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Navon: Israel Threatened by Religious, Secular Divisions

April 19, 1983
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President Yitzhak Navon warned today that the divisions between religious and secular elements is the most dangerous internal threat to Israeli society today. The two groups are growing further apart, he said.

Navon, who will retire when his five-year term ends next month, expressed his views in radio and television interviews on the occasion of Independence Day. He said he wondered why education had to be segregated from kindergarten on between religious and non-religious Jews. Such subjects as mathematics or geography need not be taught separately. “There is no such thing as religious mathematics,” he said.

Navon said the ethnic gap — between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews — is narrowing perceptibly thanks, among other things, to intermarriage between the two groups. He predicted that the gap will disappear in a relatively short time. The President urged greater political tolerance.

Premier Menachem Begin also called for “mutual respect … among friends and rivals” in his Independence Day message. But he devoted much of his address to ruling out a freeze on settlements on the West Bank as urged by President Reagan. He claimed the settlements were not only legal but a vital element of Israel’s security.

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