The lack of freedom of — and from — religion remains one of the core obstacles to strengthening Israel’s liberal democracy.
One would think that, having finally achieved a Jewish homeland in Israel, Jews could practice their religion – or not – untroubled by government interference.
To some extent, that’s true. For years NIF supported programs to support Jews of all types in connecting or reconnecting to their Judaism. We helped immigrants from the former Soviet Union to establish vibrant spiritual communities. We backed liberal Orthodox women finding ways to increase their involvement in Jewish religious ritual within the framework of halacha. We helped establish new schools that joined the study of Jewish texts with social action inspired by Jewish values. We assisted Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist streams to establish a foothold in Israel.
But much remains to be done. The ultra-Orthodox establishment that controls Israel’s civil sphere continues to delegitimize other streams of Judaism. We believe that the time is ripe to mobilize Israelis to focus on advocacy for religious freedom. At the same time, we have identified and are supporting activists of moderate Orthodoxy as an important but overlooked movement with significant potential to play a key role as a moderating force in Israeli society.