One of the aspects of Israeli life which pro-Israel advocates trumpet is freedom of religion: that Jews, Muslims and Christians worship freely and without the interference or hindrance of state authorities. This, of course, isn’t true as there are enormous limitations placed on non-Jewish worship in Israel, some of which I’ve blogged about here in the past. Confirmation of this comes in a Haaretz report about an international survey on the status of religion in countries around the world. The Cingranelli-Richards Human Rights Dataset measures:
…Governmental restrictions on freedom of religion and freedom from religion in 195 countries…
Of these, over 50 received the lowest score possible, including Israel:
…Where zero indicates severe and widespread governmental restrictions on religious freedom…
Israel kept good company with other bastions of religious tolerance like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, China and Iran. Now, we can argue the relative freedom of religion in those countries compared to Israel. But the fact is that there are severe constraints placed on non-Jewish worship in Israel. Not to mention the monopoly offered to Orthodox Jews in all manner of religious and even secular affairs in society. The fact that secular Jews are coerced into adhering to religious law when negotiating their way through divorces, marriages and other normally civil ceremonies is an additional factor that diminishes religious freedom.
I can’t think of a better example of this than this Walla! report (Hebrew) that parents at a religious school in Afula discovered that their children had experienced a Muslim wedding during class. The notion so shocked them (under the influence of an NGO called Lehavah, whose mission is to prevent Jewish-Arab dating, marriages and general “mingling” between non-Jewish men and Jewish women, which they term a “Holocaust”). The parents declared the school defiled and demanded the rabbis enter it to “purfiy” the facilities before their children would return. Among the chief desecreations for these parents is that a sacred Torah scroll was in the same school chapel in which such pagan rites were held.
What tipped the parents off about the satanic goings-on in the school was the Arabic music that accompanied the wedding, and which piqued the busybody neighbors’ curiousity. They in turn informed the parents about the schandeh to which their children were subjected. The festivities were interrupted in midstream and the school’s leadership put an end to the nonsense before it could really pollute the minds of the children. The brouhaha went all the way up the chain of command to the Education Ministry to determine who approved such deviltry.
One religious leader in the community who was critical of the overreaction on the parents’ part still maintained that the wedding had been a foolish act that wouldn’t be repeated. God forbid our pure Jewish children should learn anything about the culture of 20% of their fellow citizens. Spit three times: ptuh, ptuh, ptuh!