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  • A Personal Reflection from our CEO on Developments in Israel Today

    Dear Friends,

     

    I’m writing to you from Jerusalem tonight. I have been in Israel for eight days now with a delegation of Boston Christian ministers. Throughout our time here, the impending Knesset vote on the Judicial changes has been present in our conversations with people from every part of Israeli society. We have experienced the protests firsthand and have heard the passion and the fears of so many of Israel’s people as they’ve taken to the streets to defend the norms of their democracy. 

    And like you, today we learned that the Knesset has enacted the law to prevent Israel’s courts from applying the standard of ‘reasonableness’ to reviews of government decisions. 

    Certainly, there are many in Israel who sought and now welcome this law – including some whom we met with just today and were with, in fact, when we learned that the law was enacted. Still, my heart is filled with sadness and my conscience calls me to be – in heart and person – with the many friends and people whom I care so much about and to whom I am obligated, who are in the streets tonight; protesters whom, per the polls, speak for the views of a significant majority of the people here, who support a reform, but only a reform built on national consensus. 

    The street tonight is filled with despair and fear. Our friends fear the comments of ministers tonight who are vowing that this is only the first step in a series of legislation that collectively would profoundly undo the checks and balances in the governance of Israel. There is genuine fear for the loss of social and personal rights that some ministers of this government have vowed to roll back – and today’s actions take Israel one step closer to realizing those fears. There is despair that the vision of Israel’s founders is fraying – namely that after two millennia of living as a stateless and oppressed people, that we Jews could and would build a state where democracy, and the protection of the rights of all of Israel’s citizens, would be central principles of a new Jewish polity. 

    There is as well a profound sadness for all Israel’s people, regardless of their views of the new law. It is lost on no one here that in less than 48 hours we will begin the fast of Tisha B’Av, mourning the destruction of the Temple. In recent days, time and again, we have been reminded that the rabbis tell us that the Temple was destroyed, and our ancestors lost their sovereignty in this land, because of sinat chinam – baseless hatred among the people. There is a viciousness to the political discourse here, if not downright hatred, that feels – as an American – tragically familiar. Israel is in crisis amidst a deep breakdown in the sense of a shared national purpose here. 

    Israel stands at a precipice. As we look into the chasm, there is an urgent need for responsible and courageous leadership – leaders who will hold and honor the hopes and fears and aspirations of all of Israel’s citizens; Leaders who will find the courage and strength, and even the humility, to reach out to their strongest critics and invite them into a process of rebuilding national unity and purpose, even if that requires setting aside immediate political objectives.  

    As for me, and us, as Jews in America who care so deeply not just about the State of Israel, but even more so for the people of Israel – let us have the humility and the courage to listen to them right now. Let us hold ourselves accountable to friends and loved ones in the streets of Israel’s cities tonight. Let us honor their pain, and their fear, and commit to doing what they ask of us in this critical moment. Let us be their support and their aide as they determine their future.  

    Finally, tonight, and always, I choose to be inspired and to draw hope from the people I have sat with this week. So many of Israel’s citizens – Jewish, Arab, Christian, Muslim, Haredi, secular, Druze, and so on – are doing profound work to see each other’s dignity, to offer loving-kindness across the boundaries of their tribes, and to do the hard work of building a shared, and hopeful, vision for the future of all of them. It is in them, people, not governments, that I place my hope today and every day, and it is through our support for them, that we can help them find a way back from this narrow and broken place. 

     

    Sincerely,

    Jeremy 

     

    P.S.: In the coming days we’ll be listening to and consulting our members and partners to understand their responses to today’s developments. I welcome your thoughts and insights on what we are called to do as Jewish Americans in this moment.