The Supreme Court, Art in Israel, and more.

As nature abhors a vacuum, and since the Israeli legislative and executive branches cannot or will not deal in an orderly and productive manner with social, cultural or religious matters, no one should be surprised that the Supreme Court is successfully ruling on religious and cultural norms and values and forcing the government to implement these rulings as laws. That the Supreme Court is actually doing this with no legal basis or precedent, but rather as a result of the“enlightened” opinion of the justices is what your commentators decry, and rightly so. Beyond the obvious danger to democracy, judicial rulings not firmly grounded in either law or legal precedent are, in fact, nothing less than contempt for the law, and ultimately contempt for the public that the law is supposed to protect.
As your commentators make clear, the public discussion of this matter has been farcical. Those who support the Supreme Court’s activist stance have either disparaged, slandered or just ignored their opponents. This, by the way, is just a variation on one of the legal profession’s most fundamental principles: When the facts are on your side and the law is against you, argue the facts; when the law is on your side and the facts are against you, argue the law; and if both the facts and the law are against you, yell a lot and bang on the table.
Ken Besig
Kiryat Arba
To the Editors:
I enjoyed reading the article “Everything Free in America” (AZURE 7, Spring 1999) by Evan Gahr, but I would like to make a few comments.
My first comment refers to the nature of the Haredi critique of the judicial system. Criticism of the Supreme Court is desirable and essential in a democratic regime as a part of the public discourse between citizens and the various governmental authorities. This can only work, however, when the critics accept the rules of the democratic game and act accordingly, as is the case in the United States. Even when President Franklin Roosevelt attacked the Supreme Court and attempted to change its composition, he never thought of another type of government than democracy. In contrast, the criticism leveled by the Haredim is based in non-recognition of the democratic rules of the game and the desire to replace democracy with a theocracy, which is an entirely different matter.
To what may this be compared? To a game of chess, the goal of which is the elimination of the opponent’s king. There is a tremendous difference between attaining this goal in accordance with the rules of the game, winning by tactical moves, checkmating the opponent, and winning the game by smashing the opponent’s half of board with a hammer, crushing the king in the process.
Second, in my opinion Israeli secularism errs when it claims that there are only two sides to the coin, one side that is secular and democratic, and the other consisting of Judaism and totalitarianism, thereby essentially denying any possibility of the existence of a“Jewish and democratic state.” Besides the essential error at the root of this analysis, it is also liable to push religious and democratic individuals (mainly from the national-religious camp) to the Haredi side, by confronting them with a single alternative that includes, along with democracy, total secularism.
My feeling, as a religious Zionist who believes in both Jewish and democratic principles, and who is intimately involved in the Israeli experience, is that of someone who integrates religion with democracy on a daily basis. Consequently, on the day that two demonstrations were held in Jerusalem, one against the Supreme Court and the second in favor of secular democracy, I stayed home, since I could not fully sympathize with either side. Neither represented my worldview, or that of many others who believe in the possibility of a Jewish and democratic state.
Dan Turjeman
Beth She’an
The Jewish State
To the Editors:
I have read through quite a few of the essays on “The Jewish State: The Next Fifty Years” (AZURE 6, Winter 1999), and I was unusually struck by Yoram Hazony’s piece. I was looking for those articles which would help me consolidate my own views, but this essay served as a slap in the face for me. I thought I was in favor of a Jewish state, and this essay came along and told me that I did not know what I was talking about; that a “Jewish state” may sound good, but is actually vague and unclear, and that we have been quite negligent in addressing what this phrase means.
Over the past few years there have been various voices calling for founding a constitution in Israel. This appeared to me as either aping the United States, or else yet another trick with which to coerce the Haredi population into submission: “No, you can’t close Bar-Ilan Street, it’s unconstitutional.” This article presented the idea of a constitution as a tool that could be used to clarify what the Israeli people wanted their state to look like.
In addition, the final paragraph leaves us with ponderous homework—to get the idea of our Jewish state into order. I wish us all luck, and would be happy if further enlightenment, articles and lines of thought on this issue should come from AZURE in the near future.
Evan Feinsilver
Art in Israel
To the Editors:
This is in response to Avraham Levitt’s essay, “Israeli Art On Its Way to Somewhere Else” (AZURE 3, Winter 1998). I am inclined to accept the “parade of wandering” concept of mainstream Israeli art; only it misses the reason why establishment art here has largely been both an escape from the “national past” and an indigenous response to the land. The intention is to avoid the provincial label and opt instead for the International Style, whatever that is at the moment, in the so-called centers of culture.
The Israeli museums have offered key support for this “departure from the land in spirit.” Twenty years or so ago the curator Yona Fisher whispered in my ear that he doesn’t believe in this stuff, but it makes the museums look good abroad. The mechanism is taught in art schools as well.
Ivan Schwebel

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