Israel Needs Us

Israel Needs Us

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon

Late Monday night, I returned from a conference in Israel with 250 Reform Rabbis. Being in Israel is always eye-opening and inspiring no matter the circumstances on the ground. Last fall I told you that “Israel is complicated,” but it’s time to update you because Israel is more complicated than ever. If you’ve read the headlines or delved deeper into the story, then you’ll know that Israel’s democracy is literally at stake, on the line, and at risk. While in Tel Aviv, thousands of Israelis and Israel’s allies protested on behalf of democracy, pluralism, equality, and basic rights that resonate with us, too.

Currently, Israel is engaged in a “constitutional crisis,” written in quotation marks, because Israel doesn’t have a constitution. If it did, the existential crisis surrounding its democracy would be less so, but, in its current situation, the executive branch, if you will, is on course to rule with a heavy hand over the courts and its decisions about social and economic issues that have enabled secular and liberal Jews to thrive. Netanyahu’s coalition government represents a far-right position and is bound to turn back the clock on the nation’s spectacular rise in just 75 years, which we will celebrate this year.

My purpose in writing is not to tell you about all the issues and on which side you and I should stand. My purpose is not to tell you who’s right and who’s wrong. My purpose is to tell you that no matter the issues and no matter who’s right and who’s wrong, Israel is a matter of concern to us, and if it isn’t a matter of concern to you, then it should be. The recognition that Israel is a sovereign, democratic state, worthy of being secure and protected on all sides is a product of its relationship with America. And its relationship with America relies not only on political allies but on personal relationships with us. We don’t vote in Israel, but we vote in America. We vote for Israel when we support American candidates who support Israel. We vote for Israel when we follow the news, engage in productive conversations even when we disagree on Israel, and when we love Israel even when we don’t like Israel.

While in Israel, I listened to Jews, Arabs, citizens and visitors, from cab drivers to political leaders, including the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides. The overwhelming hope is that Israel will not set aside laws and rulings that have provided safe haven for its citizens who are not “religious” in Israel. We are not a future of Haredim (strictly observant Jews), even if they have dozens of children. We are a future of Jews who find its strength not on the far left or the far right, but in the ways that reasonable points of view find their meaning in ways we interpret Torah teachings for our times. Hebrew prophets didn’t foretell the future; they cautioned us about the future they saw in the deeds we did in the present. Current events in the name of strict and unyielding outcomes is a reason to be cautious and concerned about Israel’s future. So let’s decide together what it is we’ll do today to preserve our people, our Land, and our hope in the future. Vote. Learn. Engage.

Today, Israel is more complicated than ever, and more in need than ever of our support in a war for the soul of the Jewish homeland. Below are links to read about the issues and to educate yourself on what is at stake. I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to read them. Congregation Beth Israel’s Israel Advocacy Committee is also a source of meaningful and impactful information on Israel.


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