With the establishment of an autonomous state
for the Jewish people, questions and issues that were deemed
irrelevant in the area of state and religion were opened. One
such issue is related to the desired form of government
particularly a democratic one and its value system, which was
established in the newborn State of Israel. Many ensuing
questions were raised: Does the Torah endorse a particular form
of government? What is the place and authority of halakhah in
government? Does the democratic value system reflect Jewish
sources and/or derives from them - or on the other hand, is it
in conflict with them?
The first section of this paper is an analysis
of the different approaches in modern Orthodoxy to the
relationship between Judaism and Democracy:
The inclusive approach which sees the roots and origin of
Democracy in Judaism. Accordingly, a correct reading of
Judaism will show the compatibility between the two.
The second approach sees a conflict between the tenets of
Judaism and Democracy. However elements of the democratic
system after undergoing strict evaluation can be accepted.
The third approach proposes no inherent conflict between
the two because there is no connection between their two
The dialogue approach emphasizes the differences and
variations in both Judaism and Democracy and seeks to find
their common denominator without hiding the inherent tension
and contradictions of both worlds of thought.
These approaches are presented as
"ideal" types - however it is clear that persons
taking a position on these issues will often adopt and identify
with various shades and over lapping aspects of the different
These approaches are analyzed according to the
The extent of the relevancy of the classical Jewish
sources that touch upon the subjects of government and
society. Do matters of government and democratic values
have to be judged in the light of halakhah or are
they outside of the realm of halakhah?
Is Democracy just a form of government or is it a
How is one to relate to Democracy? - Should Democracy be
adopted as a fundamental philosophy of life or can one
identify with democratic principles based on pragmatic
concerns? Is it a lehathila - an a priori
matter or a bedi`avad - a post factum issue?
Educational application of these approaches. What are
the deficiencies and advantages of each approach in the
educational process? What are the problems for the teacher
who has a fixed philosophy and how can that teacher be
flexible in presenting the different approaches?
The second section of this paper presents an
analysis of the interviews conducted with Civics ('ezrahut)
teachers from religious high schools in the Jerusalem area. The
interviews concentrated on the question of the relationship
between Judaism and Democracy and the teaching of Civics in
The following subjects were examined:
What is the approach of the teachers to Judaism
and Democracy? What are the challenges and difficulties in
teaching Civics in the religious school in general? What are the
actual contradictions between Jewish and democratic values based
on examples and real life situations? How do the beliefs and
opinions of the teachers and the students influence the nature
of the discussions and the dilemmas that arise? What is the
message that the teacher wants to convey other than general
knowledge or facts?
The conclusions of this study:
The relationship between Judaism and Democracy should be
studied in the religious school system. The
"sanctified" democratic values such as
individualism and open critique are part of our modern
society and should be discussed and clarified in class.
Discussion of this subject is naturally part of the
framework of Civic Studies which is the proper venue for the
clarification of their compatibility, non-compatibility,
conflicts and harmony - as seen through actual real-life
situations and questions and answer sessions.
In the past, Civics in high school was technical and
informative (function of the Knesset and its authority, how
Knesset members were elected, etc.). Today the study is more
on the essence of government - how events change and develop
- with class participation and analysis.
In light of the analysis in the first section of this
paper, it is important to know which approach is presented
in the chosen textbook now used in class. This textbook
takes the first approach mentioned above.
The object of this study is to bring the subject of Civics in
the religious high school to a new level, i.e., to clarify the
relationship between Judaism and Democracy. Religious students
live and struggle with this complex dichotomy in their private
lives. The classroom should bring out these inner conflicts
between Judaism and Democracy. (It is important that the teacher
knows the opinions of the students and the climate of the school
and is able to define his/her own position in this matter.)