Israel is the national home of the Jewish people. The underlying basis of Zionism, from Theodor Herzl to Ariel Sharon, is self-determination for the Jewish people.
The Jewish people in Tel Aviv today includes atheists, agnostics, scientologists, Buddhists, Samaritans, Karaits, Christians who have a Jewish grandparent and just plain secular Jews who happen to be a majority.
To call Israel a “Jewish state” is misleading. A Jewish state would be a state based on the Jewish religion.*
The government of Israel is secular. It includes religious Jews and one Moslem. The majority is secular. The Israel law is secular.
The secular government and the secular majority have a respect for the minority that are religious. Communal and family affairs are still in the hands of the clergy, whether Jewish or Muslim, [Druse] or Christian. This system, inherited from Turkish times, troubles the secular majority and is ever so gradually being modified.
The secular majority does not respect the religious Jewish settlers on the West Bank. “God’s Warriors,” Christina Annapour called them in a recent TV spectacular. They murder Palestinians, steal Palestinian land and destroy Palestinian olive groves. According to a recent poll, 76 per cent of Israelis do not support Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Jewish history and tradition are not neglected in the secular schools of the Jewish majority. “Tikkun olam,” making the world a better place to live and love, lies behind the frantic efforts of the Olmert government to find a formula that his Palestinian partners can agree to which would make the forthcoming Annapolis peace summit a success.
Ehud Olmert’s recent demand that the Palestinians recognize “the Jewish State” was an aberration. Saab Erekat, the veteran Palestinian negotiator quickly scotched it by telling Israel radio that “no state in the world connects its national identity to its religious identity.”
As stated above its [Israel’s] national identity is Jewish peoplehood. The state has no official religious identity.
But on Yom Kippur the secular majority of Jews stay home. As do the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are Muslim, Christian [or Druse]. Except for the kids. They take advantage of the lack of vehicular traffic to fill the roads with their bikes and roller skates.
*Note disagreement between Zel Lurie and Ami Isseroff on Erekat’s rejection of “Jewish state” concept. I see the “Jewish state” term as ambiguous and would refer to a Jewish religious state as “Judaic” or a Torah state. Isseroff believes that Erekat is denying the concept of Jewish peoplehood by defining Jews as only a religious group. What do you think?