01/12/2022, 10.59
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Russians and non-Arab Christians among Jews in statistics. Fr. Neuhaus: "Equal rights for every Israeli".

From the Minister of Intelligence the request to change the classification of the inhabitants: from the subdivision "Jews, Arabs and others" to "Jews and Arabs" with an "enlargement" of the first category to 400,000 Russians and non-Arab Christians. Jesuit priest in the Holy Land: no change "in substance", the problem remains that of "democratic citizenship" and "equality" beyond ethnic and religious affiliations. 

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Even in the likelihood that the recent proposal to change the classification of Israel's "non-Arab" inhabitants gains approval, it "will not bring any substantial change," observes Fr. David Neuhaus, Superior of the Jesuits in the Holy Land. The priest adds that the proposal does not embrace what he considers the basic element of a nation: "The idea, dear to us Christians, of a democratic citizenship, in which all its members are treated equally, but this is not the reality today."

His comments refer to the proposed change in the classification of the inhabitants of Israel from the current "Jews, Arabs, others" to a reformed "Jews and Arabs," with the inclusion of non-Jews - but not Arabs either - under the new heading "enlarged Jewish population." A change that is the result of the appeal launched by the Israeli Minister of Intelligence Elazar Stern to the President of the Central Bureau of Statistics (Cbs) Danny Pepperman, which will have to get the green light from the Knesset.

The issue concerns 400 thousand people, most of them Russian-speaking and immigrants following the fall of the Soviet Union, who do not fall under the canonical definition of Jews. To these are added Christians of non-Arab ethnicity, who until now were included under the heading "other" which includes about 4.6% of the entire population [just over 415 thousand people: 91.4% of these are not associated with any religion, while the remaining 8.6% are registered as Christians]. 

The change, the promoters themselves specify, is for the most part a facade and will not affect the classifications used by the Ministry of the Interior, which remain unchanged. In case of a green light, the Central Statistical Office will have the task of eliminating the entry used until now. The new classification of "enlarged Jews" should also include non-Arab Muslims of the Circassian community, those who profess religions other than Jewish and have married an Israeli citizen, as well as those who arrived in the country thanks to the Law of Return.

According to Fr. Neuhaus, the story revolves around "a fundamental problem" in Israeli democracy and in the way it treats the issue of citizenship, which is not between "Israelis and non-Israelis, but between Jews and non-Jews. "This proposal - he continues - does not resolve the issue of equality before the State and the lack of true equality", to which are linked "episodes of discrimination, because one is not Jewish. In the last 10, 15 years a large population has arrived and this has contributed to fuel uncertainty".

Born in South Africa to German Jewish parents who fled Germany following the rise of Nazism, Fr. Neuhaus also served as patriarchal vicar for Catholics of Jewish expression. "Today," he continues, "there is also the problem of the non-Arab Christian population, which is integrated into society and serves in the military, but is placed within an undignified category. The problem, he warns, revolves around the "ethnic" factor on which the country, the Jewish State, is based. The priest is convinced that the proposal will not pass, because "there will be opposition from religious Jews." However, he wants to strongly reaffirm the principle that is dear to Christians and that is the principle of "democratic citizenship", while "this proposal - he concludes - continues to hide and leave unresolved the current crisis of equality before the State". 

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