Secularism and democracy in Israel: military service as case study
Cote Pabón, Sebastián
Middle east policy, 1475-4967, Vol. 26, Nro. 3, 2019, p. 134-150
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In 1992, with the so-called Basic Laws, Israel was defined as a “Jewish and democratic state.” But according to Dorit Beinisch,1 there is still no consensus among the Israeli secular (hiloni) and religious (dati) public as to what it means to be Jewish and democratic, and nobody knows how to balance the two.2 In fact, many have wondered to what extent the Jewish religion is compatible with the tenets of democracy. By turning to the Torah and the Talmud, it is possible to quote passages that give the most varied and dissimilar answers: from “if Israel is Jewish, it cannot be democratic,” to “Israel can be democratic precisely because it is Jewish,” et cetera.3 Compulsory military service in Israel represents an emblematic case to illustrate, with some depth, the tensions, scope and nuances of this critical discussion, inasmuch as the notions of secularization and democracy converge intimately here.
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