When David Ben-Gurion became Israel's first Prime Minister, in 1949, his mildly socialistic Mapai Party had less than a majority in the Knesset (Parliament). To form a government, he had a choice: coalition with the pro-Soviet Mapam, or with a bloc of four orthodox religious parties.
Ben-Gurion chose the religious bloc.
The marriage of convenience began peacefully enough. Bride and bridegroom agreed that religious differences would be subordinate to foreign affairs (mainly trouble with the Arabs) and a precarious economic position. Ben-Gurion gave the religionist bloc three cabinet posts: Religious Affairs, Social Welfare, Health & Immigration.
Then the religionists began nagging.
They insisted on...