When Israel Hurts
When Israel Hurts
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
Read all about it. Headlines in Times of Israel report, “Knesset Passes ‘Reasonableness’ Law, First Part of Netanyahu’s Overhaul of Judiciary.” This news comes to some as a long-awaited improvement of the judiciary, which Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition believes holds too much power over the legislature. To others, this news means the beginning of the end of democracy in Israel, where some brand of checks and balances between the two branches of Israel once existed. Yet, all of us should shudder at the fact that no compromise was accepted after millions protested in the streets, and officials there and in America pleaded for something (anything) less restrictive. It’s anathema to Israel’s familiar, though complicated, democratic process, and its people’s pluralistic hopes for the future.
Our world has grown accustomed to radical shifts, usually to the right, that bear little resemblance to Jewish values for moderation and democratic principles. Scholars agree that Judaism and Jewish life don’t thrive in autocratic or theocratic governments, and history already has taught that a house divided will surely fall in on itself. First-century Jewish history has been cited numerous times in the last year to warn Israel about parallels to the Roman destruction of the Temple and exile of the Jews from Jerusalem. It wasn’t just that Roman power brought down the Temple and exiled the people; it was also the turmoil and political infighting among Jewish ranks. The parallels cannot be ignored completely. Coincidentally, many Jews observe Tisha B’Av to commemorate the destruction of the first and second Temples in 586 BCE and 70 CE, respectively, with fears related to Israel’s current debacle. But this is not time to sit shiva for Israel, again, or just to read Lamentations, the book of sorrows opened on Tisha B’Av.
This is a time for vocal debate, ongoing protest, and renewed support for the Land and People of Israel. Progressive Jews, writ large, must come together again to impose and compel leaders and citizens of Israel, alike, that this recent conclusion is only temporary. While noting persistent security needs that still surround Israel on her borders, the strength and will of the people within its borders must be buoyed and inspired to believe in a future that has animated them to be brilliant and innovative in everything from land development to hi-tech, and beyond.
Israel is home to the “New Jew,” to quote Rabbi Daniel Gordis, our scholar last spring and author of “Impossible Take Longer: 75 Years After Its Creation, Has Israel Fulfilled Its Founders’ Dreams?” (Ecco 2023). The New Jew is not a passive refugee from war-torn Europe; the New Jew is a soldier, a hi-tech influencer, and a proud citizen of a sovereign Jewish nation. And though we’re not Israeli citizens, we are New Jews, too, who shouldn’t reject Israel or apologize for Israel’s challenges. Our role is to stand with Israel, because Daniel Gordis is right. Impossible (can you believe what Israel has already achieved in 75 years against all odds and enemies?) takes longer (the Zionist dream wasn’t just to have a land but to always have a land), so the goal line will likely always be on the horizon.
Stand with Israel now and always. Participate in Congregation Beth Israel’s Israel Advocacy Committee, and give to organizations that stand with us for Israel’s future as a democratic, Middle Eastern, Western, ancient, modern, and spectacular land for our people.
May Israel and the Jewish people thrive in its ancestral homeland, to be a “light unto the nations,” to be the Hope that brought it into being and will always sustain the land and her people.