I've been reading a bit more about the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, and I can't help but wonder if at the end of the day Israel is a Jewish Saudi Arabia? No, they don't make all women cover themselves from head to toe, and yes, women can travel alone, talk to anyone they want and drive their own cars.
But who's to say that a halahic state is much different than a sharia state?
It's true that in Israel there is a large secular community, and a strong social existence that flies in the face of some of the halacha... however, should you wan to get married, be buried, or have your adopted child be recognized as a Jew then see what counts.
Why all the fuss? The Orthodox is the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, who is in charge of the spiritual and religious life of Jews in Israel, is also in charge of marriages, divorces, conversions, and determining 'who is a Jew.'
'Who is a Jew' is a particularly tricky question. Laws for the right of return are significantly different than laws for marriage. You can immigrate to Israel as a Jew under the right of return, and then be denied the right to marry as a Jew all in the same breath.
It's a difficult thing to discuss, because Israel has an interesting blend of secular laws, and a religious governing body. Want to walk through some sections of old Jerusalem as a women in a tank-top? Perhaps you should be prepared to be harrassed.
Want to drive in a car on a Saturday? Prepare to be faced with blocked roads and streets. Turn down the wrong block, possibly have your car stoned.
So, is it really a free state? Can you really be non-religious? How do we, as American Jews, understand the complex differences in status that we would face should we make aliyah?
I don't know what would happen if I were to move to Israel. Would I be considered 'Jewish?' I've lived my whole life Jewish. I'm raising a Jewish family, and I've never thought about being anything other than what I am. But do I have the documents to prove it?