JERUSALEM — In the wee hours of July 19, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed a controversial nation-state law that explicitly defines Israel as the “national home of the Jewish people.” The law passed 62–55 during a heated session that revealed deep divisions within Israeli society over the religious and democratic character of what many have long called the Jewish state.
The law states that Jerusalem is Israel’s “united” capital. It also recognizes the Jewish Shabbat as the country’s official day of rest while allowing non-Jews to observe their own Sabbath Day. Independence Day is now an official holiday, and Holocaust Remembrance Day and Memorial Day are recognized as days of mourning.
The law also states that the Jewish people “have an exclusive right to national self-determination” in the country and makes Hebrew the only official language. Arabic will have “special” status but will no longer be an official language.
Supporters of the nation-state law said it merely recognizes the Jewish character of Israel, the only country in the world with a Jewish majority. Critics of the law say it fails to address democratic concerns and therefore discriminates against Israeli minority groups, including the country’s Arab community, which composes 21 percent of the population. (RNS)
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