A State of Mind
Why Israel must become secular and democratic. A memoir
By Ofra Yeshua-Lyth
No wonder that in the sixth decade of Israel's existence one's head is dizzy with social gaps, conflicts of interests and built-in paradoxes in a state that was merely expected to offer a safe haven for one long suffering national and religious community.
All around us, in the meantime, the world is moving forwards towards a reality where racial, religious and national segregation boundaries are collapsing, with or without bloodshed and pain. The continued insistence of our own national state on the uncompromising distinction of one selected brand of citizens, and the forcing of this privileged distinction by military force, secures for us the status of a pariah in the global village…
… Against clear warnings, repeatedly and abundantly present in Herzl's writings, the Jewish communities in Zion had allowed the Jewish religion to define the very essence of Zionism. Unfortunately, a particularly fanatic and archaic version of Judaism was selected for this purpose. This is how Israel was born into existence from day one as a religious state, far away from Theodore Herzl's attractive civic vision.
Herzl spoke out unequivocally against any religious meddling in the affairs of the state, and he warned against tampering with his design. He clearly foresaw the risk that certain Zionist leaders might be attracted to a national-religious ideology that he was not prepared to tolerate. But he could not guess that this, eventually, would become the winning ideology in the Jewish state.
… In the nineteen-fifties and sixties the State of Israel had made a tremendous effort to drag masses of Arabs into its territory, because they were Jews. In the nineteen-nineties and in the first years of the new millennium it exercised an exhaustive mass import of non-Jews, because they were not Arabs.
"Taking religion out of politics would mean that there would be no favored national-religious group in Israel and all children of all cultures and fates would be equal in front of the Law. It also means that the state would become modernly multi-national. Strategically, this is the only long-term chance for the Jewish community in Israel to survive, to develop, and possibly, at long last, find some inner light that may be offered - as our old prophets wished - to other nations."