This page hopes to help answer some of the great questions that our leadership is so often asked; What is going on in Israel? How can I get involved? When are we going to Israel? And when is Israel coming to us?
Articles and resources are thoughtfully curated by our diverse team of readers, and we extend our deepest thanks to them.
This page will be regularly updated with new materials and is a central location to learn about our wide range of upcoming Israel programming. Please be certain to check back often and stay informed.
Rabbi Samuel Kaye
October 27: Israel at Holy Blossom
It feels like we have been here forever, and yet very little time has passed since the terrible moments of October 7th. The Rabbis of Holy Blossom had the opportunity to study this week with Dr. Masua Sagiv, one of the Shalom Hartman Institutes’ leading legal scholars. She spoke about the lessons of collective loss, the memory of the Jewish people, the power of finding hope, and the simple message that time is needed to heal.
One of the most uplifting pieces she shared was a message that had come out on social media just 4 days after the attack, which went viral in Israel. It was written by an Israeli named “Osher” and it is funny, sad, poignant and very true. I present it to you in English here.
“At the end we will win.
And in a thousand years there would be another holiday about them trying to destroy us and failed and the minhag will be to eat Rachel cookies or something.”
With that message strongly in our hearts, here are some of the stories from Israel.
Am Yisrael Chai!
From our Readers:
Israel’s war against Hamas is just – The Forward
Some 30 children were taken hostage into Gaza. Their families wait in agony – The Times of Israel
Why is Israel being blamed for the Hamas massacre? | Yossi Klein Halevi | The Blogs (timesofisrael.com)
How the IDF’s canine unit rushed to the scene on its own initiative – and saved lives – www.israelhayom.com
Petition Urging Prime Minister Trudeau to Demand the Unconditional Release of all Hostages:
Learn in Person with Rabbi Doniel Hartman (November 7th):
Hospital Terror Base:
Israel: Hamas terror group’s main operations base is under Shifa Hospital in Gaza City – The Times of Israel
IDF shares proof of Hamas terror base built under main Gaza hospital – The Jerusalem Post (jpost.com)
From Yair Lapid:
Podcasts and Videos:
Call Me Back – with Dan Senor (google.com)
What Matters Now to Rachel Goldberg: Her son Hersh, held hostage by Hamas – The Times of Israel
What Matters Now to Rabbi Rick Jacobs: Coalitions of faith and conscience – The Times of Israel
Stay up to date on this Topic:
Contact the Consul General
Write to the Consul General in Toronto and to the Israeli government to express your deep concern. One easy way to reach the government is to use this write-in form provided by the Israel Religious Action Centre.
You can also contact the Consul General directly at the addresses below.
Consulate General of Israel in Toronto
2 Bloor Street East
Contact the Israeli Ambassador
Embassy of Israel in Canada
50 O’Connor Street
Tel: (613) 750-7500
Holy Blossom Temple Recommends
Reflections from our members
Reflection on the Protests from Jennifer Isackov, who grew up here at Holy Blossom and has made Aliyah.
Reflection on Praying at the Kotel with the Women of the Wall- from Temple President Phyllis Denaburg
Demonstration in Beer Sheva
Interesting and Scary Times in Israel
Reflections from Israel: YEC March Break in Israel
Protesting into the night by Jennifer Isackov (timesofisrael.com)
Protecting Israel’s Democracy- From Holy Blossom Temple Foundation Chair Joan Garson
Must Read/Watch/Listen from around the Globe
Israel from the Inside with Daniel Gordis: What you just witnessed was one of the greatest weeks in Israel’s history
Kabbalat Shabbat Drash from Anna Kislanski
Times of Israel Editorial from Left, Right and Center
WATCH a fascinating debate between two Israeli scholars on the validity and course of the democratic reforms and constitutional crisis
Messages from our Clergy
Maps of Israel: A Rabbinic Reflection from Senior Rabbi Yael Splansky
Hearts of Stone: An Israel Sermon from Senior Rabbi Yael Splansky
The 2-Hour Crisis: An Israel Drash by Rabbi Samuel Kaye
Rabbinic Reflection: Rabbi Yael Splansky (Metaphors, March 3, 2023)
The Good the Bad and the Ugly Shabbat Morning sermon from Rabbi Samuel Kaye
Shabbat Morning Sermon: Rabbi Eliza McCarroll
Rabbinic Reflection: Rabbi Yael Splansky (Tending the Eternal Flame, March 24, 2023)
Past Lean Into Israel Updates
October 13: Israel at Holy Blossom
Defending Israel in Canada
Our friends from CIJA have provided a 5-point checklist for defending Israel here in Canada.
