Jews: Faith or Nationality?

What is a Jew? A member of a religion, a culture, a nation — or all three?

That was the old and perhaps unanswerable question faced last week by the Israeli Supreme Court. Understandably, the court preferred to sidestep the issue rather than try to give a firm answer, but the case that raised the problem did so in a particularly interesting way.

The petitioner before the judges was Benjamin Shalit, 33, a psychologist and a lieutenant commander in Israel's navy; the respondent was the Minister of the Interior. Israeli law requires all parents...

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