Public Reaction to the Covenant

President Moshe Katzav

“I would like to express my support for this important initiative by Professor Ruth Gavison and Rabbi Ya’acov Medan, hoping and believing that it can lead to national reconciliation and enhance national unity. I recommend that the Government act to further the Covenant.”

President Moshe Katzav in a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

Professor Aviezer Ravitzky

“The Gavison-Medan Covenant is the most comprehensive and serious attempt since the birth of Israel to reach at an accord on matters of religion and state. If its proposals are brought to a national referendum I will support them. I believe that most Israelis will support them.”

Professor Aviezer Ravitzky, Israel Democracy Institute and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, at a symposium held at the Israel Democracy Institute in June 2003 to mark the publication of the Covenant

Dr. Zvi Zameret

“[The Gavison-Medan Covenant] is without a doubt the most important and most complete covenant that has been proposed to date, drafted with the help of a response team that critiqued each chapter before it was finalized by Gavison and Medan. It is the boldest and most comprehensive attempt to date to redefine, and in detail, most of the spheres touched by relations of religion and state in Israel." …

“[The Covenant includes] far-reaching proposals that preserve the Jewish character of the State of Israel while also showing concern for its citizens’ maximum freedom." …

“As stated, there is no doubt that this is a fundamental document that proposes a new basis for relations between the secular and the religious in Israel. It is tremendously important and comprehensive.”

Dr. Zvi Zameret, the head of the Ben-Zvi Institute, headed the Zameret Commission that studied the Sabbath closure of Bar-Ilan Street in Jerusalem. These remarks are excerpted from his article, “Social Contracts between Secular and Religious,” published in Covenants in Israel: Attempts to Regulate Relations between the Secular and the Religious (Yahad Council, 2005).

Dr. Asher Cohen

“The Gavison-Medan Covenant is utterly different in its scope, its thorough background and explanations by its authors of every topic, and, finally, its detailed legislative proposals in each sphere. These characteristics, a direct consequence of a multi-year process that included many people in focus groups, make the Gavison-Medan Covenant unique." …

“Without denigrating the major investment made by those responsible for the various compacts, it seems to me that the final product of the Gavison-Medan Covenant is the result of intensive activity and an investment of economic and intellectual resources over a protracted period." …

“The Gavison-Medan Covenant is the only document that has stimulated broad activity aimed at repairing the religious-secular fissure." …

Dr. Asher Cohen is a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Bar-Ilan University. These remarks are excerpted from “Covenants to Regulate the Relations between the Secular and the Religious: Public Attempts at an Accord in the Light of Political Failure,” published in Brothers Together: Secular-Religious Relations—Attitudes, Proposals, Covenants (Israel Democracy Institute, 2005).

Yair Sheleg, journalist

“The most detailed document on an accord between the religious and the secular is the Gavison-Medan Covenant. This is a sort of final-status accord that proposes detailed solutions to every difficult issue, of the sort we could only dream to achieve with the Palestinians. …”

Ha’aretz, November 8, 2004

Natan Sharansky

“Four years ago I served as Interior Minister for a brief period—one year. I must say that it was a 'crazy' year, with impossible pressure from all sides. I enjoyed a few hours of respite when I was invited to be part of the committee of Professor Gavison and Rabbi Medan, to listen to and participate in their discussions. I remember how astonished they were that the Interior Minister was sitting with them for hours—what an honor, what attention. I told them the truth: that at the Interior Ministry we were considering the very same issues—but with shouting, reacting to demands and arguments such as ‘we have to get the Conversion Bill through the Knesset now’; ‘now is when it’s possible to petition the court against the Ultraorthodox’; ‘this is the moment when we win once and for all, to amend the Law of Return and solve the problem forever.’ But my feeling was that if, heaven forbid, anyone were to be victorious now, we would all lose in a big way. …”

From remarks by Natan Sharansky when he served as minister for Diaspora, Social, and Jerusalem Affairs, at the conference held by the Yahad Council at the President’s Residence, November 3, 2004.

Ms. Tova Ilan

“The Gavison-Medan Covenant… is the boldest [of the documents] and proposes broader and more serious solution than all the documents that preceded it.”

Remarks by Ms. Tova Ilan, member of the Yahad Council and President of the Ya’acov Herzog Center for Jewish Studies, conference held by the Yahad Council at the President’s Residence, November 3, 2004)

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