Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Conflict between Religion and State...but Where? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

The State is in danger…but where? Of course we are not talking about Egypt, or Syria, or Turkey, or Iran, or even Saudi Arabia which the Israeli Foreign Minister is threatening with defamation, but rather Israel. For an Israeli story has come to light, an old and new story, and this is the story of the Orthodox Jews.

Of course, there is a far-reaching historical background to the conflict between the Orthodox Jews and the State of Israel, and Orthodox Jews have entered the Israeli government, and something akin to an agreement has been formed between them and the State in accordance with the concept of “live and let live.” They have also been granted a number of concessions, such as exemption from army service and tax exemption. However the conflict between the Orthodox Jews and the politicians and secular Israelis has begun to intensify today.

Orthodox Jews reject music and films, and they believe that the only role for women is to stay at home and raise children, and reports indicate that the average Orthodox Jewish family has 10 children. This represents a financial burden [on the State] because Orthodox Jews rely on complete support from the Israeli government, as they spend their entire day practicing their faith. Orthodox Jewish schools do not teach anything which has any connection with modern science, and therefore it is difficult for Orthodox Jews to find employment or assimilate in society.

Therefore the conflict today in Israel is with regards how to deal with Orthodox Jews, especially as their numbers have increased, as has the financial burden [on the state], not to mention their stance against everything modern, whether this is mobile phones, television, or the computer. As mentioned previously, political and secular opinion against Orthodox Jews have intensified, and there have been calls that they should be treated more firmly. Clashes with Orthodox Jews have also increased and intensified, and the last such clash was as a result of their objection to certain Israeli government projects, this resulted in the Mayor of Tel Aviv saying earlier this month that the State must act against “insulated and ignorant sectors which are increasing at a frightening speed and are jeopardizing our political and financial strength.”

Of course the issue does not stop here, for the British “Financial Times” newspaper also quoted an expert on the ultra-Orthodox community as saying that tensions will increase and that the next Israeli elections “will be fought on the subject of religion and the state.”

It is strange that the Israelis, and those who empathize with them in the West, continually try to portray extremism as being an Arab product, ignoring the extremism and intolerance that can be found inside Israel. What is important for us – as our colleague Mshari al-Zaydi said in his article last week – is that we continue to reform, for this is our true weapon in the war to develop and overtake those who want to have a place in an advanced world, whether this is politically, economically or of course scientifically. Whoever pursues a path of reform, in every field without exemption, will reap the rewards, while those who want to live with extremism will of course pay the price, and this is what Israel expects.

Therefore we say that the true battle with Israel has yet to begin, for our conflict with them unites them, and allows the world to ignore what is taking place inside Israel. One day, when the peace file is resolved, the real battle will begin, and this is a battle of science and ignorance, and social peace; for there’s more that divides them [Israel] than unites them.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

More Posts