The separation of church and state is a key component of US democracy, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I live in a "secular" state. Freedom of religion means the

Freedom of religion means the government tolerates the fact that I observe Judaism.

government tolerates the fact that I observe Judaism. And while there is no official religion here in America, Christianity is the de facto religion of this country. If you have any doubts about that fact, read some of the nonsense going on in America about the word "God" on money, or over displaying nativity scenes at public venues, or take a look at the talking head flipping out about the "Merry Christmas" political ads that ran Christmas week.

Religion in politics is not a bad thing. I don't agree with Abe Foxman that religion should be kept out of political campaigns. I would prefer to vote for a candidate who is a person of faith, even if it is not my faith, as long as it isn't a put-on. It makes me feel more confident that the candidate has a moral anchor.

The US defines itself as a secular state, but is really a Christian state; Israel, by definition, is a Jewish state that tries its hardest to be a secular state. Israel is the rebirth of a religious Jewish state that existed almost 2,000 years ago. It is that religious history that gives Israel her legitimacy. The Biblical prophecy of the ingathering of exiles gives legitimacy to Aliyah, the Jewish right of return.

Jews are unique in the world - we are a nation and a religion. Survival is only assured when the two are linked together. That's why it is repulsive that, as part of the celebration of Israel's 60th birthday, its president, Shimon Peres, announced that he will observe Shabbat... once. By making a big deal out of this one observance, Peres dishonors Israel's Jewish traditions. There are those who believe Shabbos should be observed for reasons other than a cheap publicity stunt.

I worry about Israel because its government has no sense of its Jewishness. The last government that did was probably that of Menachem Begin, which may be why Jimmy Carter hated him so much.

If Israel's leaders had a sense of Jewishness, then they would protect Sderot. If they truly believed that Israel was a Jewish state, then they would never bargain away Judea and Samaria. The government would care about the fact that Shiloh was the first place in Israel that the Ark of the Covenant stood. They would care that families will be uprooted for years, just like those who were thrown out of Gaza. A government with a moral

I worry about Israel because its government has no sense of its Jewishness.

compass would not put more families in harm's way with the proposed new borders.

If Israel's leaders saw Judaism as a way of life instead of a political tool, then their moral compass would tell them that Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish People, cannot be divided and that Hebron, purchased by Abraham, the first Jew, must remain in Jewish hands.

It is ironic that the US, a secular state, elects candidates with a strong background in religion, while Israel, a Jewish state, elects leaders without a moral compass. I take that back; it's not ironic, it's criminal.

For those of you already writing comments that being a "Jewish State" makes Israel somehow racist or prejudiced, put down your keyboard. Israel and Judaism protects good people of all religions. Israel protects holy sites of all religions. But Israel is surrounded by Islamic states, that, in many cases, forbid the practice of other religions, where people are urged to convert, become dhimmi or leave.

Israel should be different from the Islamic states. They are constantly fighting amongst themselves over the way they practice, Sunni vs. Shiite for example. Israel must be a home where all "flavors" of Judaism can exist; a Jewish State where rabbis of all kinds - Reform, Conservative and Orthodox - can tend to their flocks during the entire cycle of life from births, marriage to death. If Israel's leaders had a sense of Jewishness, instead of being so secular, then that would happen.

It is precisely because Israeli leaders are ruled by their political desires, instead of using the Torah as a moral compass, that Israel is facing the issues it does. The concessions Ehud Olmert and other Israeli leaders are planning include abandoning Judea, Samaria, the Temple Mount, Hebron, etc. Once you take away Israel's religious heritage, the holy sites become expendable; once they become expendable, so does Tsfat and Tiberias,

Each king of Judea was commanded by God to have a Torah scroll.

and eventually all of Israel.

The Palestinians get it. That's why they consider recognizing Israel as a Jewish State to be a deal-breaker.

In Biblical times, each king of Judea was commanded by God to have a Torah scroll written for him and to be kept near. This was so they could rule alongside the moral compass of the Torah. Maybe today's leaders should take a cue from that. After all, America, a secular country, has leaders who try to rule within the tenants of their religion. Maybe Israel, a Jewish state, should try the same thing.

Israel's leaders should govern the country as a Jewish state on all the Jewish land, and adapt what Bill O'Riley said a few year ago: Israel is a Jewish state; if you don't like it, move to America.