American Evangelical conservatism doesn’t work in Israel
Author makes the case for why Israeli conservatism is anti-freedom of speech and basic rights while excluding believers as well
If you’re an Evangelical believer who lives in America, being a conservative is a no-brainer.
Why? Because conservative, right-leaning principles line up with the values of the Bible.
This would include the pro-life movement, being a strong proponent of the family, which contains two parents (not of the same sex) and a rejection of the progressive agenda which, these days promote accommodating gender dysphoria, the study of critical race theory and viewing whites as those who oppress minorities. Cancel culture does not allow for the concepts of grace or forgiveness. It simply seeks to evaporate a person right along with their livelihood, essentially making it tantamount to courtyard execution in the year 2022.
Given these propensities, not only Bible believers reject the left, but now we’re seeing a growing trend of non-religious individuals. So many have moved away from the Democratic party as they’ve become disillusioned with the way violence and intimidation is being used as a tool in order to silence any who would dare to speak out for whatever differs with the position that is being advanced. They’re smart enough to figure out that it can’t be the only acceptable one.
In short, American conservatism stands for family values, patriotism, the belief in hard work and in one’s faith. So why not bring that message to Israel as was recently attempted by CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee). That’s exactly what the visiting American representatives told the audience as they expressed their aspiration to have this type of conference on an annual basis.
However, what many of them don’t understand is that Israel is an entirely different animal. Built on the principles of creating a safe Jewish homeland for persecuted and displaced Jews – whose hard work and common core values would create a utopian example of freedom and justice – the state eventually veered off into a completely different direction. Although the country always sought to promote a Jewish lifestyle, connected to observance of Shabbat, holidays and other religious ethics, it began as a more pluralistic society which recognized and accommodated diverse expressions and backgrounds of Jewish thought.
That began to change sometime around the year 2000 as the ultra-Orthodox attained more and more power of governmental ministries which came as a result of coalition building by the prevailing party which won the most electoral mandates. In this case, that was the Likud party, a right-leaning, more conservative party led, most of those years, by Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, the longest serving prime minister.
Consequently, the Interior Ministry, which decides matters over birth and marriage registry – as well as who is a Jew – for purposes of Israeli citizenship, were tightly held by zealous religious extremists who legislated more as if Israel was an exclusive club to which only a select few were admitted.
They drove away liberal-minded Jews, Jews who were non-observant and any Jews who may have held a different religious belief which, to them, nullified their ethnicity as well. Consequently, they were no longer viewed as Jewish on any level, making them ineligible for the rights and privileges of being part of the Jewish homeland.
In fact, their power and influence did not stop there. The conservative, right-leaning parties had no desire to team up with more centrist parties in an attempt to find workable compromises for the 70% secular Israeli population which often protested that their voices were not being heard on a variety of issues. Those included the ever-rising costs of housing, the right to be married by someone other than an Orthodox rabbi, their desire to see subsidies end for the Orthodox who were unwilling to serve in the army and many more concerns which sent these protesters out into the streets on a weekly basis for the last couple of years.
In short, being conservative, or right-leaning in Israel, is basically throwing in your support with the ultra-Orthodox parties whose limited visibility extends only to how they view a perfect world. It is one which would never permit driving a car on Shabbat, the recognition of civil marriage, the freedom to interpret the Bible as each one sees it or the rejection of religion at all.
If you think that such policies lack free choice, plurality and the inclusion of other viewpoints, you would be right. And so, the right-leaning Israeli political parties have turned out to be the same mirror image of the intolerant left-leaning, progressive parties of America.
It is only through the more centrist Israeli parties that the public has any hope of furthering their longing to see a more open-minded, free-wheeling and permissive society which takes into account the many diverse viewpoints which are part and parcel of the Jewish tribe composed of a people who have been dispersed throughout the world for 2,000 years. Naturally, they would not fit into one mold and why should they?
No one person has the lock on all truth nor does one political party. We are always stronger when we come together with our diverse approaches to problems and challenges.
Unlike what is happening here, America’s Republican party has come to learn that they are stronger when they are more inclusive, and that has caused them to expand their composition of who is welcomed into the party. Today, its face is one of Blacks, Latinos, straight and gay people, families and even one well-known transgender, Caitlyn Jenner.
It’s exactly how the Democratic Party looked about 15 years ago. But since their sharp move towards intolerance, bullying, violent protest and the use of victimhood as tools in their quest for power, they have actually succeeded in repelling many of their supporters who now see them as a danger and no longer promoting freedom and liberty.
People, in general, just want to be free to make their own choices. They don’t want to be told that there is only one expression of politics, religion or anything else. That is why Israeli conservatism is not winning as the dominant political wave which is attracting the country’s masses.
The key to winning over any population is to allow them to have a personal stake in their daily lives, and that can only come when a political party respects the differences of all. American conservatives have learned that lesson, but it is one which still needs to be internalized here in Israel.
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.