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David Ben-Gurion and the question of 'Who is a Jew'.

Research on the 'Who is a Jew' discussion throws right on Ben-Gurion's ideology and his policy with regard to the question, which has direct bearing on the essence of the relationship between the state and Diaspora Jewry. Clearly, the answer to this question--as the basis for government policy on registering nationality-defines the status of certain immigrants as well as the nature of immigration to Israel. The discourse also served to examine Israel's image as a state based on freedom of religion and diverse interpretations of the Jewish religion.

The 'Who is a Jew' question was first placed on the government agenda in 1950, during the Law of Return debate. Two ministers of the religious parties--Yehuda Leib Maimon (Fishman) ofMizrachi and Yitzhak Meir Leone of Agudat Israel--wanted to know what was meant in the wording of the proposed Law by the stipulation that every 'Jew' had the right to immigrate. Ben-Gurion was against discussing this question and succeeded in persuading the government to accept the proposed version without debate. (1) A clear definition was avoided because of its potentially divisive nature. The ministers well understood that any attempt to force a detailed definition would create serious dissent, even a government crisis, and they therefore adopted a stand that enabled the coalition to continue. (2)

This approach was not unrelated to the debate on the Law of Return, which was conducted at approximately the same time. In 1950, two years after independence, the state's existence was still seriously threatened by the Arab countries and by socioeconomic instability at home. Therefore, the government as a whole and the Prime Minister in particular tried to avoid controversy likely to detract from the main effort the shaping of the state and the absorption of immigrants. There was government consensus on the importance of the Law of Return as an expression of the Jewish character of the state and as a document consolidating its goal--a Jewish state to which every Jew had entry by natural right. Incidentally, the ministers from the religious parties were aware that the Law of Return had no direct bearing on legal interpretations of Halachic definitions and, apparently, this was also why they accepted Ben-Gurion's view.

However, the ultimate question that had been bubbling below the surface broke through cracks in the consensus. In 1956 and 1957, immigration from East Europe revived for a while, bringing with it mixed-marriage couples, that is, Jews married to non-Jews. This raised problems in the registration of these immigrants and their children in terms of the Population Registration Order, 1949 (requiring citizens of the state to register their religion and nationality). Special problems arose in cases of families where the woman was Jewish and the man non-Jewish--the women and children were registered as Jewish without question, whereas the men were registered as non-Jewish. However, difficulties also arose in cases of children whose mother was not Jewish, since they were not Jewish according to Halachic law.

At first, before the renewed immigration from East Europe, this matter was handled administratively. On the 26th of January 1955, a directive issued by Minister of the Interior Israel Rokach, of the General Zionist party, required that the religion and nationality of children from a 'mixed-marriage' had to be registered on the basis of a declaration signed by the parents. Over two years later, on the 10th of March 1958, the incumbent Minister of the Interior Israel Bar-Yehuda of the Ahdut AvodaPo'ale Zion party, issued the following directives: 'a) any person who could honestly declare himself a Jew, must be registered as such without having to provide any further proof; b) both parents must declare that their children are Jews and that they regard this declaration as the children's own legal declaration'. (3)

Ministers Hayim Moshe Shapira and Yoseph Burg, of the Mafdal (National-Religious Party) objected to these guidelines. A committee was appointed, consisting of the Ministers of Religious Affairs, the Interior and Justice, to discuss the problem and propose a suitable solution. Since the ministers could not come to an agreement, Ben-Gurion proposed slight changes in the directives, according to which the person declaring himself to be Jewish would be required to add the declaration that he did not also belong to another religion. He confirmed the directive concerning children of 'mixed-marriages', as above. (4)

This compromise declaration was not acceptable to the ministers from Mafdal, who demanded that the said children be registered in keeping with Halacha in cases that were doubtful according to rabbinical rulings. Ben-Gurion tried to explain to them that his proposal related to the population registry alone and that he did not intend to interfere in rabbinical matters, but this explanation did not reassure them. (5) On the 22nd of June 1958, the government rejected the Mafdal ministers' demand, although they were aware that this could lead to their resignation. (6) Ben-Gurion also wrote in his diary, that 'the religions parties [won't] return to the government soon' if it does not agree to accept 'rule by the rabbis'. (7) Indeed, a few days later, the Mafdal ministers submitted their letters of resignation, in which they said, among other things: 'In our opinion, the decision as passed by the government contravenes Torah Law and is likely to create a split in the Nation--in Israel as well as the Diaspora; it also constitutes a blow to the status quo on matters of religion as per the coalition agreement when the government was formed'. (8) Ben-Gurion immediately informed the Knesset. (9)

