Schneider Aviel

MembersGod and Democracy

It might surprise you, but these two words so central to Israel’s modern identity are missing from its Declaration of Independence

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a government meeting on the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, in the House of Independence in Tel-Aviv. Photo: Haim Zach/GPO

Two words are missing from the Israeli declaration of independence: democracy and God. The Hebrew text of this historic document is 664 words in length. The term “Jewish” occurs three times, and Israel is mentioned 20 times. The term “democracy” was in fact deleted at the last moment, and following a heated debate different possible drafts, the word “God” was rewritten as “rock of Israel.” Two words that are so central to what modern Israel is and stands for, but which are often at odds.

At that time, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, proposed a creative compromise allowing religious and secular Jews to finally agree on a draft, any draft. From the perspective of Israeli historians, Ben-Gurion had no other choice and had to find the middle ground in a political and spiritual sense. Some 73 years later, the same tension between God and democracy pulls at Israel. Two terms that shape worldviews and often fail to find a bridge.

Democracy was exchanged with the vision of the prophets, as the declaration reads: “THE STATE OF ISRAEL…will foster the development of...

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