Do You Believe in God? Haaretz Engages Israeli Politicians in Special Questionnaire

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Illustration by Amos Biderman.

Shas, Arye Dery

What is your position on teaching evolution in Israeli schools?

“As an ultra-Orthodox party that believes that our forefathers were Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that our holy matriarchs were Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, we refuse to teach our children that they originated from apes.”

What is your position on the state’s biometric database?

“It is a charged and complex issue that ranges between the need to maintain the security of the state ... and the need to protect the rights of the individual. ... We will definitely consider this issue. At present we have many doubts about protecting this balance in the framework of the existing law.”

What is your position on Israel’s contribution to global warming?

“Unfortunately, we are not in a good place in terms of this issue, and we must take action in the next government so that Israel will contribute less to global warming.”

Do you personally believe in God?

“Yes.”

Zionist Union, Isaac Herzog

What is your position on teaching evolution in Israeli schools?

“The state’s withdrawal from responsibility led to a loss of trust in the education system, which is at an unprecedented nadir. Our children are not receiving a sufficiently high level of education and we are forced to pay high sums merely to receive the minimal requirement. We believe that knowledge is power and therefore the Israeli education system under [our government] will be as pluralistic and as varied as possible, and as such it will enrich the students with knowledge and with many tools.”

What is your position on the state’s biometric database?

“Seeing that Israeli citizens are constantly being hurt in the areas of personal security, the cost of living, the right to age with dignity and the fundamental right to housing, we do not believe that their individual rights should also be hurt. Therefore, we will oppose the establishment of a biometric database in Israel.”

What is your position on Israel’s contribution to global warming?

“We believe that a healthy environment and environmental justice are foundation stones of the establishment of social justice, and we will work to inculcate the principles of sustainability and “green growth.” We will act on behalf of protecting the environment, preserving land resources and natural resources, guaranteeing sustainable energy and water economies and preserving the values of nature.”

Do you personally believe in God?

“We in Zionist Union will act toward the end that Israel, as a Jewish and democratic state, shall guarantee freedom of religion and of conscience to all its citizens, and that it shall guarantee freedom of access to the holy places to the people of all religions and their preservation, in accordance with the Declaration of Independence.”

Meretz, Zehava Galon

What is your position on teaching evolution in Israeli schools?

“Meretz supports the teaching of the sciences, including the theory of evolution. We see no contradiction between teaching evolution and teaching the Bible or other Jewish studies in a pluralistic and open approach.”

What is your position on the state’s biometric database?

“Meretz opposed the establishment of the biometric database, and today it works to guarantee that it is supervised properly by the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. The database exposes the most personal and sensitive information of Israeli citizens to the threat of hacking, and there is great concern that it could fall into the wrong hands.”

What is your position on Israel’s contribution to global warming?

“In absolute terms, Israel’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is relatively small, but in relative terms it emits a large quantity of greenhouse gases per person. Israel should be in the forefront of the developed states and it should commit to significantly reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases.”

Do you personally believe in God?

“No.”

Joint List, Ayman Odeh

What is your position on teaching evolution in Israeli schools?

“I support teaching the theory of evolution as the theoretical foundation accepted today by science for the development of the variety of species on Earth.”

What is your position on the state’s biometric database?

“I oppose the establishment of such a database. It has been proved many times already that when such a database exists, it eventually leaks out to commercial, criminal and other elements. There are other technological solutions to the same need that do not deal a mortal blow to our privacy.”

What is your position on Israel’s contribution to global warming?

“It is important to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Israel. It is important not only as part of the overall international effort, but also because the air pollution in Israel has health, social and economic implications for citizens of the state.”

Do you, personally, believe in God?

“Yes, I do believe in God.”

Kulanu, Moshe Kahlon

What is your position on teaching evolution in Israeli schools?

“Israel inscribed on its flag the topics of research, curiosity and human development. That is our strength. We believe that in schools various approaches should be taught, including evolution.”

What is your position on the state’s biometric database?