Basically, Ben-Gurion thought that his concept of Judaism was not less valid than that of the religions circles. Nevertheless, as far as possible, he wished to refrain from an open clash of opposing points of view during that period. He chose instead to express his views by means of Hasdarah, 'Regularization', a political mode initiated and shaped largely by himself. (10) His policy regarding the 'Who is a Jew' issue was influenced by a set of interwoven principles. On the one hand, he feared that if he were to accept the halachic interpretation, mixed-marriage families--a fairly common phenomenon in East European and Western countries--would be discouraged from immigrating. On the other hand, the principle of regularization and the will to prevent a split between the religions and secular elements in the population had to be taken into account.

One week after the resignation of the Mafdal ministers, Ben-Gurion wrote to Rabbi Maimon, a past Minister of Religious Affairs who was now regarded as the spiritual leader of Mafdal. In his letter, Ben-Gurion pointed out that since the establishment of the state, Israel's governments-which had always included representatives of the religious parties--had applied laws that deviated from the spirit of Halacha, for example, granting women the right to vote. Despite this, he observed, the religious parties did not resign from government coalitions. He was trying to prove to Rabbi Maimon that the premise that Israel was a state governed by law and not by Halacha was accepted by the religious parties, too. He was therefore baffled by the ministers' resignation. 'The government had not intended to make a Halachic ruling', he said, 'nor does intend to make such rulings'. Whereas the Declaration of Independence proclaims the preservation of freedom of religion and conscience in the state, it does not establish that these will be controlled by the Rabbinate. On the contrary, the state cannot accept Halachic principles with regard to the issue of 'Who is a Jew', since 'in matters of religion and custom there is no unification among the Jewish People; in America there are Orthodox, Conservative, Liberal and Reform rabbis'. In view of this actuality, the Prime Minister concluded that decisions likely to lead to 'religions wars' should be avoided, (11)

Rabbi Maimon replied that he agreed with the view that Israel was not a theocratic state, but it was the state of the Jews, 'the continuation of our historic nation, connected to the unique, original, ancestral Jewish tradition. The rabbis of today do not decide who is a Jew. This is clearly established in our sacred literature and has been manifested in the fives of our Nation throughout the generations'. (12)

That is to say, Rabbi Maimon accepted freedom of religion on condition that it did not contravene Halacha. Ben-Gurion, however, claimed that there were a number of interpretations of Judaic tradition and the state was not obliged to function according to Halacha. The resolution concerning registration was presented again as an administrative decision that did not interfere with rabbinical ruling. 'The main, definitive question', Ben-Gurion wrote, 'is whether the laws of the state are made by the Nation according to its understanding, needs and spirit as determined by the Nation, or whether the Nation is bound in advance to Halacha and not entitled to make laws that contradict Halacha ... and the answer is that the state is authorized to pass a law even if the law contradicts Halacha'. He was of the opinion that religion is part of Judaism, but Judaism is not part of religion and therefore the assumption that a secular Jew was not a Jew was invalid. Jewish nationality was not based on Halacha nor on Jewish religion. The state had to meet the public's religious needs, but 'it had to refrain from religions coercion of any kind' in order to prevent 'cultural war that would, heaven forbid, lead to a split in the Nation'. (13) In view of this, Ben-Gurion seldom related directly and explicitly to the question of Jewish identity, or to various religious or national definitions of the nature of the Jew.

Ben-Gurion, seeking additional channels for dialogue with the leaders of Mafdal, asked Pinhas Rosen, the Minister of Justice, to meet with them. In the course of this meeting, Rosen heard a compromise proposal centered on removing nationality from the population register and settling for religion. Rosen conveyed the proposal to Ben-Gurion, who swiftly rejected it. If the nationality clause was omitted from the register and there was no clause stating that the person registering was 'Jewish', he claimed, a separation would be created between the Jews in Israel and those in the Diaspora. The former would be defined as 'Israelis' and the latter as 'Jews' and the common denominator would be only the religion and not the nation. A decision of this sort would serve the supporters of a separation between Jews living in Israel and Jews living in the Diaspora, in keeping with the 'Canaanite' philosophy. (14) Instead, Ben-Gurion accepted the compromise solution, suggested by Rosen, that the children of non-Jewish mothers in cases of mixed-marriages be registered as 'adopted Jewish nationality'. (15)

