Between 17th and 20th of February 2020, Forward Thinking facilitated a delegation of influential Israeli Rabbis and Rabbinits from the national religious community to the Netherlands. The purpose of the delegation was to explore the Dutch model of church and state relations, and more broadly the tools and mechanisms the Dutch system uses to meet the challenges of accommodating minority and majority rights. While the Netherlands is perceived as a secular country, it has deep conservative Christian traditions of which a significant proportion of Dutch society still practise today, as well as a growing immigrant population especially of those from the Muslim faith.
The delegation met with political figures from the National and Municipal level and across the political spectrum, as well as academics, civic and religious leaders. Whilst the delegation did not focus on the dynamics and complexities within Israel itself or the wider Middle East conflict, the delegates did explore how the Dutch model could be relevant to their own domestic context.
The delegation was given an opportunity to learn about the complexities of the Dutch model. Key themes that emerged, included the role that the state plays in respecting and protecting diverse communities in the Netherlands, and how the needs of religious and secular communities are expressed and accommodated. Forward Thinking will follow up with continual engagement with the group. An additional delegation will also take place later in the year to explore a different model to state-religion relations, the experience and feedback from the Netherlands delegation will help shape the future trip.