Last week I was invited by Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Ambassador Ron Dermer to attend a four-day mission of North American Rabbis to explore and promote Israel-Diaspora relations. The invitation outlines the purpose of the mission. “We will hold frank, open and honest conversations with opinion makers and leaders to foster greater understanding on both sides of the Atlantic…. If we do nothing, the divide between these two great communities could deepen and become insurmountable. This mission is not for everyone – it is for rabbis who are motivated by the principles of Clal Yisrael [commitment to the totality of the Jewish People] and Ahavat Yisrael [love for the Jewish People and the Jewish State.] It will require open mindedness, which will transcend allegiance to any ideology, organization or movement.”
I hope to participate. The principles of Clal Yisrael and Ahavat Yisrael are indeed the first and the last motivators of my Zionism. I carry these driving principles with me wherever I go. They live in my bones. In between the first and the last, however, are many other, more nuanced principles, which are best expressed as the principles of Reform Zionism. Reform Zionism is driven by values, which are Jewish, religious, modern and democratic. Reform Zionism is passionate and principled, rooted in the land and rooted in the words of the biblical prophets who call for justice and righteousness. Reform Zionism is growing in importance and influence as The State of Israel seems to be losing its grip on how to remain both Jewish and democratic.
Last week Aviv Levi, an Israeli sergeant was killed at the Gaza fence where he volunteered to be stationed as Hamas violence was escalating. Alav HaShalom.
Last week the controversial Nation State Bill was passed late at night in the Kenesset (62 in favour, 55 against, 2 abstentions). While much of it reads like “motherhood and matzah ball soup,” with a little imagination, it’s easy to see how certain sections can be used in unseemly ways — against the growing non-Jewish minorities and against non-Haredi Jews. Read the FAQ prepared by The IMPJ (Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism).
Last week Israel rescued 800 “White Helmets” from Syria and brought them to Jordan. Eventually they and their families will be taken in as refugees by Canada, England, and Germany. Unlike most of Israel’s global humanitarian efforts, this one seems to be receiving good media attention.
Last week a Conservative Rabbi in Haifa was taken from his home at 5:30 in the morning and brought to police headquarters for questioning about the Jewish weddings he performs without the consent of the Chief Rabbinate. He wrote from the police station, “Iran is here,” meaning Israel is becoming an unrecognizable theocracy. Rabbi Haiyun’s lawyer is Director of Hiddush, Rabbi Uri Regev, who came to speak to us at Holy Blossom last spring. That same day Rabbi Haiyun went to Prime Minister Rivlin’s home for the annual pre-Tisha B’Av study with leaders and representatives from across the Jewish spectrum. Only in today’s Israel does a rabbi go from police investigation to the President’s home!
Last Sunday was Tisha B’Av, the darkest day on the Jewish calendar when we mourn the destruction of Jerusalem’s ancient Temple and the many calamities, which befell us throughout our history. On Tisha B’Av we ask: What did we do to allow for our enemies to overtake us? What weakness of faith or weakness of cohesion or weakness of will made us vulnerable to external threats? We hold up the mirror and we ask: How are we doing as a People? Some fast, some mourn, some pray, some study, and then some get to work.
Now it is a new week. Now we mend what has been torn; we repair what has been broken; we reinforce what has been weak. Here are a few ways you can help.
- Become a Reform Zionist. Each year you see in your Holy Blossom Temple membership package an invitation to join ARZA Canada. ARZA is the Association of Reform Zionists of America. By becoming a member of ARZA you will have a voice in the World Zionist Organization, you will be invited for unique local learning opportunities, and you will be informed of relevant news as it unfolds in Israel.
The President of ARZA, Rabbi Josh Weinberg, is coming to Holy Blossom. To learn more about our role in shaping the Jewish character of the Jewish State, come for Shabbat evening services on Friday, August 10th, 6 – 7 pm. Learn more about his visit here.
- Become a vocal Ohev Yisrael, Lover of Israel. A false assumption about Diaspora Jewry is that we care less and less about Israel and her development. Please consider writing to Prime Minister Netanyahu ([email protected]) or to our regional Consul General Galit Baram ([email protected]gov.il). Express both your commitments and your concerns, whatever they may be. Let our voices of attachment be strong enough to build up the bridge from here to there.
- Join our Holy Blossom team of Israel Engagement leadership. Pam Albert, Les Rothschild, and Rabbi Michael Satz welcome your ideas and your volunteerism to bring more Israel programming to Holy Blossom Temple. We offer a range of opportunities from learning from expert thought-leaders to exploring Israeli literature, film and food. Our sister congregation outside of Tel Aviv, Kehillat HaShachar, provides a great connection of friendship.
- Travel to Israel. There’s nothing like being there. Soon we’ll announce our next congregational trip to Israel. If you’d like to be matched with congregants who can tell you about family trips, high school programs, gap-year programs, Birthright and Honeymoon Israel, study and volunteer opportunities for retirees, or even aliyah, please contact us and we’ll put you in touch with a fellow-congregant who can share his or her experiences and provide you with helpful resources.
“For Zion’s sake I will not be silent.
For Jerusalem’s sake I will not be still.
Until her justice shines like the dawn,
Her deliverance like a blazing torch.” (Isaiah 62:1)