Pluralism From the Bible to Israel

Va'et-hannan By :  Alex Sinclair Former Director of Programs in Israel Education, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Jewish Education Posted On Jul 31, 2015 / 5775 | דבר אחר | A Different Perspective | Interreligious Israel

Shamor vezakhor bedibur ehad” (“keep” and “remember” in one utterance), we sing in Lekhah Dodi (a phrase originally found in the Talmud, BT Shevuot 20b), because The Ten Commandments were given twice, once telling us to “remember” shabbat, and once, in this week’s parashah, telling us to “keep” it.

Many contemporary commentators build philosophies of pluralism on this Biblical oddity—for if our canon includes multiple formulations of The Ten Commandments themselves, then surely it is telling us that pluralism, difference, and diversity should be core hallmarks of our tradition and identity?

An educational initiative at the Center for Educational Technology in Israel tries to give the same message about Israeli society. It’s a website containing videos of young Israelis from diverse backgrounds talking about themselves and their identities and lives. Instead of diversity and difference being seen as threats to some mythical “essential” (and exclusionary) Israeliness, it seeks to encourage an Israeliness that celebrates diversity and sees it as an invaluable social resource.

Even if you don’t understand the Hebrew, it’s worth dipping into some of the videos just to get a sense of them. Taken together, they present a wonderful image of the diversity of Israeli communities. If only the idea of pluralism as a desirable religious, social and civic goal could become common currency throughout Israel and the Jewish world!