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The Jewish State, Flags Over Dublin, Pray-o-Matic


Shrugging off Criticism, PM Backs Jewish State Bill

Raoul Wootliff, Times of Israel, May 8th 2017

Recap:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support for a bill that declares Israel “the national home of the Jewish people.” Netanyahu insisted “there is absolutely no contradiction between the Jewish state bill and equal rights in Israel.”

The Context:

  • The Nationality Law addresses national symbols, the right of return for Jews, holy sites and the Hebrew calendar while also calling for strengthened bonds between Israel and Diaspora Jewry [1]. According to the proposal, every Israeli citizen has the right “to preserve his culture, heritage, language and identity,” although the right to realize self-determination “is unique to the Jewish people.” In a controversial clause, Arabic would be demoted from an official language to one with “special status,” which would ensure its speakers the “right to accessible state services.” A similar bill was first proposed in 2011 and again in 2015.

  • If passed by the Knesset, the proposal will become part of Basic Law, Israel's central body of legislation, which encodes the structure of government and civil rights [2]. Basic Laws require a special majority to repeal [3].

  • Likud MK and bill sponsor Avi Dicther lauded the legislation as “critical in a time like this, when elements from within and without are trying to reject the Jewish people’s right to a national home in its country [4].” Joint Arab List MK Ayman Odeh derided the bill for “establish[ing] two classes of citizen – Jewish and Arab [5],” while Yesh Atid MK Yair Lapid refused to back the bill in its current form due to the “unnecessary chasms” it would create between Arab and Jew.

  • Israel’s Arab minority makes up 20% of its 8.7 million population [6].

Conversation Points:

  • What explains the controversy surrounding a singular Jewish state when many Muslim and Christian countries exist in the world today?

  • Will Israel’s democratic character be compromised if it is officially deemed a Jewish state?

  • How can the bill be restructured to become more palatable to Israel’s minorities?

Prayer Booth in German Airport Offers ‘Shema’

Kirsten Grieshaber, Times of Israel, May 5th 2017

Recap:

The prayer booth at Stuttgart Airport features 300 prayers from various religions in 65 different languages. “Passengers have a bit of time before their departure; the prayer booth is an offer by the airport’s chaplains to provide a moment of contemplation,” said airport spokesman Johannes Schumm.

The Context:

  • German artist Oliver Sturm first designed the Gebetomat, or Pray-o-Matic, in 2008. The red cabin is enclosed with a curtain for privacy and is free to use.

  • The former photo booth offers a variety of prayers, including the Jewish Shema Israel, the Christian Lord’s Prayer and the Islamic muezzin’s call to prayer. In addition to the mainstream monotheistic faiths, polytheistic and animist prayers are also included [12].

  • The Pray-o-Matic first appeared at Manchester University in 2012 as part of a $550,000 research project into prayer rooms and multi-faith spaces.

  • Sturm and his team collected most of the prayers while visiting almost 250 faith spaces [13].

Conversation Points:

  • Is Germany morally compelled to show sensitivity towards different religions as a result of its hostilities in the 20th century?

Notes:

  1. Bill officially defining Israel as a Jewish state gets government backing JTA, May 7th 2017

  2. Israeli Ministers Greenlight Nation-state Bill: Arabic Isn't an Official State Language, Jonathan Lis, Haaretz, May 7th 2017

  3. Israel takes steps to define itself as a Jewish state and demote the status of the Arabic language, Joshua Mitnick, Los Angeles Times, May 7th 2017

  4. Bill officially defining Israel as a Jewish state gets government backing JTA, May 7th 2017

  5. Ibid.

  6. Netanyahu's cabinet seeks to downgrade status of Arabic, Al Jazeera, May 7th 2017

  7. Nervous flyer? Airport installs departure terminal prayer booth where passengers can receive solace before their flight in 65 languages, New Zealand Herald, May 8th 2017

  8. German Airport Installs Prayer Booth, Felix N. Codilla III, Christian Post, May 7th 2017