What Does Biblical Faith Have to Do with Political Freedom?

Reporting on the recent “Inaugural Conference on Jews and Conservatism” in New York City, sponsored by the Jewish Leadership Conference (JLC), Peter Berkowitz sums up its highlights:

The one-day event attracted some 400 participants from around the country and from Canada, Mexico, and Israel. It featured prominent scholars, educators, policy professionals, and leaders from religion and politics, along with a rousing concluding keynote address by the Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer.

The conference was part of the JLC’s ambitious effort to fortify American Judaism and American conservatism by forging an alliance between them. It is a welcome undertaking since Judaism and conservatism share a fundamental interest in reconciling faith and liberty. It is also fraught with perplexities because both Judaism and conservatism are simultaneously riding high and suffering from an identity crisis. . . .

The conference [organizers] are acutely aware of the challenge. They believe, however, that the ties that bind the traditions present a golden opportunity. As Eric Cohen and Aylana Meisel argued in a 12,000-word manifesto in Commentary that launched the initiative, “Like Judaism itself, conservatism still honors the importance of fidelity to tradition, communal obligation, and the role of religion in sustaining a moral society.”

The conference’s major speeches and policy breakout sessions reflected [certain] core principles. These include the embrace of individual freedom, human equality, and civic responsibility along with dedication to the preservation of a distinctively Jewish way of life and the celebration of the achievements of Jewish civilization. In addition, the JLC seeks to protect religious liberty for all. It aims to defend parents’ right to educate their children in schools that reflect their religious beliefs. It undertakes to bolster enduring marriages and strong families built around the gift and responsibilities of raising children. And it champions Israel as the sovereign nation-state of the Jewish people and as America’s strategic and moral ally. . . .

Ron Dermer closed the conference with trenchant remarks on the enduring bonds linking America and Israel. . . . He also cautioned conference participants to respect the difference between Judaism and conservatism. “Judaism promises a holy life that brings individuals closer to God,” he said. In contrast, “politics can be inspired by faith, but politics can never replace faith.” Amid the current political tumult, not the least advantage of the alliance between Judaism and conservatism is the prospect of restoring a better understanding of that which links, and that which distinguishes, biblical faith and political freedom.

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: American Judaism, Conservatism, Jewish conservatism, Religion & Holidays

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem