Judaism and Democracy

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Articles

Op-ed

Israel's New Conversion Laws Give Power to the People

The Supreme Court’s decision to recognize conversions performed by private Orthodox rabbinical courts in Israel is nothing less than a historic drama. The immediate significance is the loss of the Chief Rabbinate’s Orthodox monopoly over conversions, but it’s also a milestone in the privatization of religious services on the road to the Chief Rabbinate’s loss of relevance. Originally published by Haaretz.

Article

Turning Research into Action

IDI experts analyze challenges to Israel’s democratic values and institutions and work with decision-makers to implement concrete
proposals to strengthen Israeli democracy.

Op-ed

‘Jewish and Democratic’ Even in Tough Times

Dr. Shuki Friedman reminds us that the values that are so deeply rooted in our Jewish worldview, are part and parcel with the democratic values of our state and its outlook on the obligation to preserve life and human dignity using the rule of law.

Op-ed

Father Judaism and Mother Democracy

In an op-ed from Haaretz, IDI research fellow Yair Sheleg responds to settler leader Benny Katzover’s positions on the Jewish and democratic nature of the State of Israel, and argues that Israel should not prefer either of these two identities and should view its Jewish and democratic nature as two manifestations of human dignity.

Article

Proposed Basic Law: Torah Study

Letter to Members of the Knesset on the proposed Basic Law: Torah Study - "This is an extremist proposal to enshrine the principle of inequality in our law books.Its adoption could undermine the IDF’s model of service and place Israel’s national security in jeopardy"

Article

Fertile Ground for Growth: The Jewish State’s Balancing Act

Beinisch and Plesner voice optimism about the future of Israel despite current tensions and threats to its democracy 

Press Release

Proposed Conversion Law

Prof. Yedidia Stern, Vice President of the Israel Democracy Institution said that the proposed conversion law is an important step. The state must take responsibility and resolve the issues that affect so many lives

Op-ed

Israel's Tragedy: One Country, Separate School Systems

IDI's Shuki Friedman laments the existence of separate education systems for each sector of Israel's population, which reinforce, rather than bridge societal divides. This op-ed first appeared on Times of Israel.

Op-ed

The ‘Religionization’ of Israel is Troubling, but the Fears About it are Hysterical

Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. These two characteristics are critical to the country’s existence. This article originally appeared on JTA.org.

Op-ed

The Jewish Happiness Index

Op-ed

Jewish, Democratic and Equal

There is a necessary condition that must be fulfilled for the existence of our nation-state to be justified: there must be an unconditional guarantee of civic equality for our national minorities. In this area, there is still much to be done.

Op-ed

Rabin memorial into ‘Israeli Democracy Day’

In this memoir, Prof. Yedidia Stern recounts the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and calls on the Israeli public to turn that horrid day into an annual “Israeli Democracy Day." This article was first published in the Jerusalem Post.

Op-ed

When November 4th Meets the 12th of Heshvan

Rabbi Yitzhak Ben David shares thoughts on the alignment of the Memorial Day for Yitzhak Rabin on the Gregorian and Hebrew calendars, which challenges us to find a renewed reconciliation between Israeli democracy and Jewish civilization. 

Op-ed

Reinventing the Chief Rabbinate

In an article in <em>The Jewish Week</em>, Ms. Ayelet Libson of IDI's Human Rights and Judaism project questions the role of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and offers her view of what it could be.

Op-ed

Marriage Equality for the Hearing Impaired

Rabbi Dr. Benjamin (Benny) Lau celebrates a planned change in the Chief Rabbinate's  policy regarding the treatment of hearing impaired individuals when it comes to marriage in Israel.

Op-ed

Zionism Must Reject Ultra-Orthodox View on Conversion

In this op-ed from Haaretz, IDI Research Fellow Yair Sheleg decries the ultra-Orthodox refusal to alter standards for conversion to Judaism in recognition of the fact that for many Israelis, Jewish identity is not only an expression of religious observance but also of identification with Zionism and Jewish culture. He warns that the ultra-Orthodox approach is causing serious injustice to thousands of people who wish to live as Jews and raise Jewish children in Israel.

Op-ed

The Jewish and Democratic State: Zionism is Not Racism

In an op-ed in Haaretz, Attorney Amir Fuchs asserts that Israel is both the nation-state of the Jewish people and a democratic state, despite the confused Zionism of Mayor Shimon Gapso of Upper Nazareth.

Op-ed

How to Save Israel’s Shabbat

It is time for all of us to rethink the desired character of the Israeli Shabbat. This article was originally published by Times of Israel.

Op-ed

New Jew?

Judaism is no longer intimately and inexorably linked to religious observance. 

Op-ed

Rabbinical vs. Personal Converts to Judaism: What’s the Difference?

These two types of converts display different profiles and patterns of Jewish engagement, and both differ from the 5.1 million individuals who were born Jewish.

Op-ed

Religion and State in Israel: Charting a New Course for 5778

Is our country and society doomed to continually follow the same path of repeated crisis, or has the time finally come for us to plot a new course?

Op-ed

Israel Is Repeating The Mistakes That Led To The Temple’s Destruction

What message of Tisha B’Av is relevant for life in a sovereign state like Israel? Does the American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel make the day of mourning for “the city that is in mourning, laid waste, despised and desolate” an anachronism?

Op-ed

A New Approach To Dealing With Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox

Israel needs to abandon the vindictive approach of trying to reform ultra-Orthodox society through force and budget cuts, and rather start investing heavily in education and job creation in the ultra-Orthodox sector. This op-ed was first published in the New York Jewish Week.

Op-ed

A Holy War Over Israel's Character

The inflammatory statements made about Reform Judaism at the recent First Zion and Jerusalem Conference are not merely old rhetoric, but rather a national ultra-Orthodox (Hardal) declaration of a holy war against the spread of pluralistic Judaism in Israel.

Op-ed

Israel's Battle for Peace Between Religion and State

The relationship between religion and state in Israel is stormy. Lately, it seems the ultra-Orthodox have launched a new offensive on several fronts. This op-ed was originally published by JNS.org.

Op-ed

Time to Allow Everyone to Worship at the Foot of the Temple Mount as they Wish

No aspect of the current Western Wall plaza arrangement, in which the Orthodox maintain a monopoly, will change if other denominations are allowed to pray at the foot of the Temple Mount in a new plaza. This article was first published by The Jerusalem Post.

Op-ed

An Israeli Shabbat

What does Shabbat and its observance look like in the State of Israel? Can every individual enjoy this day of rest in the way he/she chooses? Are there actually individuals who are forced to give up Shabbat as a result of a lack of choice or economic coercion? IDI scholar Dr. Shuki Friedman explains in this article which originally appeared on eJewish Philanthropy.

Op-ed

Trump, Clinton and the King of Moab

What do the two candidates for the American presidency — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — have in common? Almost nothing at all — except that their children are married to Jews. This op-ed by Yedidia Stern originally appeared in the Jewish Journal. 

Op-ed

Judicial Appointment Highlights Dramatic Changes Among Israeli Haredim

Earlier this month, change snuck in through the back door of Israel's court system when Israel’s first ultra-Orthodox judge was appointed. This article was first published by the Jewish Press.

Op-ed

Shemitat Kesafim: The Year of Escape from Debt

Dr. Benny Porat discusses the precept of debt cancellation during the sabbatical year (Shemita) and proposes ways in which to update this practice to suit the economics of contemporary Israel and create a model society. 

Op-ed

Shavuot in Israel: A Celebration of Torah or First Fruits?

Dr. Hizky Shoham explores the multiple identities of the holiday of Shavuot, which began as an agricultural festival, was transformed into the "holiday of the giving of the Torah," and is most often commemorated as a celebration of Torah in today's Israel—by secular and observant Jews alike.

Op-ed

Joining Together to Remember Yitzhak Rabin

On the 19th anniversary of the Rabin assassination, Rabbi Dr. Benjamin (Benny) Lau, head of IDI's Human Rights and Judaism in Action project, looks at the youth of Israel and shares a vision of hope.

Op-ed

Is There a Place for God in the Israeli Army?

In an article in the <em>Jewish Week</em>, IDI Vice President Yedidia Stern discusses the question of whether it is appropriate for commanders to use religious rhetoric in motivating their soldiers, and stresses the need for the Israeli army to represent all.

Op-ed

My Jerusalem: Thoughts for Jerusalem Day

IDI Vice President Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer shares thoughts on Jerusalem, which symbolizes what is most beautiful and exalted in Jewish culture: the commitment to law and morality, to justice and mercy.

Op-ed

A Royal Sanctuary: Three Scenes for Jerusalem Day

Rabbi Dr. Benjamin (Benny) Lau presents three snapshots from different times and places, reflecting on a city that combines ancient and modern, sacred and secular, eternal truths and ordinary life.

Op-ed

Celebrating Independence: The Vision of Professor Reuven Feuerstein

As Israel prepares to celebrate its independence, Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Lau and Ms. Shira Ruderman remind us of the need to bring people with disabilities into the circle of those who celebrate independence, drawing on the legacy of the late Prof. Reuven Feuerstein in this call for integration. 

Op-ed

The Referendum Law as a Metaphor

In an op-ed originally published in Haaretz, IDI Former President and Founder Dr. Arye Carmon explains his reservations about the "Referendum Bill" and warns that the concept of referendum is antithetical to the principles of democracy.

Op-ed

The Fate of a Mamzer

In an article in The Jewish Week, Gitit Paz, a young scholar in IDI's Human Rights and Judaism project, discusses the status of mamzer in Jewish law and in contemporary Israel. 

Op-ed

Using Administrative Detention to Combat Organized Crime

Aviad Ben Yehuda discusses the problematic nature of the proposal to extend the use of administrative detention in Israel from the war on terror to the war on organized crime.

Article

"Who Made Me a Woman": Women in Ultra-Orthodox Society

A series of Hebrew videos on the historical processes behind the development of the role of ultra-Orthodox women in the family and society, which were developed as part of IDI's research projects on the Nation State and on the Integration of Haredim in Israeli Society.

Op-ed

Belief in God is Not the Problem in Israel

Recently, the findings of the third Guttman-AVI CHAI report—A Portrait of Israeli Jews: Beliefs, Observance, and Values of Israeli Jews—were presented to the public. The findings have drawn much media coverage because they revealed that an overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews believe in God. In an op-ed from <em>Haaretz</em>, IDI Senior researcher Yair Sheleg responds to columnists who were alarmed by the findings regarding belief in God, and argues that what is really of concern is the inverse relationship between this belief and belief in democratic values.

Op-ed

An Anti-Zionist Law

In an op-ed in Haaretz, IDI Researcher Attorney Amir Fuchs warns that the proposed Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People is not only anti-democratic but also undermines the foundations of Zionism.

Op-ed

A Zionist State, a Binational State and an In-Between Jewish and Democratic State

In this article, reprinted from Nationalism and Binationalism: The Perils of Perfect Structures, Prof. Sammy Smooha presents three models of Israel's national character, focusing on Israel's identity as a Jewish and democratic state.

Op-ed

A Jewish and Undemocratic State?

The proposed "Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People" has the support of one third of the members of Knesset. In this op-ed, which was originally published in Hebrew in Yedioth Ahronoth, IDI Vice President of Research Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern, who is deeply committed to the Jewish nature of the State of Israel, warns that the shift from defining Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state" to a "Jewish state with a democratic regime" is not a semantic shift, but a seismic change.  

Op-ed

Rosh Hashanah Resolution

The upcoming High Holidays are an opportunity to expand our perception beyond our selves and communities. This article was first published by the New York Jewish Week.

Article

The Shabbat Wars: A Guide for the Perplexed on the 'Status Quo' … and a Possible Solution

A summary of the legal situation in Israel regarding Shabbat observance.

Article

Privatizing Religion

Yair Ettinger discerns between different streams of Religious-Zionist Jews in Israeli society, and analyzes how these schisms play out in the socio-political arena. This piece was originally published by Brookings.

 

Op-ed

Voyage to Identity

Prof. Yedidia Stern argues that our Jewish identity and culture depend on how we understand and internalize the past.

Op-ed

Two Jewish Nations and the Abyss Between Them

For many American Jews, identification with the State of Israel is a significant component of their Jewish identity.

 

Press Release

Calling on Our Leaders to Lead

Leading public figures avoid dealing with issues that are of national importance when it entails confronting the ultra-Orthodox community.

Op-ed

The Binding of the Boy from Damascus

How should Jews in Israel feel about the mass slaughter of Arabs by Arabs just a few miles away? IDI Vice President Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern shares thoughts in this article, which was originally published in The Jewish Week.

Op-ed

The IDF: Army of the People or Army of God?

IDI Vice President Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer addresses the question of the appropriateness of the letter that Givati Brigade commander Col.Ofer Winter sent to his subordinate officers as Israel prepared for the ground incursion in Gaza in the summer of 2014.

Op-ed

A Jewish State Warrants Our Sacrifice

IDI Vice President Prof. Yedidia Stern reflects on the privilege of sacrifice and the necessity to maintain a Jewish Israel in order to justify that sacrifice, in an article written for Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel's Wars and Victims of Terrorism.

Op-ed

Human Rights under Attack

IDI Researcher Attorney Amir Fuchs discusses two indirect threats to human rights in Israel: attacks on the Israeli Supreme Court and attacks against Israeli human rights organizations.

Op-ed

The Ultra-Orthodox Draft: Crossing the Third Rubicon

Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern and Attorney Haim Zicherman stress the need to break down barriers that are preventing Haredi service in the army and integration in the labor force, and warn against passing a popular but ill-advised reform. 

Op-ed

How Can We Draft the Ultra-Orthodox with Consent?

Is it possible to draft the ultra-Orthodox and integrate them into Israel's society and economy in a mutually-agreeable manner that encourages solidarity between the different sectors of the Jewish people? Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern shares thoughts on wars between brothers and brothers-in-arms.

Op-ed

Blind to the Rights of the Disabled

In an article in The Jewish Week, Rabbi Dr. Benjamin (Benny) Lau calls on religious authorities who hold human rights dear to find a way to allow people with disabilities to have access to the Western Wall plaza.

Op-ed

What remains of the religious status quo?

Instead of Judaism being what unites Jews in Israel with Jews around the world, our religion has become the main source of conflict.

Op-ed

The Elephant in the Room: Relations between Religion and State in Israel

Prof. Yedidia Stern urges Israel's leaders to stop tiptoeing around the core issues of religion and state in the Knesset election campaign, and to take a clear position on the matter.

Op-ed

A Ready Alternative to the Nation State Law

IDI researcher Dr. Amir Fuchs criticizes the proposed Basic Law that would establish Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and recommends accepting Israel's Declaration of Independence as the preamble to Israel's future Constitution instead.

Policy Statement

IDI Experts Submit Legal Opinion on Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People

A legal opinion opposing the proposed Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People, which was submitted by IDI Vice President Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Attorney Amir Fuchs to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on June 4, 2014.

Op-ed

Israeli Democracy Day: Yitzhak Rabin's Legacy for the Future

On the 19th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Prof. Yedidia Stern asserts that if the annual memorial day for the late prime minister were to be observed as Israeli Democracy Day, Rabin's legacy for the future would be even greater.

Op-ed

The IDF’s Fighting Ethos in the Wake of Operation Protective Edge

IDI President Yohanan Plesner stresses the need to ensure that the Israel Defense Forces remains at the heart of the Zionist consensus so as to enable it to continue to be the army of all citizens of Israel.

Op-ed

Shmita: Rest, Share, Release

An exploration of the existential, social, and economic dimensions of the Shmita year, that calls for bringing together social, moral, cultural, religious and national forces to implement the idea of Shmita in non-agricultural and national contexts in Israel.

