The recently passed law allowing admissions committees in small community settlements to bar new residents who do not suit the “lifestyle and social fabric” of the community has provoked outrage in Israeli society, and has been deemed both racist and unethical. In this op-ed, which was originally published in Haaretz on March 30, 2011, IDI Research Fellow Yair Sheleg distinguishes between the right of a small homogenous community to decide for whom it is designed, and prohibitive laws that allow generalized ethnic and religious discrimination.
My three children studied at an elementary school with both religious and secular pupils. But I think it would be a mistake to impose such a setting on all of the country's children. I support feminist group prayer, and despite my Orthodox background, I have no particular problem with synagogues sitting men and women together. However, I would strenuously object should someone try to impose that approach to prayer on every synagogue in Israel.
"The recently passed law allowing admission committees in small communities in the north and south so residents who share a common purpose may bar new residents who "do not suit the lifestyle and social fabric of the community" (primarily that means: Arabs ) should be approached in that spirit. It is appropriate to encourage opportunities for Jews and Arabs to interact and live together, but it is inappropriate to impose this kind of coexistence by law..."
Yair Sheleg is a Research Fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute who is conducting research as part of IDI's Religion and State project.