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Vayeitzei: Can A Jewish State Be Democratic?

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What does the confluence of Thanksgiving, the “Jewish State” bill, and the events in Ferguson, Missouri, teach us about democracy?

Thanksgiving commemorates the beginning of a new, democratic way of life in a new land. And – while some pundits cite the recent events in Ferguson to demonstrate that democracy’s footing in America is still rather unstable – overall, nobody would deny that the Unites States has succeeded at becoming a fairly free nation with liberty for all.

There has been recent talk that Israel is not.

This has to do with the current discussion in Israel regarding the proposed “Jewish State” bill that seeks to emphasize the Jewishness of the State of Israel. Predictably, the bill has been perceived by the U.S. State Department (and The New York Times) as an attack on democracy.

If Israel were defined as a Jewish State then this would seem to compromise its purely democratic status. Conversely, if Israel were a pure democracy, then, over time, there would be a great possibility of the Jew becoming the minority within Israel and then what would ensure the Jewishness of the state?

Another question arises: What makes a state Jewish? If every single Jew on the face of the planet lived in the Holy Land – protected by a powerful army, shielded from any harm – would this really be the result we are looking for? How could 14 million Jews possibly get along in one land?

What does the Torah say?

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