Reacting to the U.S. State Department’s recent release of its “International Religious Freedom Report” for 2009, Agudath Israel of America’s executive vice president Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel issued the following statement:“Much of the criticism of Israel in the U.S. Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2009 is misplaced.
“The report’s disapproval of traditional Jewish religious law’s role regarding certain personal status issues in Israel – a role enshrined in an agreement made by her founders more than 60 years ago – ignores the country’s self-declared identity as a Jewish state. Only a common Jewish denominator of religious standards can preserve the integrity of Israel as a Jewish state.
“The report’s disapproval of El Al’s respect for the Jewish Sabbath, the closing of roads in religious neighborhoods on the Sabbath, pre-marriage counseling of Jewish couples and limitations on proselytization likewise reflect obliviousness to Israel’s relationship to Judaism.
“The United States is rightly proud of its tradition as a republic that embraces no official religion. But numerous other countries, with equal pride, define themselves as Muslim or Christian. One country was created as a Jewish state. Israel’s choice of timeless Jewish tradition in the public realm and with regard to issues of personal status requires no apology. Criticism of Israel for being true to its foundational ideal is ill-conceived.”