Naturally, the rift with the Mafdal ministers also had an influence on the stability of the coalition. Before this faction's resignation, the coalition rested on the support of 80 of the Knesset Members, whereas only 69 now remained. Because of this, the Mapai faction called for a discussion of the crisis, during which Ben-Gurion proposed that the sons of mixed marriages be circumcised and then registered as Jews. He explained his proposal, saying that 'even among the most heretical Jews and atheists circumcision is acceptable ... if parents in all honesty say that the child is Jewish, it means that he is circumcised.' However, he did not agree to a ritual immersion for girls since, 'Judaism does not insist on immersion ... if that's what the mother and father want, so be it and if not, not'. (16) Many of the faction did not accept this proposal because they feared that the rabbinate would treat such girls as half-Jewish and would subject them to difficulties when it came to marriage, divorce, burial and other services. (17)

While Ben-Gurion and his government were embroiled in the matter of registration, a revolution took place in Iraq and Kassem rose to power. (18) Ben-Gurion recorded in his diary that 'In light of these dangerous developments, I have found it necessary to cancel the registration discussion and have composed a proposal which I have sent to all members of government'. His proposal was to designate a committee composed of the Prime Minister and the Ministers of the Interior and Justice to phrase directions for the registration of children of mixed-marriages whose parents wish to register them as Jews. The proposal also stated that this ministerial committee would approach the 'Savants of Israel' in Israel and abroad for their assessment of the subject. When the process concluded, a list would be made of 'Registration Orders in keeping with accepted tradition in all spheres of Judaism--orthodox and liberal--and under the special conditions prevailing in Israel as a sovereign Jewish state where in freedom of conscience and religion are central to the ingathering of exiles'. (19)

It is reasonable to suppose that Ben-Gurion's proposal was not prompted mainly by fear for the security of the state because of the revolution in Iraq, but that the revolution served as an excuse to bring back the Mafdal ministers and strengthen the coalition. Ben-Gurion was aware that agreeing to Mafdal's demands would cause the resignation of the Mapam and Ahdut Avodah ministers, who opposed changes to the Interior Minister's decision, and he hoped that the approach to the 'Savants of Israel' would bypass this obstacle. The idea of approaching the 'Savants of Israel' was unprecedented in Israeli politics and in Ben-Gurion's opinion it showed the wide scope of possible interpretations of the 'Who is a Jew' question. Further, it underlined the fact that this was an overall Jewish issue and not a religious question to be decided by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. This step could satisfy all the coalition parties and obtain a non-committal agreement, while showing Diaspora Jewry that the State of Israel protected freedom of religion and did not reject any stream of Judaism.

After consulting the Minister of Justice, Ben-Gurion proceeded to prepare his address to the Knesset. Minister of Foreign Affairs Golda Meir, however, advised him to 'drop the speech and just present the government's decision'. Minister of Education Zalman Aranne and Minister of the Interior Bar-Yehuda disagreed with her and were in favor of a long speech. In the end, Ben-Gurion opted for a short announcement and on the 15th of July 1958, he declared that the directives for registering mixed-marriage families were suspended pending an assessment of the matter by the 'Savants of Israel'. (20) He emphasized that Israel is a state governed by law and not by Halacha, which protected freedom of conscience and religion. When he concluded his announcement, the Herut and Mafdal factions proposed a vote of no confidence in the government, but this was rejected. (21)

In view of the resolution, the letters were sent to the 'Savants of Israel' during October 1958. The letters pointed out the importance of listing the religion and nationality clauses for reasons of national security and the nature of the Law of Return. In addition to an explanation of the background to this approach, the letters gave four guiding principles for the replies:

1. The Declaration of Independence and the basic guidelines for all the governments of the State of Israel guarantee.., freedom of conscience and religion and prohibit any religious or anti-religious coercion.

2. Today, Israel is the centre for the ingathering of exiles. The immigrants come from East and West ... the confluence of exiles and their casting in one national mold is one of Israel's vital and most difficult missions and efforts must be made to enhance that which unites ... and uproot that which separates and alienates.

3. The Jewish commune in Israel is unlike the commune of Exile Jewry. We are not a minority here under the pressure of a foreign culture and here there is no fear of assimilation with non-Jews ... while mixed-marriages abroad are a decisive factor in total assimilation and departure from Judaism, those mixed marriage couples who come here ... are blending completely with the Jewish People.