When you see the justification of terror, push back.
Whether it’s online, in public, or in private, any time you see or hear some kind of justification for the terror, kidnapping, rape and murder of Israelis, please push back. This terror must be unequivocally condemned by all.
Reach out to and activate your networks.
Have conversations and share important information with elected officials and thought leaders with whom you have trusting relationships. Be open and honest with them about how this impacts you as their friend and a fellow Canadian. If they have already spoken out, please take the time to say thank you and tell them their words are important. If you need assistance with how to have these conversations, we are here for you. Keep us informed of any of these conversations you have.
Ensure that voices of support are heard and amplified on social media.
Share our posts. Share each other’s posts. Share reliable sources online and with friends. Speak out publicly. Reliable sources include:
CIJA (X: @CIJAInfo)
Local Federation/UJA accounts (including but not limited to:)
X: Toronto – @UJAFederation
X: Montreal – @FederationCJA
X: Vancouver – @JewishVancouver
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (X: @CanadianFSWC)
Israeli Embassy – @IsraelinCanada
Consulate General of Israel
Toronto – @IsraelinToronto
Montreal – @IsraelinMTL
Assist other organizations with their work.
Share information, attend and send us photos from your local pro-Israel rallies and be sure to follow your local Federations and CIJA for emails and social media updates.
Reach out to your Jewish friends.
Your Jewish friends are not okay. Our allies are incredible; we are so grateful for them. However, even with public shows of support, many Jewish people feel alone. A simple call or text is enough to make them feel supported.
News moves so quickly in these dark days that there is little point in re-sharing the news as it comes in. We know that Hamas has attacked, that we are still counting our dead, and that soon there will be boots on the ground in Gaza. Each news website breathlessly informs us of new rocket strikes, the number of the fallen, and the statements of world leaders.
Thus, instead of a 10,000-foot picture of Israel that Lean into Israel normally provides, this morning we will share resources for discussion and defending Israel, stand-out editorials from around the globe, interesting and distressing events uprooted by the war, and small points of light within the darkness.
Resources for Talking to your Children and Grandchildren about the war
The American Jewish Committee has provided a catch all page.
Editorials, shared by our team of Readers:
Fascinating and Infuriating
Points of Light in the Dark
Podcasts from The Shalom Hartman Institute
אַחֵינוּ כָּל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, הַנְּתוּנִים בְּצָרָה וּבַשִּׁבְיָה, הָעוֹמְדִים בֵּין בַּיָּם וּבֵין בַּיַּבָּשָׁה, הַמָּקוֹם יְרַחֵם עֲלֵיהֶם, וְיוֹצִיאֵם מִצָּרָה לִרְוָחָה, וּמֵאֲפֵלָה לְאוֹרָה, וּמִשִּׁעְבּוּד לִגְאֻלָּה, הַשְׁתָּא בַּעֲגָלָא וּבִזְמַן קָרִי
As for our kin, the whole house of Israel, who are given over to trouble or captivity, whether they abide on the sea or on the dry land:
May the All-present have mercy upon them, and bring them forth from trouble to enlargement, from darkness to light, and from subjection to redemption, now speedily and so soon.
We pray for the peace of Israel.
