I understand Rabbi Grossman’s discomfort with including a person in Israel’s government who isn’t committed to the notion of Israel as a Jewish state, but I also think that the term “Jewish state” is so vague and amorphous that it makes a dangerous litmus test. If “Jewish state” means religiously Jewish, then we should kick out the Shinui Party, which is dedicated to secularism. If “Jewish state” means culturally Jewish, then we should disallow the Hadash Party, whose anti-Zionist platform derives from its Marxist anti-nationalism. And if “Jewish state” means demographically Jewish, we should disallow Arab parties like Raam and Balad – or, for that matter, right-wing parties like Yisrael Beiteinu that reject a two-state solution, leading to a majority non-Jewish country. The point is that the concept of “a Jewish state” is still very much a work in progress, and orthodoxies of any sort (to say nothing of name-calling) stifle this progression rather than further it.

I encourage anyone with thoughts along these lines to look at the relevant section of a thought-provoking document entitled Masechet Atzma’ut (“Tractate Independence”) – a Talmud-like commentary on Israel’s Declaration of Independence put out by Rabbis for Human Rights. I want a safe and secure Israel as much as anyone, and I think an important component of this goal is figuring out exactly what we mean when we say “Jewish State.”

Read the Full Debate: What’s the Place of Non-Jews in a Jewish State?

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