This year we are commemorating many anniversaries for the history of Zionism. One hundred years ago in 1917 the government of the United Kingdom gave its support to the movement for a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel with the Balfour Declaration. Seventy years ago in 1947 the United Nations voted to partition the Land that would include a Jewish state.
This spring we will celebrate seventy years of independence for the State of Israel. 2017 is the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day war of 1967 that drastically changed Israeli society and the Middle East. All of these momentous events give shape to the dynamic society that Israel is today and to its internal politics and foreign relations, but historical events are not the whole picture of what Israel is about. To fully engage in a society, and I believe that it is incumbent on all of us to be fully engaged with Israel, one needs to learn about culture like art and literature and religion. Israel is shaped by geopolitical points on a timeline, and by its people—Jews, Muslims, Christians, secular, religious, immigrants and native born.
At Holy Blossom, we try deepen our relationship through varied programs. In the last few weeks we have learned from a retired IDF general and a prominent Israeli Modern Orthodox rabbi. In the coming weeks will be experiencing Israeli cooking and discussing the short stories of Israel’s most popular author. Also, I will be leading a ten session course in partnership with the Shalom Hartman Institute called “The Tribes of Israel: A Shared Homeland for a Divided People.” We will investigate the challenge of creating a Jewish and democratic public space in the modern State of Israel—a shared common space for a people divided along “tribal” affiliations: religious, ideological, national, and geographic. We will try to answer: What is the significance of the State of Israel as a Jewish public sphere? How does a people divided along religious, geographic, and ideological lines build a shared society? Also to be discussed: minorities and Diaspora communities.
This year at Yom Kippur, Rabbis Helfman, Splansky and I encouraged us all to renew our relationship with Israel. Holy Blossom Temple wants to be your partner in this process.
P.S. There is one more anniversary I want to mention. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) and ARZA Canada. These two organizations are our Reform voices in the World Zionist Congress. They push for religious pluralism in Israel and support the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism. As we mentioned at Yom Kippur, we urge to support ARZA Canada and the IMPJ. I am humbled that the Reform Jewish Quarterly recently published an article I wrote about the history of the founding of ARZA. You can find the link here.