Understanding a “Religious” Western Democracy: Israel and Its Complexities

Part of the Studies in Humanist and Atheism book series (HRC)


The Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai describes the air in Jerusalem as “filled with prayers and dreams … Hard to breathe.”1 Jerusalem is holy to three world religions: two billion Christians, one and a half billion Muslims, and thirteen million Jews—together half of the world’s population. Israel’s major industry may well be prayers and dreams, even if Israelis are also very adept at falafel and nanotechnology. Psychiatrists describe something called Jerusalem syndrome, when visitors are so overwrought to be where supposedly Jesus walked and Solomon reigned that they imagine THEY are Jesus or Solomon.2 Even the socialist and secular Jew David Ben-Gurion, the founding father of the state and its first prime minister, loved to imagine himself in the image of the Biblical David. It does not matter that Amichai himself and a sizable plurality of the Jewish Israeli population are self-described “secular”—the air is saturated with the prayers of others, and all that pious aspiration makes secular respiration more difficult.


Jewish People Religious School Jewish State Civil Marriage Jewish Religion 
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© Anthony B. Pinn 2014

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