As part of proposed legislation to enshrine Israel’s status as a Jewish state, the Israeli court system would be based on Talmudic law and the Jewish calendar would be formally adopted, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allegedly told Yaakov Vider, a member of the Likud party’s ultra-Orthodox faction.
Netanyahu said “we will legally define the Talmud as the basis of the Israeli legal system,” Vider told the ultra-Orthodox Kikar HaShabat website on Wednesday night.
“I will personally deal with the legislation for ‘Israel as the national home of the Jewish people,’” Netanyahu was quoted as saying. “This is a very important law that will change how Israel looks in the future.”
Beyond altering the political and religious landscape in Israel, the prime minister reportedly said that the bill “will be a Basic Law that [shows] the State of Israel rose and exists on the basis of the Torah and the Jewish tradition.”
Vider said that Netanyahu also pledged to establish the Jewish calendar as the state’s official calendar to further enhance its Jewish character.
The statements drew ire from MK Zahava Gal-on, chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz party.
“With all due respect to the Gemara and the Talmud, these are laws that were established 3,000 years ago,” she told Channel 10. “Since the State of Israel and the world have evolved, though the Gemara and Talmud indeed receive a place of honor, we must conform to the international democratic norms and standards, and so Israel must be. With a Jewish and democratic character.”
A statement from the Be Free Israel organization, which promotes freedom of religion and pluralism, also lambasted the prime minister for his alleged remarks.
“Watch out, a halachic [Jewish law] state is in the works,” it posted on its website.
The two statements attributed to Netanyahu, while stronger than earlier formulations on the matter, reflect a state of affairs already in existence. The Hebrew calendar has long been an official calendar in Israel, alongside the Gregorian. Furthermore, the concept of Israeli law relying on Talmudic precedent has cropped up frequently, most recently in a previous Jewish state law advanced in 2011 by then-Kadima MK Avi Dichter and 39 others, which was subsequently shot down.
Dichter’s bill introduced the relationship between Jewish and Israeli law in a seemingly nonbinding edict that “Jewish law will act as a source of inspiration to legislators.” The draft also maintained, in one of its articles, that “the Hebrew calendar is the official calendar of the state.”
Netanyahu announced last week that he would advance new legislation in the Knesset to anchor Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people, saying that opposing such a recognition would eventually undermine the country’s very right to exist.
“It is my intention to submit a Basic Law to the Knesset that would provide a constitutional anchor for Israel’s status as the national state of the Jewish people,” he said at an event to mark Israel’s Independence Day in Tel Aviv.