To the Editor:
Milton Konvitz’s article is a convincing argument for liberalism and separation of synagogue and state in Israel. But, I believe, the whole discussion operates in a vacuum. In April I spent three weeks nosing around various parts of Israel, talking to Jews in the cities, in the kibbutzim, in the villages, and in army camps—and a lot of the conversation was about this religious question.
If the fifteen per cent vote received by the religious bloc in the January election was not sufficient proof, my own investigation was conclusive that the big majority of the Jews in Israel are not religious, and do not want a theocracy. Instead of worrying about a theocracy, I think there is room to worry about the great amount of irreligion in the Jewish state. If anything, traditional Judaism is tolerated. Everywhere in Israel—except in the synagogues and in the Mea Shearim—the visitor hears that religion is not needed any more now that the Jewish state has been achieved. There is a feeling that nationalism, patriotism, and the Land even supplant the age-old Jewish faith.
I found it hard to understand and I told many Israelis that I couldn’t see how the Jews of Israel could be so irreligious when they are now established in the Holy Land, with proof of the Bible in every locality, and their very existence and independence ascribed even by the most irreligious Jew to a miracle. Those Israelis who give thought to the problem think there will be compromises and great changes, that religious holidays will become great national festivals, that the Sabbath restrictions must and will be eased in response to public demand for transportation and the right to enjoy the day of rest.
These discussions of religion in the Jewish state are of course very fascinating. But they should start with the understanding that most Jews of Israel are not religious, and therefore there is no possibility of a theocracy. Then the discussions become more realistic.
Robert S. Gamsey
Intermountain Jewish News
To the Editor:
Milton R. Konvitz’s article in the September issue is great stuff. It should be published in Israel; or at any rate reprints widely circulated there. I don’t want even the HaPoel Hamizrachi to force me to be free.
Maurice B. Hexter
New York City