Israel religious-secular divisions flare during holiday period | EUROtoday

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JERUSALEM — In a yr of unprecedented public discord, the high-holiday period in Israel has devolved right into a rhetorical — and infrequently bodily — battle between secular and spiritual Israelis, with protesters disrupting gender-segregated public prayer companies and one of many nation’s chief rabbis lamenting that nonobservant residents have grown silly on account of their nonreligious diets.

Secular protesters, objecting to the usage of public funds and services for occasions that require women and men to be separated, disrupted a girls’s-only movie occasion in Jerusalem Sunday. On Yom Kippur — Judaism’s deeply solemn day of atonement — the protesters pulled down obstacles dividing female and male worshipers at a prayer service in a public sq. in Tel Aviv after municipal authorities had dominated in opposition to such segregation.

Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, of Judaism’s Sephardic department, blamed the rising objections to non secular affect on a lack of expertise amongst secular Israelis.

“A person who eats non-kosher food, his brain gets stupid, he can’t understand things, doesn’t get it,” Yosef stated in a recorded sermon that circulated on social media Sunday, referring to the faith’s dietary necessities. “As soon as he starts keeping kosher, you can start to influence him.”

Yosef is one in every of two chief rabbis who wield government-sanctioned authority over many elements of civic life, together with marriage and divorce legal guidelines making use of to all Israeli Jews.

Israel readies ‘kosher electricity’ for ultra-Orthodox households

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid slammed the rabbi for demeaning his nonreligious countrymen.

“He was right about one thing,” Lapid posted on X, previously often known as Twitter, “they felt a little stupid tonight when they remembered that they were the ones paying his salary.”

The weeks-long holiday period ends Friday, and lots of leaders have beseeched Israelis on all sides to behave with higher tolerance during the holiest stretch of the Jewish calendar. Those pleas have largely fallen on deaf ears during a time unprecedented political division.

Avinoam Rosenak, of Hebrew University’s Jewish Studies Institute, stated the struggle displays divisions over faith’s function in society going again to the founding of the nation.

“What’s going on is a cultural-identity war,” he stated. “The state of Israel is still trying to define for itself what it means to be a Jewish state and a liberal democratic state.”

The rancor displays long-standing tensions in Israel over the function of faith in public life and the particular standing afforded to the nation’s rising ultra-Orthodox inhabitants.

The ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi as they’re identified in Hebrew, are largely shielded from the nation’s obligatory draft and academic requirements. Their households profit from heavy public subsidies that enable boys and males to commit years to non secular examine as a substitute of working and paying taxes within the mainstream economic system.

Although extra Haredi Israelis, women and men, are becoming a member of the workforce, resentment in opposition to them has grown as they’ve change into Israel’s quickest rising demographic, now accounting for roughly 13 % of the inhabitants.

Religious events present Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the bulk he must hold his 9-month-old coalition in energy. In alternate, critics say, the federal government has taken steps to funnel billions to ultra-Orthodox establishments, housing developments, and faculties which largely don’t adhere to nationwide requirements for educating math, science and different core topics.

Haredi lawmakers are pushing laws that may broaden their exemption from military service to be handed by the tip of the present parliamentary session.

The hostilities between secular and spiritual Israelis have been exacerbated by the federal government’s plan to restrict the ability of Israel’s judiciary and Supreme Court, which has been a examine on non secular energy. In the run-up to Yom Kippur, the court docket backed the correct of municipalities comparable to Tel Aviv to ban gender-segregated occasions on metropolis property.

The protests which have rocked Israel since January recurrently warn that the judicial overhaul would pave the best way for Israel to change into a “theocracy.”

“We firmly reject the religious monopoly maintained by ultra-Orthodox groups, and we emphasize that religion and spirituality should be accessible to all, not restricted to a select few,” stated Josh Drill, one of many protest leaders.

Officials have fought again, accusing protesters of being anti-Jewish and even anti-Semitic.

“On the holiest Jewish day, left-wing protesters rioted against Jews as they prayed,” Netanyahu posted after the conflict on Yom Kippur. “It seems that there are no limits, no norms, and there is no exception from hatred for the left-wing extremists.”