Article

On the Punishment of MK Hanin Zoabi by the Knesset Ethics Committee

IDI researcher Assaf Shapira provides background information on the decision of the Knesset Ethics Committee to suspend MK Hanin Zoabi for statements she made about the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teenagers and about Operation Protective Edge.

Op-ed

On Intermarriage, Judaism, and Democracy in Israel

Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Lau shares thoughts on the tension between Judaism and democracy, in response to the public protests against the marriage of a Jewish woman who converted to Islam and an Israeli Arab. 

Op-ed

Ultra-Orthodox Integration: It Takes Two to Tango

In an op-ed in Ynet News, IDI researcher Dr. Haim Zicherman discusses the steps that Israeli society must take in order to enable ultra-Orthodox men to integrate into the Israeli army and workforce.

Op-ed

On Leadership and Responsibility: The Lessons of the Purim Story

Rabbi Dr. Benny Lau and Shira Ruderman, Israel Director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, share thoughts on the Purim story, leadership, responsibility, and repair of the world.

Op-ed

Is "Israeli" a Nationality?

Should the State of Israel recognize "Israeli" as a nationality? IDI Vice President Prof. Yedidia Stern and Jay Ruderman assert that it is imperative for the State of Israel to continue distinguishing between citizenship and nationality. 

Op-ed

The Haredi Draft: Is the Shaked Committee's Bill Destined to be Overturned?

As the Shaked Committee begins to vote on its proposal for the Haredi draft, Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern warns that the proposal's recommendation to exempt Haredi men of draft age during a three-year "adjustment period" is both inequitable and ineffective. 

Op-ed

Non-Jews in a Jewish State: Searching for a New Paradigm

In an article in The Jewish Week, Rabbi Dr. Kalman Neuman of IDI's Religion and State project examines some of the thorny questions of Jewish law when it comes to non-Jews in a Jewish state.

Op-ed

What Can We Learn about Israeli Policy Making from the Supreme Court's Ruling on the Anti-Infiltration Law?

Attorney Talya Steiner warns that a Supreme Court's judgment that struck down an amendment of Israel's anti-infiltration law as unconstitutional points to significant flaws in Israel's process of policy-making.

Op-ed

The Contributors to the State Bill: Contributing to the Jewish-Arab Divide

Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Att. Talya Steiner warn that the veteran's benefit bill, which is intended to extend benefits to those who have contributed to the State, discriminates against Israel's Arab citizens, who are exempt from military service in Israel.

Op-ed

No to the Separation of Religion and State in Israel

Should the American model of separation of church and state be applied to Israel? In an article in <em>The Jewish Week</em>, IDI's Yair Sheleg argues that Israel needs a unique model.

Op-ed

Sir Isaac Newton and the New Haredim

Prof. Yedidia Stern shares thoughts on the connection between failure of the ultra-Orthodox "Tov" party in the local elections, the Haredi draft bill being debated by the Shaked Committee, and Newton's laws of motion.

Op-ed

On the Need for Civil Unions in Israel

Rabbi Dr. Benjamin (Benny) Lau expresses support for the proposed civil union bill, which would allow couples who do not want to marry in a religious service to form a legally recognized union and be eligible for the benefits and responsibilities associated with marriage.

Research reel

Ensuring a Vibrant Democracy

Op-ed

Who is Responsible for Finding a Solution to the Plight of Mesoravot Get?

Prof. Shahar Lifshitz outlines what halakhic authorities and the Knesset can do in order to resolve the issue of get refusal, as discussed at the Second Agunah Summit.

Op-ed

Democracy: The Key Election Issue

In an op-ed in Maariv, IDI Vice President Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer calls for an election campaign that focuses not only on foreign policy and Israel's social gap, but on the nature of Israeli identity and the value of Israeli democracy itself.

Op-ed

A Four-Step Plan to Combat Hatred between Jews and Arabs in Israel

IDI Research Fellow Yair Sheleg outlines four steps that can allay fears, contribute to dialogue, combat hatred, and improve relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel

Op-ed

Overriding the Supreme Court: A Breach in the Wall of Democracy

Dr. Amir Fuchs discusses the proposal to add an override clause to Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom that would enable the Knesset to bypass the High Court and deal a a severe blow to the main safeguard of human rights and minorities in Israel.

