Gershom Gorenberg’s take on Isreali democracy

Isreali journalist and scholar, Gershom Gorenberg, addressed several reports in reference to Middle Eastern affairs, and the various connections and influences between politics and religious values, Monday night.

The speech was located at the Knight Law Center, Room 175 at 7 p.m., packed with a lively and hearty audience of over 100 people in attendance. Gorenberg’s speech was filled with humor and resilience, keeping everyone attentive with laughter, as he told multiple stories and even made jokes in reference to Israeli politics and culture.

Gorenberg has lived in Israel for over 35 years, claiming he enjoys finding meaning and relation with Jewish and public issues. Gorenberg is a well renown author and was kind enough to reference his most recent book, The Unmaking of Israel, describing how the nation’s policies are truly dejecting the democracy and existence of the Jewish state. He explained how his novel relates towards Israel’s history and how some can argue towards a more liberal vision for its future. “The Jewish state is unique amongst postcolonial era countries. It is a country ruled by parliamentary democracy, proving high levels of participation in the political system, while also facing serious challenges to the continuation of democracy,” Gorenberg says. Freedom of the press is essential with necessary conditions of having a democracy. He passionately argues that Israel must end the separation of state from religion by creating a new sense of identity that shares cultures amongst its citizens.

Gorenberg goes on to explain how individual citizens have involvement in public affairs where Americans cannot imagine, as he argues Jewish values and admits there is an overbearing erosion of Israeli democracy. The country overall has an intense civil society, as it was made clear that Israel has gone through a known debate about security and freedom of religion, and how equality of all citizens can be in conflict with one another. “Gerhsom Gorenberg is an important voice in these issues,” Daniel Miller, a professor within the school of journalism and communication said. Gorenberg claims how Israel must be democratic specifically because it is a Jewish state, giving out Jewish history in respect to the minority and diversity within its country.

Junior business student, Austin Renk, enlightened me on topics in regards to his previous class about Israeli politics and culture. “I find it intriguing that most men do not work in their adult lives and how marriage is seen at such a young age of 19,” says Renk. Establishing free education allowed young women who had finished high school to get a job within a teaching program, which at the time was relatively a well paying job. Leaders of the community decided that women could work and support a husband who would in tern, continue to study many years after that, which was ultraorthodox according to Gorenberg. Having the male population perpetually remaining students is much different than what we are personally used to. The state is continuing to fund schooling systems to where all the education is primarily focused toward religious studies. Economically, this placed a burden on society due to how dependent individuals are on state funding,

Gorenberg continues his speech noting the clear social change within Israel, yet the active civil society remains constant. “My concern is that inadvertently Israel is moving from institution to revolution, state to movement, and from democracy to one national group,” Gorenberg says. This parliamentary system shows that individuals are known by their contradictions with how much inspiration drew for democratic revolutions around the world.

In terms of Israel’s future, Gorenberg claims that we need to take these common trends seriously and create a re-established democracy. In order to do so, he touched on three steps that can guide this country. Working towards separation of state and synagogue, exercising self-determination with a strong Jewish majority, and lastly Israel must strive for state arrangement. Promoting greater effort towards fuller equality and peace is what Gorenberg endorsed most. Peace is the ultimate means to preserving Israel as a state and democracy.

Sponsored by:

The UO Center for Intercultural Dialogue

Robert Donald Clark Honors College

UO Conflict and Dispute Resolution Program

UO Departments of English, History, and Political Science

The Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies

School of Journalism and Communication

J Street Eugene

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