Israel Is Not Becoming a Jewish Fundamentalist State

Israel's ultra-Orthodox leaders triggered another round of farcical crises about the military draft and infrastructure work carried out on Shabbat. Far from being a show of strength, it's a sign of their terminal political weakness – and loss of control over their flock

Anshel Pfeffer
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Anshel Pfeffer

Israeli politics is gripped right now by two simultaneous political “crises” over state and religion. Both threaten to rip the government apart. Both are farcical affairs that could be solved easily and ultimately will be.

The longer crisis is the interminable wrangling over the bill regulating the number of ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, yeshiva students to be drafted into the army each year. The newer crisis is reflected in the scheduled closures of Tel Aviv’s main highway to allow for the building of a new pedestrian bridge. Construction is planned for when there’s minimal traffic, on Shabbat.