'Close to Fundamentalism'

The U.S. State Department report provides fresh ammunition for a new nonprofit organization, Hiddush - For Religious Freedom and Equality. The organization's president and CEO, Rabbi Uri Regev, says the comprehensive document - which surveys the state of religious freedom in 198 countries - shows that Israel is closer to the fundamentalist Islamic states than to the Western democratic world.

"It's only a matter of time before the American public starts asking questions about the quality of democracy in Israel," warns Regev on the eve of his departure for a lecture tour throughout North America.

According to Regev, "The report shows in all its nakedness the government that surrenders to ultra-Orthodox pressure and is prepared to violate the rights of marriage, Jewish freedom and worship, as well as respect for women, the immigrant public and non-Jewish communities. All of this is due to the politicization of religion."