The recent stabbings at the Jerusalem Gay Pride march are tragic. Aaron Panken makes a strong argument for the Israeli government to take a stronger stand against Ultra-Orthodox intolerance that prompted the attacks in his article titled “An end to Israel’s state-sanctioned religious intolerance“:
Israel was founded to be a homeland for all Jews. Its 1948 declaration of independence defines it as a state that “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex,” one that “will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.” The government of the Jewish state must always walk a fine line in preserving both its Jewishness and the fundamental freedoms that inhere in any democracy. Granted, this is not simple, especially in a polarized political system where small parties in coalitions can exert undue influence. Nonetheless, what Israel’s citizens and friends abroad should expect from any Israeli government is straightforward: vigorous protection of the religious freedom of all its citizens so that they may pray, marry their partners, bury their dead, welcome new adherents, study their traditions and observe their beliefs – with respect and without harassment. When one religious group limits, attacks or abuses another, the government is responsible for intervening to curb such toxic and dangerous activity.
Aside from how abhorrent the attacks were (both the stabbings in Jerusalem and every other attack by the Ultra-Orthodox on communities they don’t agree with), how can we expect to defend ourselves against external threats when we are under attack by fellow Jews who don’t believe we are religious enough for them?
One of the factors that helped Israelis fight off attacks despite the tremendous odds against their success in the past was their unity as Jews and Israelis. The biggest threat to Israel’s survival at the moment probably isn’t Hamas, IS or Iran. It comes from within. Religious intolerance threatens Israel’s survival the most because it divides and weakens us.