4. Nevertheless, the Jewish People in Israel does not regard itself as a nation apart from Diaspora Jewry, but the opposite. (22)

The hidden question, of course, concerned the standards for registering 'religion' and 'nationality'. Would a parental declaration be enough, or would an additional ceremony or act be required in order to complete the registration of minors as Jews. (23)

The government resolution did not publish the identity of the 'Savants of Israel' who were asked to answer. A study of the names of the fifty recipients of the letter produced nothing to indicate by what standards they were chosen. The list included rabbis, religious-court judges and yeshiva principals, scholars in the fields of the humanities and Judaism, writers and jurists in Israel,

Europe and the United States.

On the face of it, three main answers could be expected:

A. conventional orthodox answer, reflecting Halachic tradition with regard to the interpretation of Jewish identity, as tabled in the 'Shulchan Aruch' (Table of Laws): the religion and nationality of children must be registered according to their mother's registration.

B. non-orthodox religious answer based on the premise that a formal obligation must be met and anyone born to a non-Jewish mother must undergo conversion before being registered as a Jew.

c. secular-political answer provided by the state according to absolutely secular criteria in the clear knowledge that these criteria are not empowered or validated by Halachic norms according to any interpretation.

Forty-five of the fifty 'Savants of Israel' approached by the government responded to the challenge. Thirty-seven (that is, over 80%) supported the orthodox-religious position in saying that Halacha is the basis for the definition of who is a Jew. The remaining eight answers did not fall in line with Halacha. The common denominator among those holding the orthodox-Halachic point of view was that they completely associated 'religion' with 'nationality' and their understanding of the concept of Jew. They stated that from the point of view of Halacha there was value in entering Judaism in any way other than that established by generation after generation. Only a person born to a Jewish mother, or one who was converted strictly in accordance with the rules tabled in the 'Shulchan Aruch', is considered to be a Jew. (24) The common denominator among those who rejected the orthodox-Halachic answer was in their free thinking, secular perception of the State of Israel and its spiritual goals, as well as their concept of Jew. (25)

Parallel to his approach to the 'Savants of Israel', Ben-Gurion decided to appoint Rabbi Yaacov Moshe Toledano, who was considered to be a non-party man, to the post of Minister of Religious Affairs. This appointment was intended to give added expression to his view that neither the religious parties nor the Chief Rabbinate had exclusive authority in matters related to religion. (26) The Mafdal and Herut factions reacted by proposing another vote of no confidence and during the Knesset debate on the proposal, Ben-Gurion said that the state was committed not only to guard freedom of religion and conscience, but also to prevent 'religious and anti-religious coercion'. (27) He again explained his opposition to the Mafdal ministers' demand because, 'in this era of ingathering exiles, we must not make final, fateful decisions that cause national dissent'. (28) He also made it clear that he was unable to agree on the political plane that the authority to make decisions on matters of state connected to religious affairs should reside anywhere but with the government: 'There will not be two governments in Israel. One elected by the people, responsible to the people, and one established by the rabbis of the national-religious party'. (29)

The opposition to the directives given to the Minister of the Interior, to the approach to the 'Savants of Israel' and to Toledano's appointment did not come only from the Mafdal leadership. Rabbis and Torah scholars in Israel and throughout the Diaspora also entered the fray. For example, the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Hertzog and Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim, and the Rabbinical Council in Israel declared: 'These directives are counter to the laws of our sacred Torah and implementing them could lead to chaos in Israel's families ... creating a mixed multitude that has nothing to do with the historic image of the children of Abraham'. (30) The Mizrachi movement's leaders in the Diaspora sent cables of protest to Israeli embassies worldwide. (31) The Union of Rabbis in the United States sent a delegation to Israel in order to examine the situation close at hand and to meet with Ben-Gurion; (32) they also sent letters to Ben-Gurion himself. His reply to these protests was:

I respect the Mizrachi movement's national-religious outlook ... however, I also respect Jews who do not live by Halacha and are dedicated to building the country ... In these times, when we are only at the beginning of the redemption, we must treat the different opinions that prevail among us with respect ... In this period of the in gathering, we must not make fateful social and spiritual decisions, instead we must seek compromise founded on tolerance and mutual respect and on freedom of religion and conscience. (33)

