On Thursday night in my “Contemporary Jewish Controversies” class I discussed the question of, as I framed it. “Should American Jews Criticize Israeli Policy?” On Friday I listened to a podcast from the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem which helped me to understand that I posed the wrong question. It’s not really a question of “criticizing Israeli policy.” It’s a question of showing that Israel still matters to us and supporting those Israelis -- clearly a majority as evidenced by eight consecutive weeks of massive demonstrations and polls which show that even forty percent of Likud voters oppose the government's planned evisceration of the Supreme Court -- who still hold on to the vision of Israel’s founders. I urge you to give it a listen: https://www.hartman.org.il/israel-is-too-important-to-leave-to-israelis/
Having lived in Israel for four years, visited countless times, and been involved in international Jewish organizations, I have dozens of friends who live in Israel. They are a pretty diverse group, including Conservative, Reform, and Orthodox rabbis as well as secular Jews; kibbutzniks, city dwellers, and West Bank settlers. Many of them are generally apolitical or moderately right-of-center. But over the past few weeks virtually every Israeli I know, even those who live in the West Bank, has participated in demonstrations against the proposed judicial overhaul and written against it.
A case can certainly be made that some judicial reforms are needed. The court system in Israel allows challenges to legislation by people who would not have standing in the United States and takes cases that courts here would not consider themselves empowered to take. But it should be noted that even the academic who is the author of most of the aspects of the proposed judicial overhaul, Prof. Moshe Koppel, himself opposes the legislation which would allow a one-vote majority of the Knesset to override decisions of the Supreme Court. Can you imagine what our country would look like if 51 senators could override decisions of the US Supreme Court? Would the Senate in 1954 have overridden Brown vs. Board of Education?
The Israeli Declaration of Independence said that the State of Israel: “will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.” The hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have been taking to the streets waving Israeli flags remain faithful to this dream and are asking the Jews of the Diaspora to support them in their struggle to keep Israel a democracy. עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ -- our hope is not yet lost.
As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the shul. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at email@example.com or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian