This article seeks to understand how the term ger toshav or the “resident Other” can be revived in modern times to guide Jewish religious law as it relates to the non-Jewish citizen in the modern State of Israel. For this to happen, a journey through the halakhic (Jewish legal) understanding of the Other must be undertaken from the Bible up until modern times. The biblical understanding of the Other through the term ger bifurcates in Rabbinic times to the ger tzedek (convert) and the ger toshav (resident Other). Rabbinic Judaism goes out of its way to show that the ger toshav is no longer relevant since the Jubilee year is not in practice in the Land of Israel. This study will show that although this is the prevalent opinion of Maimonides, there was a dissenting opinion held by his contemporary, the Raavad, Rabbi Abraham ben David. It was this opinion which was recognized and codified by modern halakhic deciders and then implemented on a very restricted basis. Is there a way to widen the application of the term ger toshav for a more accepting religious viewpoint towards the non-Jew? This article affirms this to be the case.
Upon the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, there existed a sizable Muslim and Christian minority whose rights to citizenship were enshrined in the democratic aspirations contained in the Israeli Declaration of Independence. Since then the State of Israel has been challenged by balancing democratic values and Jewish Law. The article seeks to determine how Jewish law relates to the non-Jewish “Other” for the expressed purpose of discovering an alternative model with historically based halakhic precedent. A review of traditional texts will show a trend in Jewish Law (Halakhah) that mandates equality as a religious imperative. Enlightenment and Jewish emancipation strengthened this trend which encouraged halakhic deciders to search for ways that a new paradigm can exist in how Judaism views the Gentile. They influenced the early official Rabbinate of the Land and State of Israel who set a precedent of using ancient terminology to affirm the validity of non-Jewish participation in Israeli society. The study’s conclusions seek to help the Jewish religion depart from being a force conducive to discrimination and instead embrace a mandate conducive for equality and constructive interreligious dialogue with all the different sectors that are part of the State of Israel.