Other Jewish organizations, mainly in the United States, did not participate in the discussion, but waited for the government's final decision on registration. It is worth mentioning that, at this stage, the question of the validity of Reform and Conservative conversions was not under discussion, therefore these organizations did not feel that the argument had a direct bearing on them. (34) The Jewish Press in the United States published a number of articles explaining the essence of the discussion, but only a few of these articles expressed the writer's opinion. (35)

Meanwhile, another coalition crisis occurred which sidelined discussion on the answers from the 'Savants of Israel' and the registration issue. In July 1959, Mapam and Ahdut Ha'avoda opposed the sale of Israeli arms to West Germany and supported a vote of no confidence in the government. Ben-Gurion immediately resigned from the premiership and the government became transitional until elections to the Fourth Knesset, early in November 1959. (36)

On the 16th of December 1959, Ben-Gurion presented his new government to the Knesset. With regard to the clause on religion, the outline stated: 'The government will prevent all religious and anti-religious coercion from any quarter ... will establish freedom of religion and conscience ... the government will maintain the status quo in religious matters'. (37) Mafdal was a partner in this government and the head of the party, Hayim Moshe Shapira, was given the Internal Affairs portfolio. This party's return to the government was made possible, among other things, by an explicit promise from Ben-Gurion that the government would authorize new rules for registering religion, in the spirit of the claims made by the religious parties. This promise was noted in a letter from Ben-Gurion to the Minister of the Interior on the 4th of January 1960. (38) On assuming his duties, with no prior discussion or clear decision having taken place, Shapira published new directives to the registry clerks. They were ordered to register as Jews only those who were born to Jewish mothers and did not belong to any other religion, or those who had undergone conversion to Judaism according to Halacha. With regard to the children of mixed marriages, registration would be according to the mother's religion. Thus the stringent Halachic criterion for population registry came into effect even though the matter itself was not brought to the Knesset and did not have its approval. Nevertheless--and precisely because the new directives were not sanctioned by the law of the state and were not authorized by the Knesset--the assumption seems to be that the State of Israel is governed by law and not by Halacha.

Researchers into the subject of 'Who is a Jew' are divided in their conclusions. Moshe Samet, for example, claims that it was possible to know in advance that at least 60 percent of the 'Savants of Israel' who were questioned would side with the traditional point of view. From this he inferred that Ben-Gurion was not at all surprised by the answers given by the 'Savants of Israel' and, as a matter of fact, had even invited them as a way out of his earlier opposition to Mafdal's demands. As he put it, 'It is difficult to shake off the impression that the Prime Minister was forced to accept Mafdal's stand and was looking for an honorable way to justify his surrender to "religious coercion"'. (39)

Although this claim should not be rejected out of hand, it is difficult to accept it as the main explanation of the matter. Ben-Gurion could have found other excuses to retreat from his stand on the 'Who is a Jew' question, without bothering the 'Savants of Israel'. Actually, Ben-Gurion's behavior in this affair reflects his tendency to digress when it came to questions of an absolutely political nature and issue an opinion, or even directives in matters of religious and spiritual principle. It is important to note that in the past, too, he frequently met with religious and spiritual leaders with whom he conducted discussions and arguments on weighty topics.

Avner Shaki thinks that putting the 'Who is a Jew' question to the 'Savants of Israel' was meant to serve as 'a demonstrative move by Ben-Gurion and his comrades in the government'. According to Shaki, 'The object of this demonstration was to take a stand on principle ... that the government did not regard the Chief Rabbinate in Israel as an authorized institution and certainly not as an obligatory institution' in questions touching on the identity and nationality of Jews in Israel and the Diaspora. (40)

Eliezer Don-Yehiya, like Shaki, sees Ben-Gurion's approach to the 'Savants of Israel'--an extensive and varied group of intellectuals in Israel and Diaspora Jewry--as a concrete expression of his oft repeated assertion that Judaism is pluralistic by nature and that the rabbis and traditionalists do not have the monopoly in deciding the technique and setting the criteria for being part of it. (41) Don-Yehiya adds--apparently correctly--that Ben-Gurion did not hold the concept of pluralism in the Western-liberal sense, which leaves religious decisions to the individual or the voluntary congregation without the state's supervision or direction. Ben-Gurion's perception of sovereignty did not come to terms with restricting the state's involvement to providing services in the fields of defense and economics and so forth. As he saw it, sovereignty was centered on the concept of the 'educative state'. The state as bearer of the mission and the purpose, shaping and directing its citizens' values and way of life--as the matter here under discussion also indicates. (42)

To this, we must also add Ben-Gurion's wish to avoid any resolution that might prove to be an obstacle to immigration. Accordingly, the way he chose was similar to the one he used in the debate to crystallize the Law of Return.

