“The ongoing tension between ‘Jewish’ and ‘Democratic’ in our country’s definition is vital for us”

Yair Sheleg – “For years I’ve been part of the Israel Democracy Institute, exploring issues of religion and state. As you know, Israel has no legal separation between the two. I’m asked occasionally, whether a country in this condition can even consider itself democratic?

“The answer is yes, of course, especially in Israel, where Judaism is not only a religion but also a nationality.

“For many Israelis the definition of Israel as a Jewish state is an existential matter. They are sure that the moment Israel would leave the ‘Jewish’ definition aside – their homeland will no longer exist. People will prefer the ‘Jewish’ definition instead of the ‘democratic’ for the very simple reason that ‘Jewish’ will keep their home safe.

“That’s why I believe that claiming there is a contradiction between the two definitions is a huge mistake. As a country we have to deal with great care with any tension that often derives from the ‘democratic’ and ‘Jewish’ definitions – but never try to dismiss either of these values.”

Yair Sheleg main