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The term "Jewish state" is sometimes used to describe the State of Israel and refers to its status as a nation-state for the Jewish people. This concept of an ethnic Jewish homeland is enshrined in Israeli national policy and reflected in many of Israel's public institutions. The concept was codified in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948 as well as the Law of Return, which was passed by the Knesset on 5 July 1950, and stated "Every Jew has the right to come to this country as an oleh," an "oleh" being an immigrant Jew . This is intended to make citizenship easier to acquire for Jews.
Jewish state or a state of Jews?
There has been growing debate in Israel on the character of the state, if it should enshrine more Jewish culture, encourage Judaism in schools, enshrine certain laws of Kashrut and Sabbath observance within Israel. This debate reflects a historical divide within Zionism and among the Jewish citizens of Israel, which has large secular and Orthodox Judaism minorities, and a majority who lie somewhere between the two.
Zionism is rooted in a concept of the Jews as a nation. Some Jews believe the Jewish religion to be central to Jewish nationhood, and hold that Israel, as a Jewish state, has a mandate to promote Judaism. Further, a great majority of these people see Israel not as the state of its citizens, but as the state of the Jewish people, including those in Jewish diaspora. In this capacity, they believe that Israel has a mandate to promote Judaism, to be the center of Jewish culture and center of its population, perhaps even the sole legitimate representative of Jews worldwide.
The theory continues that as a people based on religion, having a secular state would be oxymoronic in nature, and do more to harm than to help world Jewry.
These Religious Zionists say that a secular state of Israel is in danger of becoming merely a country of "Hebrew-speaking Gentiles" who are on the path to abandoning their Jewish heritage, and instead Religious Zionists wish to establish what they see as an "authentic Jewish commonwealth" which preserves and encourages Jewish heritage. They also argue, — drawing an analogy to diaspora Jews who assimilated (voluntarily or otherwise) into other cultures and abandoned Jewish culture, — that the creation of a secular state in Israel is tantamount to establishing a state where Jews assimilate en masse as a nation: an anethema to Jewish national aspirations.
Other Zionists believe that Israel should be a state like any other. According to them, Israel was established according to the Zionist dream of Jews being a people like any other with their own right to self-determination. The reason for such establishment was to have a state where Jews would not be afraid of anti-Semitic attacks and live in peace.
Religious Zionists counter that assimilating to be "a nation like any other" without embracing one's culture does what anti-Semites have not been able to achieve for thousands of years, mainly the destruction of the Jews as a people.
Unsurprisingly, partisans of the first view are almost exclusively Orthodox, although many supporters are conservative and nationalist in nature, who view Judaism with respect and would not mind more Jewish culture promoted by the state, although not to the point of creating a purely Halakhic state. Partisans of the second view are predominantly, though by no means exclusively secular. Although the debate has a huge polarity, from radical secularists who believe that Israel should be a secular state for "all its citizens" to theocrats who believe that Israel should be a state based purely on Orthodox Jewish Halakha, Israel has, to date, steered an imperfect course more or less between these poles, waxing and waning between secularism and Jewish identity, usually depending on who controls the Israeli High Court of Justice .
A Jewish commonwealth
Advocates of Israel becoming a more narrowly Jewish commonwealth face at least the following practical and theoretical difficulties:
- How to deal with the non-Jewish Arab minority in Israel (and the non-Jewish majority in the West Bank and Gaza (of whom an absolute majority support some form of a secular state devoid of Jewish identity) .
- How to alleviate concerns of Jews in Israel who favor a relatively secular state. 
- What relationship should official Judaism hold vis-a-vis the Government of Israel and vice versa? 
- What role do schools play in supporting Jewish heritage, religion, culture, and state?
- How will the government be organized (theocracy, constitutional republic, parliamentary democracy etc.)?
- Should the Justice system be based on secular common law, secular civil law, a combination of Jewish and common law, a combination of Jewish and civil law, or pure Jewish law?
- On what mandate should the constitution of a Jewish state be based? 
- How to integrate the economy of the state in line with Jewish law.
Theorists who grapple with these issues focus on the future of the State of Israel and realize that although the sovereign political state has been established, there is still much work to be done in relation to the identity of the state itself. 
The idea of Israel being a Jewish State has drawn much controversy because of the large number of Muslim and Christian Palestinians residing in Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza. For example, the Israeli National Anthem, the Hatikvah refers to Jews by name as well as alluding to the concept of Zionism and it contains no mention of Palestinian culture. This anthem excludes the Palestinians from a national identity. Similar criticism has been made of the Israeli flag which resembles the Tallit (a Jewish prayer shawl) and features a Star of David, generally acknowledged as a symbol of Judaism. Both of these symbols derive from the Zionist struggle to create a nation-state, a struggle in which the Arabs figure as defeated opponents, not as active participants.
It has been suggested by supporters of Israeli multinationalism that the State of Israel adopt more inclusive and neutral symbolism. The concept of the Jewish state has been called "racist" and "ethnocentric" by critics, both internationally and inside Israel signified by the UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 linking Zionism to racism (later revoked by UN General Assembly Resolution 4686) but brought up again by the new Durban Declaration. Some critics assert that the idea of an ethnic state is itself racist and the ethnicity in question (or its history) does not matter. This view has been expounded by Noam Chomsky, himself of Jewish ancestry and upbringing, in an interview on C-SPAN where he said:
- "I have always supported a Jewish ethnic homeland in Palestine. That is different from a Jewish state. There's a strong case to be made for an ethnic homeland, but as to whether there should be a Jewish state, or a Muslim state, or a Christian state, or a white state — that's entirely another matter."
Opponents of this view counter that the Jewish people constitute a nation who deserve their own state, and singling Israel out is Anti-Semitic, while offering examples of other ethnic states, and pointing out out that the very idea is enshrined in the concept of the nation-state. Religious opponents to this view base their assertion on the Torah's promises of Israel to the Jews, and Jewish nationalists base this assertion on the Balfour Declaration, historical ties to the land, and security needs of the Jewish people in regards to a hostile Arab world who in many cases, might commit genocide against a Jewish minority if Israel ever became "a state for all its citizens." Others add that a Jewish state in their historical homeland is fair compensation for centuries of persecution by non-Jews, and counter that their detractors are themselves Eurocentric, and should not tell other nations how to run their affairs.
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