If Ben-Gurion chose to approach the 'Savants of Israel' even though he knew that most of the answers would side with maintaining the attachment to the Jewish tradition in the matter of registration, this choice, apparently, was first and foremost because he wished to prove that different perceptions do exist. He thought that his concept of Judaism, which represented the morality of the prophets and identification with the State of Israel as the central and overt content of Jewish national existence, was a legitimate expression and commentary on Judaism, no less than the orthodox approach which perceived the Halacha as the main basis and content if Jewish existence.

The 'Who is a Jew' debate was also connected to the political power struggles between Mafdal on the one hand and Mapam and Ahdut Ha'avodah, on the other, and Mapai. Out of concern for maintaining optimal national unity and coalition stability, Ben-Gurion handled this crisis by trying to achieve compromise. When Mafdal refused, he strengthened his ties with Mapam and Ahdut Ha'avodah, however when circumstances changed, he did not hesitate to go towards Mafdal.

In the end, on receiving the replies from the 'Savants of Israel', Ben-Gurion agreed to the changes in the Population Registry directives, as requested by the Mafdal Minister of the Interior. This step was influenced by considerations of state, related to mutual compromises and concessions designed to maintain national unity and, as far as possible, to prevent a 'culture war' on a religious background. According to Ben-Gurion's assessment in those days at the end of 1959, it was more important to abstain from confrontations and splits on religious grounds within the state, than to fight for the principle that belonging to the Jewish People was open to many interpretations.


(1). Government meeting, 24.5.1950, 7.6.1950, ISA.

(2). D. Horowitz, M. Lissak, Troublein Utopia--TheOverburdened Policy of Israel, Tel-Aviv: Am Oved, 1990, pp. 26-27; A. Cohen, B. Zisser, 'Bein heskemiut shevirah le shvirat haheskemiut: tmurot beyachasei dat vemedina--Bein konsocionalism le hachraah', in M. Maumer, A. Sagi, R. Shamir (eds.) Multiculturalism in a democratic and Jewish state, Tel-Aviv: Ramot, 1998, pp. 675-701.

(3). A. Shaki, Who is a Jew, Jerusalem, 1976, pp. 98-101; A. Avihai, David Ben-Gurion: Designer of the State, Jernsalem: Keter, 1974, p.83; E. Don-Yehiya, 'Judaism and Statism in Ben-Gurion's Thought and Politics', Zionism, 14, 1989, 83.

(4). The proposal was raised during June 1958. Shaki, Who is a Jew, pp. 100-101.

(5). BGD, 24.6.1958, BGA; 'In the evening, Shapira rang saying he had something urgent. I told him to come ... Shapira informed me that they would have to leave the coalition if the government did not change their decision on the registration of Jews. I explained that we do not establish Halacha for the rabbis, but order for the state--not acceptable'.

(6). Shaki, Who is a Jew, pp. 100-101.

(7). BGD, 1.7.1958, BGA.

(8). Ibid., Moshe Shapira to Ben-Gurion, 29.6.1958, correspondence; a letter in similar vein was also sent by Yosef Burg. Ibid., Yosef Burg to Ben-Gurion, 29.6.1958.

(9). 484th meeting, 1.7.1958, Knesset minutes.

(10). 'The politics of Hasdarah--Regularization--is an attempt to regulate divisive problems and conflicts where there is only minimal agreement. The line is to "invent" pragmatic solutions for all problems, including those with religious and ideological emphases, where opposite stands appear impossible to balance and threaten to divide the country. The method is to waive one-sided majority resolutions and to incorporate representatives of the major groups in government institutions and policy-making procedures'. E. Don-Yehiya, Politics of Accommodation: Settling Conflicts of State and Religion in Israel, Jerusalem: The Floershimer Institute for Policy Studies, 1997, p. 7.

(11). Ben-Gurion to rabbi Maimon, 30.6.1958, correspondence, BGA.

(12). Ibid., rabbi Maimon to Ben-Gurion, 3.7.1958.

(13). Ibid., Ben-Gurion to rabbi Maimon, 7.7.1958.

