Gidon Ariel and Esther Henderson - April 7, 2024

Passover Celebration and Israel’s Complex History
Esther asked Gidon about the uniformity of Passover celebration among Jews in Israel. In response, Gidon discussed the historical and political context of the Jewish people, emphasizing that Israel is a unique Jewish state with a rich and complex history. He mentioned that the Jewish people have not had an independent state with Jewish cultural leadership since the time of Jesus, with the exception of modern-day Israel. Gidon also highlighted that Israel, as a democratic country, values the opinions and input of every citizen, but acknowledged that there are still challenges in ensuring equal representation.

Exploring Israeli Culture and Chabad Organization
Gidon shared insights into the cultural and religious practices of Israelis, highlighting that most Israelis observe traditional customs like celebrating Passover and Shabbat. He also mentioned that some Israelis have moved away from religious Judaism but still participate in cultural events. Gidon discussed the Chabad organization, which aims to preserve and present Jewish traditions to those who have become estranged from them. He explained that Chabad hosts the largest Passover Seder meal in the world, attracting thousands of backpackers.

Discussing Religious Coexistence
Gidon and Esther discussed the coexistence of different religions and beliefs in society. Esther found Gidon’s perspective interesting and did not express any disagreement.

Knesset Composition and Political Landscapes
Esther and Gidon discussed the composition of the Knesset and how the representation of different sectors is mandated by law. Gidon explained that the number of votes a party receives determines the number of seats they get in the parliament. They further compared their countries’ political landscapes, acknowledging that both have coalition governments formed by several parties.

Navigating Political Office as an Arab in Israel
Gidon discussed the complexities of running for political office in Israel, highlighting the country’s democratic and Jewish nature. He also clarified the distinctions between the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities, emphasizing the former’s more open-minded approach. Gidon further delved into the history of the Jewish community, explaining the emergence of a heterodox movement in the 1700s, which was characterized by its rejection of strict Orthodox beliefs and emphasis on individual thought and expression.

Assimilation, Religion, and Identity in Israel
Gidon spoke about the historical process of assimilation among Jews in the early 20th century, which led to a significant decrease in the practice of Orthodox Judaism. He mentioned the use and discarding of prayer boxes (tefillin) as a symbol of this trend and discussed the mass emigration of Jews from Europe to America before the onset of World War II, and the further diminishing of traditional Jewish practices during the Holocaust. Gidon also highlighted the evolution of religious and ideological identity in Israel, noting a shift from secular, ideologically non-religious individuals being viewed as the new heroes to traditionalists now constituting over 60% of the country’s population. He differentiated among the various religious groups, including traditionalists, modern orthodox, and ultra-orthodox.

Embracing Traditional Jewish Values and Unity
Gidon emphasized the importance of adhering to God’s Torah and maintaining traditional Jewish values in the face of external influences. He highlighted the need for a strong commitment to these values, particularly within families, to prevent children from rebelling against their religious upbringing. Gidon also discussed the belief in the imminent end of times and the role of the Jewish people in the redemption of the world. He stressed the importance of prayer and the need to find a synagogue for communal worship. Lastly, he underscored the essential bond between all Jews as members of one family and the necessity to treat each other with love and respect.

Israeli Political and Cultural Landscape Analysis
Gidon provided an in-depth analysis of the political and cultural landscape in Israel, focusing on the differences between ultra-orthodox and non-orthodox parties. He explained that the primary goal of the former is to use the state’s budget to enhance the welfare of their constituents through increased social support. Moreover, he emphasized the importance of respecting the customs and traditions of ultra-orthodox Jewish communities when interacting with them. Gidon argued that the ultra-orthodox community, while a minority, receives disproportionate media attention and political power. He also highlighted the demographic changes, with secular families having fewer children and ultra-orthodox families having more. Esther expressed her understanding that some ultra-orthodox Jews want to join the army, which Gidon confirmed, but the number is relatively small. Gidon invited questions and feedback from the viewers and wished them a happy holiday.

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