Israel has been discovered to be one of the most restrictive countries on religious freedom, being in the ranks of the likes of Saudi Arabia and Iran, a study by the renowned US-based Pew Research Centre has found.
The report, which was released on Monday, tracked the rise of religious restrictions globally, and found that Israel was in the list of the top 20 most religiously restrictive nations. It was also found to have the fifth highest level of “social hostilities related to religious norms” and the sixth highest level of “interreligious tension and violence”. Those results hold a worse score than those of Syria, the dictatorial Alawite-ruled neighbour reigning over its Sunni majority.
Most limiting countries in the MENA
The report justified its result by citing common incidents in Israel such as the harassment of people who drive through Haredi Orthodox neighbourhoods during Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, as well as cases in which government officials “defer in some way to religious authorities or doctrines on legal issues.”
The report comes amid debates amongst Israeli lawmakers and politicians on the status of Israel and how closely it associates with Judaism and its religious laws. The country defines itself as a Jewish state but denies it caters only to Jews, claiming that it represents the Arab, Druze and other segments of the non-Jewish population.
Last year, the Israeli Knesset passed the Nation-State Law, which set in to legislation that Israel is the nation state for Jews, labelling all other religious groups as second class citizens.
Palestinian citizens of Israel are banned from approximately 40 per cent of all Israeli communities by the role of so-called “Admissions Committees” which filter out potential residents on the basis of social suitability. Most recently, legal action was taken after a park in the Israeli city of Afula banned non-residents from entry in a bid to prevent Palestinian citizens of Israel from using the facility.