“Israel is a developed, Western state that seeks to fall in line with the other states of the Western world in reference to the use of advanced technologies and crime prevention. At the same time, everything possible must be done in order to defend and protect the privacy of its citizens and their biological data.”

What is your position on Israel’s contribution to global warming?

“Kulanu will endeavor toward unifying the authorities in this area under a single organization that would advance the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets as well as the increasing Israel’s energy efficiency for the benefit of the entire economy.”

Do you personally believe in God?

“Of course.”

Yahad, Eli Yishai

What is your position on teaching evolution in Israeli schools?

“It should not be taught.”

What is your position on the state’s biometric database?

“We should wait for the results of the pilot program and afterward reach a rational conclusion.”

What is your position on Israel’s contribution to global warming?

“Israel is taking action on the issue and should continue to invest resources in the use of green energy.”

Do you personally believe in God?

“Certainly, I believe with perfect faith.”

Yesh Atid, Jacob Perry (former science and technology minister)

What is your position on teaching evolution in Israeli schools?

“The children of Israel must be raised on the values of the Bible and the Jewish tradition. But I am in favor of the expansion of horizons and teaching the history of humanity from other angles as well, and therefore I am not against also teaching evolution — but not only evolution.”

What is your position on the state’s biometric database?

“In such complex times in terms of security, and as part of the technological challenges we are witness to, I support the establishment of a biometric database that will aid in leading Israel into the future, in a framework that will protect data privacy insofar as is possible and provide protective possibilities and important applications to the individual and the state.”

What is your position on Israel’s contribution to global warming?

“Israel must do everything within its ability to adopt environmental quality standards that will contribute toward easing global warming.”

Do you personally believe in God?

“Yes.”

And who did not want to respond?

It cannot have escaped your attention that our questionnaire is only partial. Of the heads of the 11 parties to which we sent the questions, only seven chose to respond. You don’t need to be a brilliant analyst to recognize which side of the political map the nonresponders are on.

“MK Litzman declines to respond in this instance,” wrote Yaakov Izak, the spokesman for Yaakov Litzman. It’s understandable: United Torah Judaism is the Ashkenazi Haredi party that is responsible for its interpretation of the Torah, not for the State of Israel. Its members will not be cabinet ministers in the next government, and its voters will not come from the readership of Haaretz.

The same cannot be said for the Israeli right, which holds the reins of the democratic government but refuses to play the democratic game.

The heads of the right-wing parties had a full month to respond with a sentence or two, in their own language, and they were dumbstruck.

Avigdor Lieberman’s spokesman, Tal Nahum, said, “We do not cooperate with Haaretz.” That is not true, of course — Yisrael Beiteinu cooperates when it’s convenient for the party.

Just imagine the left wing behaving the same way: Zionist Union refusing to answer the questions of Israel Hayom reporters, Yesh Atid’s cabinet members boycotting Makor Rishon and reactions from Likud not appearing in Yedioth Ahronoth.

Actually, there’s no need to use your imagination: That was the State of Israel’s press in the 1950s, when the Hebrew word for newspaper was not “iton,” or periodical, but “bita’on,” mouthpiece or organ in the public-relations sense of these words.

The campaign headquarters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surpassed itself, when media adviser Ofer Golan opined that the questionnaire was “cheeky.”

I can’t recall being called that since high school — the same high school where I learned about the creation of the world instead of the evolution of species, like 95.5 percent of Israeli schoolchildren.

In fact, the response from Netanyahu headquarters should not have surprised anyone. After all, it’s the same Netanyahu who refuses to meet his challengers in a televised debate, the same Likud that has not offered prospective voters a party platform.

That’s not to say that the ruling party doesn’t have a policy on an issue such as the biometric database; it simply doesn’t care to talk about it.

“Talk” has become a pejorative word in Israel. The right boasts that it doesn’t talk, it does. It’s just too bad that it doesn’t bother to tell us what it’s doing. Who knows, maybe we’ll be persuaded.

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