(14). Ibid., BGD, 7.7.1958.

(15). Ibid., 9.7.1958; Meeting between Ben-Gurion and Wahrhaftig, 9.7.1958, 28 A-7266, section 43, ISA.

(16). The Mapai meeting, 13.7.1958, section 2, ILPA.

(17). Ibid., BGD, 13.7.1958, BGA.

(18). The 14th of Jtfly revolution was carried out by the underground group of 'Free Officers' led by Abed el-Karim Kassem and Abed e-Salem Aref. The killed King Faisal II and the heir to the throne (who was Regent) in their palaces. Kassem declared the establishment of a 'People's Republic'.

(19). BGD, 14.7.1958, BGA.

(20). Ibid., 15.7.1958.

(21). 494th meeting, 15.7.1958, Knesset minutes.

(22). Content of the letter to the 'Savants of Israel', 27.10.1958, con-espondence, BGA.

(23). Ibid., see also: Maariv, 30.11.1958; Yedioth Ahronoth, 30.11.1958; Haaretz, 30.11.1958; Al-Hamishmar, 30.11.1958.

(24). 'The mother determines the holiness [purity]of the newborn and his acceptance into the Community of Israel ... hence it is impossible for young or old to be considered or to be registered as a Jew if his mother is a gentile, and he has not converted according to the Law of Moses and Israel. A declaration by the parents, or the adult himself, makes no difference'. Yosef Dov Halevi Solevetzik, New-York, in: Opinion on the subject of "Who is a Jew', Jerusalem, 1958.

(25). Ibid., Haim Hazaz, the writer stated, among other things: 'There is no religious rule whose whole power lies in the authority invested willingly in the individual. Therefore it seems to me ... that Halacha has no hand in the Population Register, but only the law of the state'.

(26). 539th meeting, 24.11.1958, Knesset minutes.

(27). Ibid., 543rd meeting, 1.12.1958.

(28). Ibid., 547th meeting, 3.12.1958.

(29). Ibid,.; Ben-Gurion spoke to the same effect to Bar-Yehuda and Toledano. BGD, 1.2.1959, BGA; see also: Ibid., Ben-Gurion to Eban, 4.1.1959, correspondence.

(30). The wording of the resolution is quoted in Shaki, Who is a Jew, pp. 102-103.

(31). 14.7.1958, FA 327/10, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ISA; Hatzofe, 24.11.1958.

(32). David Rivlin, Israeli Consul in New-York, to Yitzhak Navon, 2.1.1959, Correspondence, BGA: 'More than six hundred rabbis belonging to this union, who serve about a million members of Jewish congregations ... whose loyalty to Israel is beyond doubt ... the recent religious shocks ... have not passed without having an influence'; Ibid., BGD, 14.1.1959.

(33). Ibid., Ben-Gurion to Mordecai Kirshblum, 2.2.1959, correspondence.

(34). Executive Board, 25.10.1958, RG-2 BDS-20, Blaustein Library; At the Directors' meeting of the Executive Committee of the AJC it was decided to follow developments in the affair, and not to take a stand until the state reached a decision.

(35). D. Shofet, 'Who is a Jew',Jewish Spectator, September 1958, 8-11; W. Roth, "Who is a Jew', Jewish Spectator, December 1958, 18-19; "Ben-Gurion to Jewish Scholars: Who is a Jew? ", Congress bi-Weekly, January 5,1959, 5-7;J. Kaufman, 'The Great Debate: Are they Jews or Not.? ', Congress bi-Weekly, January 19, 1959, 5-6.

(36). D. Shaham, Israel--40 Years, Tel-Aviv: Am-Oved, 1991, p. 176.

(37). 9th meeting, 16.12.1959, Knesset minutes.

(38). Ben-Gurion to Shapira, 4.1.1960, correspondence, BGA.

(39). M. Samet, 'Who is a Jew', The Jerusalem Quarterly, 36, 1985, 90.

(40). Shaki, Who is a Jew, p. 135.

(41). Don-Yehiya, Politics of Accommodation, p. 56.

(42). Ibid., p. 57.

PROF. DR. ARIEL L. FELDESTEIN is a faculty member at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. His field of expertise is Zionist ideology, the Zionist Movement, relations between Israel and Diaspora Jewry and Zionist Leaders. His recent publications include Cinema
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Title Annotation:Israel
Author:Feldestein, Ariel L.
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jun 22, 2012
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