The Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies Conference Proceedings March 7-8, 2010
Introduction to Conference: Israel as a Jewish State
Speaker: Dr. Yoram Peri, Director, Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies
Ever since Theodore Herzl’s time, argument has raged over the meaning of the “Jewish State.” Much of it has focused on the appropriate role of religion in the state’s laws and practices.
With the growth of religiosity in the state and the sharp
increase in the number of religious citizens – neither development foreseen by Israel’s founders – the arguments have become fiercer. Different streams of Jewish practice – Haredi, Modern Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and “secular” compete either for recognition or to delegitimize their rivals.
Meanwhile, many citizens define themselves as simply
“Israeli” rather than “Jewish”. This conference will address the provocative themes of the nature and role of democracy, identity and Jewish religion in the Israeli context. How can Israel balance the competing claims of its Jewish self-definition with a commitment to democratic pluralism? Moreover, how can it best choose
among frequently contradictory religious and social values a path that all its citizens can live with?