Is Israel becoming a theocracy?

The early Zionism, one that allowed the building of the State of Israel, was originally a secular socialist movement. Theodor Herzl, the father of the nation, never imagined entrust the affairs of the future state of Jews in Palestine to the religious. In fact, some believe that Israel was socialist but the globalization, the accelerating ultra-liberalization of the Israeli economy, the individualization of society and the alignment of Israeli society on all those of the Western world show that the country has naturally dropped some of its ideological foundations. Could it be the same one day with the religious theme? Should we fear a theocratization of the Israeli political and social scenes?

Recent events about the ultra-Orthodox prove that Israel is in constant tension with the various components of its society who sometimes struggle to coexist. The weekend of the new year was tense in Jerusalem and the demonstration of the ultra-orthodox of the sect of Sicarii, disguised as prisoners of concentration camps with the yellow star aroused the emotion of the entire country. The latter protested against the media and the seculars chanting the following words: « The Jews are not Zionists, Zionists are not Jews but racists. » This means racist against the ultra-Orthodox who feel stigmatized since the beginning of the social crisis last summer. Thus, they became radicalized. Living on the margins of society, the community of « Haredim », literally « those who fear God, » have made the news many times and intend to enforce the Halakha, the Jewish law of separation of the sexes: Yocheved Horowitz, Tanya Rosenblit and Na’ama Margolese still remember it. The first one contested of having to go to the back of a bus as it is customary in the line « kosher » to make room for the men at the front of the vehicle. The second was stigmatized for the same reasons and the third, the little Na’ama, 8 years old, has toured the country’s TV channels in tears witnessing verbal attacks and spitting it received in Beit Shemesh dressing in a so-called light clothes for the Haredim.

It should be understood that the phenomenon of theocratization of minds is not completely new in Israel. At the creation of the state in 1948, the most fervent opponents of the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine were precisely the legalistic religious Jews, strongly opposed to the secular Zionists. For them, the realization of Israel could not occur until the arrival of the messiah. By buying their support by many social benefits, the successive governments have put on their side a key resource for the logic of settlement of the country and ensured the Jewish majority. Subsequently, politics have been granted the religious the right not to serve in the army and to be exempted from military service. At that price, the ultra-Orthodox have become in a few decades the main moral support of the country and especially the main religious and identity basis in the preservation of the Jewish identity. Today, tensions between religious and secular reborn as the largest ever social crisis across the country and the largest events ever occurred so far consistent in the two countries designated scapegoats for the economic crisis and the bankruptcy of thewelfare state: the ultra-Orthodox who do not contribute to the activity of the country and become a burden and nationalist settlers are expensive with the occupation of territories (they call Judea and Samaria). The ultra-Orthodox make up 10% of Israelis and could represent more than 15% in 2025, the government said.

The question today is more political than ever. The proof is the weight that the politicized religious took since the arrival of the traditional right in 1977 and the formation of the Bloc of the Faith, « Gush Emunim », which gave an official unique political identity to the settlers defending Greater Israel, after the historic defeat of the Socialist Left and secular. Another proof is the voting system in Israel and the deep-rootedness of the society right for ten years: the government of Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman cannot hold without the help of religious parties. And the problem is there for this secular democracy that tries to resist today: any coalition government seems destined to fail without the support of the religious and therefore the three parties which are Shas, Agudat Israel and the Degel Hatorah.

 Sébastien Boussois