Judaism and Democracy

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There are about 15 million Jews worldwide, of whom about 6 million live in Israel and 6 million in the USA.

Judaism is based on the Law of Moses which, according to Jewish tradition, stems directly from God and is therefore sacred, inviolable and inflexible. The Oral Torah, the interpretations of the divine law, expands the Torah commandments through agreed upon principles. The ancient, traditional laws definitely create a dilemma for the modern state, especially the relationship between religious law and the democratic law. The conflict is mainly about the source of authority for both the state laws and the religious law (the state of Israel has no constitution and no separation between “church and state”).

Outside Israel, the problem is solved simply by the decree of the Talmudic rabbis about 2,000 years ago that when a Jew is living in a foreign country "the law of the country is the law."

Israel, which is the only nation state with a Jewish majority, is a democracy, although some civil court laws are defined religiously. This creates considerable problems for the non-religious Jewish segment as well as the non-Jewish part of the population. Furthermore, there is an ultra-Orthodox Jewish minority which wants to organize Israeli society according to the religious law and rejects any law created by humans that is contrary to the Law of Moses. Such people can only be reached through religious arguments. One possibility would be if those rabbis who are good at simultaneously being democrats, humanists and practicing Jews were to launch a religiously based dialogue with the ultra-Orthodox on how they intend others to be allowed to live in peace and freedom in their own way.


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