Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The curse of Ezra?

IS THE CURSE OF EZRA having a corrosive effect on Jewish-Arab relations in modern Israel? Gershom Schocken:
This is not meant to be an advocacy piece on behalf of mixed marriages. Even if these unions were possible, they would presumably remain a marginal phenomenon. But to ensure the formation of an Israeli nation composed of all the ethnic groups in this country, the barriers between them must be knocked down. That includes restrictions on marriages between members of different groups. Had we not granted the rabbinate a monopoly on matrimonial law, and if there were a civil marriage law in Israel, a substantial obstacle would have been eliminated. Ezra the Scribe's prohibition may have been justified for an ethno-religious group. But for a sovereign nation that needs to coexist with another nation from a different background and establish normal relations with neighbors beyond its borders, this prohibition, which symbolizes Jewish alienation, has become a curse. If it persists, it will perpetuate ethnic tensions within the country and guarantee the permanent isolation of Israel in the region. We must liberate ourselves from the curse of Ezra.