MembersThe Challenge of “Religion vs State” in Israel

Once we stop thinking about religion and state in zero-sum terms, we will be able to make much more progress on crucial issues

Religion and state is a delicate balance in Israel
Israelis protest against the Chief Rabbinate's domination of religious affairs in the Jewish state. Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90

Although the “change government” has faced significant obstacles to success throughout its first full month of existence, this week showed how change is indeed taking place in the complex realm of religion and state in Israel.

Last week, the Jewish state demonstrated how, contrary to popular opinion, progress can be made on issues related to religion and state without dismantling the entire system. Matan Kahana, Israel’s new Minister of Religious Services, introduced (July 20) a new reform to be implemented in the country’s kashrut market. The reform seeks to privatize much of the sector, introducing more competition between multiple organizations that provide Kashrut certificates, thereby ending the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly, which has been in place since Israel’s inception.

On the face of it, it may seem like this kind of reform is a declaration of war on the Chief Rabbinate and a significant portion of Israel’s Orthodox Jewish community, who only accept kashrut certificates issued by the Rabbinate. Indeed, this is what characterized the critical reaction of the Chief Rabbinate itself. According to its Rabbinic...

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