a milestone in this journey. In order to move forward towards the promising future, we must conduct a comprehensive debate about the Jewish and democratic values we want to anchor in law and consider the basic identity of the state of Israel.

Israel is a state in the making. Deep processes are still ahead of Israeli society before we can enact a constitution. Yet we can and should enact fundamental laws which will form a basis for a future constitution for Israel. These will form the basis identity of Israel and will be the moral compass according to which we will work in the future and for the future.

In order to succeed in this complex and important task, we cannot separate the Jewish and democratic values but bring them together. This way ensures that the Jewish values will complete the democratic, and the democratic complete the Jewish. This way ensures identity that is suitable for all Israeli citizens, an identity which truly reflects our common values and the ones we all share and are based on.

About the Author
Jonathan 'Yoni' Biron is an 18-year-old Israeli, a US Department of State International Exchange alumnus and active in peace and public diplomacy programs.