Part Four: Judaism, Culture and State
The State of Israel is a Jewish state. Zehut believes that the state must give broad expression to Jewish culture and heritage. At the same time, Zehut firmly opposes the government’s intervention in the way of life of the citizen, especially in the realm of religion.
Moreover, the main factor preventing the development of an authentic and free Jewish identity is coercion on all issues: religious and secular. Therefore Zehut will distance the state from dealing with matters of culture and religion. This will be accomplished through the transfer of many powers to the community (see above, “The Community Model”) and through the steps detailed in this part of the platform.
The State of Israel and its Institutions:
Unlike the individual and community space in which the connection to Jewish identity is voluntary, Zehut believes that state institutions must be committed to Jewish law and tradition as an expression of the Jewish identity of the state.
State Conversion and the Law of Return:
Zehut believes that the conversion that grants eligibility to immigrate to Israel and to obtain Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return must be implemented in accordance with the standard accepted by the Jewish people, by Jewish courts authorized by it and by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
In addition, Zehut believes that the Law of Return, which is the most important law in the State of Israel, should be given the respect it deserves, and that it should be formulated explicitly in legislation.
This is in contrast to the current situation in which the Law of Return is dependent on the orders of anonymous officials in the Interior Ministry, since most cases are not covered by it.
For this purpose:
The “grandson clause,” which was a dangerous adjustment that is no longer relevant., must be cancelled.
The status and entitlement of each family member of the Jewish immigrant, must be explicitly stated in the Law of Return.
The Hebrew Judicial System
Zehut will act to bring about the practical revival of Hebrew Law, in the form of a voluntary state judicial system – for those interested, which will operate parallel to the existing legal system in the field of civil law.
The state Hebrew Law courts that will be established will constitute the clearest expression of the state’s Jewish identity – all without coercion, except for those who choose to use the system.
Identity and Independence in Culture:
Zehut is opposed to government intervention in culture. The artist must finance his cultural activity with his own money or with donations. In addition, Zehut will allow local authorities to impose a voluntary tax for financing cultural activities. For example, the local authority will be able to sell subsidized tickets only to those who pay the voluntary tax. According to this model, no citizen will be forced to pay for a performance or for any other cultural event with which he does not identify.
Zehut will gradually close the Ministry of Culture (see above, “Reducing Government Ministries”).
Chief Rabbinate of Israel and Changing the Structure of Local Rabbinates:
Today, the Chief Rabbinate is a body that forces its views on religious and secular alike. Zehut believes that the rabbinate must greatly reduce its realms of activity to public matters only. When it comes to the individual space, such as kashrut and weddings, the rabbinate should cease to be a monopoly. Instead, it should provide a standard. For example, anyone who wishes to advertise his or her product as kosher will be obligated to indicate whether it meets the kashrut standard of the rabbinate, regardless of the question of kashrut supervision. Fraud regarding kosher certification will be grounds for action against the advertised business, and will result in severe penalties like any customer fraud.
Zehut believes that, similar to cultural events and institutions, the municipal rabbinate must also be financed by local authority taxes only, depending on the public’s willingness to finance this institution and the services it offers. In addition, the public paying the voluntary tax will choose the city’s rabbis and neighborhood rabbis. The removal of the monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate and the public’s choice of local rabbis are vital goals on the way to restoring the public’s trust in the rabbinate and raising its prestige.
Termination of Marriage Registration:
Zehut believes that the state should not determine what marriage is, who is married and who is not. These decisions belong to the society and community to which the person belongs.
Zehut will cancel the marriage registration presently employed. Each couple will be able to marry as they wish, in the type of ceremony they choose and in a manner that suits them. The legal implications of a wedding will depend on the legal agreement that the couple will choose, and this agreement will be the interface of their marriage with the state, if and when the couple needs state intervention. Furthermore, Zehut intends to enact a general reform in legislation so that there will be no legislative implications on the individual’s personal status.
In this reality of cancellation of marriage registration, the local rabbinate, in the form of the rabbinical courts, could continue to offer the public a marriage ceremony service, but without the monopoly now in its hands. Anyone who wishes will be legally entitled to officiate at marriages and “compete” with the rabbinical services. However, the marketing of marriage services will be regulated according to the standard specified in order to prevent fraud.
There are several major advantages to this move:
After the removal of the rabbinate’s monopoly, many will choose to marry specifically according to the religion of Moses and Israel.
The public debate over government recognition of same-sex marriages will cease.
The citizen’s freedom to choose how to marry will be preserved.
The prestige of the Chief Rabbinate will rise in the eyes of the public.
Political pressure will not be exerted on the rabbinate in order to distort halakhic rulings.