Article

Second Strike and You Are (Finally) Out? The Quashing of the Prevention of Infiltration Law (Amendment No. 4)

IDI Researcher Dr. Reuven (Ruvi) Ziegler presents a brief overview of the Israeli High Court of Justice's decision to strike down Amendment No. 4 of the Prevention of Infiltration Law, and explores several themes that may be of comparative constitutional interest. 

Op-ed

The Prevention of Infiltration Act in the Supreme Court: Round Two

IDI researcher Dr. Reuven (Ruvi) Ziegler explains why he believes the Supreme Court should overturn Amendment No. 4 of the Prevention of Infiltration Act just as it invalidated its predecessor.

Op-ed

Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People – A Danger to the Zionist Enterprise

In an article in the Hebrew weekly <em>Makor Rishon</em>, Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Attorney Amir Fuchs argue against the current initiative to pass Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People, which they see as divisive and problematic.

Article

Israeli Public Opinion on Reducing Funding to Organizations that Mark Independence Day as the "Nakba"

What do Jews in Israel think about the law mandating the reduction of government funds to institutions that mark Israel Independence Day as a day of mourning for the Palestinian "Nakba"? Find out in this mini-survey conducted by IDI's Guttman Center. 

Article

Public Opinion: Is Israel Independence Day a Holiday?

Do Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel see Yom Ha'atzmaut as a holiday? Do perceptions among Jews vary depending upon level of religiosity or position on the right-left political spectrum? Find out in this Mini-Survey from IDI's Guttman Center.

Op-ed

Basic Law: Referendum—Changing the Rules of the Game of Israeli Democracy

Dr. Dana Blander draws on the findings of Israeli public opinion polls and explores some of the ramifications of the new Basic Law: Referendum, a law that establishes a system in which every citizen is entitled to participate in historic decisions on withdrawal from territory.

Op-ed

The IDF and the Ultra-Orthodox

As the Knesset prepares to vote on the "Draft Law" designed to regulate the service of ultra-Orthodox men in the Israel Defense Forces, Dr. Haim Zicherman surveys the current situation within Israel's Haredi community.

Op-ed

The Electoral Threshold: Why the Rush?

In an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post, Dr. Ofer Kenig warns that while there is nothing wrong with a moderate increase in Israel's electoral threshold, increasing it from 2% to 3.25% in a single step is problematic.

Op-ed

International Disabilities Day 2013: Human Rights and Judaism in Action

In honor of International Day for Persons with Disabilities, Rabbi Dr. Benjamin (Benny) Lau updates us on IDI's efforts on behalf of people with disabilities and reveals that people with guide dogs are now allowed to access the Western Wall.

Op-ed

The Haredi Draft: Equality Now?!

On November 21 2013, Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern appeared before the Shaked Committee and argued that criminal sanctions are not recommended for reaching conscription goals. In an op-ed in Makor Rishon, he explains why.

Article

Life Under Two Suns: When Human Rights and Jewish Values Collide

The first in a series of articles by researchers from IDI's Judaism and democracy projects and Human Rights and Judaism project on the complementary but tense relations between Judaism and democratic values.

Op-ed

Basic Law: Nation State? Only a Constitution Can Guarantee Israel's National Character

Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Attorney Amir Fuchs assert that the only way to guarantee Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state is not through a Basic Law that defining Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people but through a Constitution. 

Op-ed

The Admissions Committees Ruling: A Lack of Ripeness or Refusal to Decide?

Dr. Amir Fuchs discusses the Israeli High Court of Justice's decision to uphold the "Admissions Committees Law," which allows small communities to reject applicants due to a lack of social suitability. 

Op-ed

Price Tag Attacks: Racist Crimes

In an article in <em>Haaretz</em>, Attorney Amir Fuchs stresses the need to wage a genuine war against racism, in order to preserve the values of Zionism and safeguard the Jewish and democratic state.