Pluralism in Israel
Seventh Biennial Conference
Tel Aviv, October 1998
We, the delegates to the Congress of the International Federation of Secular Humanistic Jews (IFSHJ), have convened here in Israel for our biennial congress on the occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel and One Hundred Years of Zionism.
Together with the citizens of Israel and the majority of the Jewish people wherever they may be, we commemorate these two historical events with our hearts full of pride in the wonderful achievements and hope for the future. However, our pride and hope do not exempt us from moral stocktaking with regard to past sins of omission and abuses,. They do not free us from concern for the future.
The Peace Process
We have convened at a time when the stalemate casts a danger to the Israel-Palestinian peace process, which only a few years ago aroused tremendous excitement and great hopes among the majority of our people. We affirm our commitment and adherence to the vision of peace that is firmly embedded in the vision of the Prophets of Israel. We pledge our support for all those, is Israel and elsewhere, who are in the forefront of the struggle for peace. We reaffirm our belief that peace is possible only through mutual concessions and recognition of rights, an end to both terrorism and occupation.
The Danger of Fundamentalism
We are deeply concerned about the rise of fundamentalism in various places throughout the world. Among the fundamentalism are those who inscribed on their banners belligerence toward Israel and hatred of Jews. The combination of political stalemate, the renewal of the danger of violent confrontation, and the rise of fundamentalism is a grave threat, not only to Israel and the Jewish communities throughout the world, but also to all humanity. Today, more than ever, there must be a mobilization of all forces for democracy and tolerance against terrorism and fundamentalism.
The continuity of the Jewish people and flourishing of Jewish civilization cannot be secured by a return to religious Orthodoxy, as so often suggested by religious speakers and by some unorthodox Jewish intellectuals. Neither can it be achieved by shaping a new “Israeli” (Canaanite) identity by cutting oneself off from Judaism – as proposed by some Israeli extremist secularists. Jewish future can be assured by a pluralistic, humanistic reinterpretation of Jewish values and tradition. Such interpretation must be consonant with modernity, science and universal rights – not contrary to them. On such Judaism we can fulfill in the Twenty-First Century the role that old-time Judaism performed in previous times.
We believe that Secular Humanistic Judaism constitutes an appropriate answer to these concerns, to the continuity and flourishing of Judaism and the Jewish people.
Judaism as Culture
In the Declaration made at its founding Conference in Detroit, USA, in October 1986, the IFSHJ affirmed its views if Judaism as the entire creative experience of the Jewish people throughout its existence – as developed by its various ethnic communities and streams. We have recently witnessed this perception of Judaism as a culture taking roots in various places the world over. This was particularly true in Israel where, in recent years, a number of institutions have been established that challenged the Orthodox monopoly over Jewish education. These institutions are developing varied approaches, characterized by pluralism, openness and a humanistic attitude. We express our appreciation to the College of Pluralistic Judaism, headed by central members of our Federation, for its fruitful activities in this field. We take this opportunity of thanking the College for the important part it has played in the organization of this Congress.