The Separation of Church and State: An Israeli Example
30 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2014
Date Written: September 22, 2014
The inherent tension between religion and state often permeates authoritative institutions. Indeed, the laws of man often vie with the laws of God to whatever extent they do not coincide, explicitly or tacitly. Even when in harmony, spiritual laws and statutory laws may conflict on a grander scale, one of authority. Both religious institutions and the state apparatus claim some degree of authority. Power-sharing of this sort proves tricky in even the most entrenched systemic traditions. Change or evolution of any sort-structural, societal, institutional, etc.- can easily upset the balance between church and state.
Sixty years ago, the birth of the state of Israel engendered many questions about the relationship between church and state. The vast majority of citizens living within the newly-drawn state claimed Jewish heritage, with some citing it as an ethnic identifier and others a spiritual claim. To complicate the situation, the major minority in the region, the Palestinians, generally practice the Islamic faith, a religion often historically and presently involved and entwined with governance. Other faiths also have a presence in the region, as do other ethnic groups.
In discussing the relationship between religion and the state in Israel, the past proves of vital importance. But contemporary thought and international trends hold sway over development in the interaction too. With a diverse and dynamic population and evolving social and political mores, defining an individual's relationship to the church itself can be difficult. Attempting to define a society's or state's relationship with religion proves even more difficult.
Many scholars, including, among others, Shimon Shetreet and Winfried Brugger, offer distinct-though often coinciding-frameworks to discuss the relationship between church and state. These models offer a valuable foundation for a discussion of Israel's relationship with religion. The text that follows first lays out a scholarly model for examining the classifying the relationship between church and state. Next, it discusses the workings of the Israeli system, focusing on the overlapping of religious law and the state legal system. Finally, this paper explores the potential problems of the dissonance between the Israeli judicial apparati and religious courts.
Keywords: Church Taxation, Separation of Church and State
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