September 29: Israel at Holy Blossom
Rabbi Splansky gave a stirring and poignant sermon on Kol Nidre about Israel and its current crisis. We hope that you’ll watch it and continue your involvement with our extensive, upcoming Israel programming.
Thanks to the current coalition, Israeli Reform synagogues and schools are in danger of losing more than $1.5 million dollars in government funding. Your support of your justice partners, and sister congregations in Israel, is vital and needed. The link to donate to the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism emergency fund is below.
On Yom Kippur, Holy Blossom was happy to host the World Zionist Organization’s “Israeli Neilah” in our Youth Chapel. Over 200 attended and joined Rabbi Splansky on the Bathurst Plaza for a joyful and meaningful Havdalah. This program was so successful that we ran out of room. You can see some national coverage below.
This week we will see three major Israel programs at Holy Blossom Temple.
Monday, October 2nd we will welcome the Abrahamic Global Peace Initiative for a “fireside conversation” about the Abraham Accords and the future of Holocaust Education in the Arab World.
On Tuesday, October 3rd, MK Gilad Kariv will join us digitally to speak with us about the ongoing constitutional crisis in Israel.
On Wednesday, October 4th, the organizers of UnXepetable here in Toronto will join us in the sukkah to discuss their motivations, the future course of demonstrations and activism in Toronto, and how the voice of the diaspora community factors into the ongoing protest movement.
Additional information and registration for all of them can be found at the link below.
Data-Driven Questions and Assumptions in Israel
Reading from our “Israel Dialogues” team this week – two different stories about demographics and data in Israel that challenge our conventional understandings of ‘the future of Judaism.’ Can the Jewish state survive the seemingly inevitable growth of the haaredi demographic? How are Israelis feeling today about the possibility of a two-state solution?
Yom Kippur 5784 in Tel Aviv
Yom Kippur 5784 in Tel Aviv was marred by a clash of Religious-Nationalist Israelis, seeking to illegally hold a gender-segregated tefilla in a public space, and their secular neighbors. This conflict has captured the Israeli public as a microcosm of the current struggle between segments of society, as it is not only a religious flash-point but also deeply rooted in the current political crisis. A variety of perspectives is presented below, including the voice of our guest Orly Erez Likhovski- who will speak to us here at Holy Blossom on October 18th.
Yom Kippur and the fight for Israel’s soul | Orly Erez Likhovski | The Blogs (timesofisrael.com)
The state of our brokenness | Yossi Klein Halevi | The Blogs (timesofisrael.com)
Activists block public Tel Aviv Yom Kippur prayers as Orthodox group sets gender divider | The Times of Israel
PM blasts protesters for disrupting Yom Kippur service in Tel Aviv – www.israelhayom.com
Messianism, Apartheid and Coup: Connecting the Dots of Israel’s Emerging Tyranny – Haaretz Editorial – Haaretz.com
I still don’t know why I was shamed on Yom Kippur – www.israelhayom.com
Visa Program/Bibi visits with President Joe Biden
Before the holiday, Bibi was in the United States to meet with President Biden. Normalization with Saudi Arabia was one issue discussed (there is more information under it’s own heading) other conversations included the recently approved Visa Waiver program for Israelis.
US admits Israel into Visa Waiver Program, in major boost to bilateral ties | The Times of Israel
With diplomatic gains in the US, Netanyahu briefly soared above the overhaul fight | The Times of Israel
Does Netanyahu have to feel Biden’s love? – analysis – Israel News – The Jerusalem Post (jpost.com)
Why Did Biden Just Revive Netanyahu’s Failing Far-right Government? – Haaretz Today – Haaretz.com
Saudi Arabian Normalization
There is a lot of conversation about Saudi Arabia joining the Abraham Accords, or creating it’s own version, normalizing ties with Israel. Currently the claim is that ‘without a Palestinian state this is impossible’ but politicians of many stripes seem to believe that this party line might have hidden depths. The Hartman Institute has an exceptional Podcast on the subject below, as well as a primer from the Jerusalem Post.
UnXeptable in Toronto
Organizors from UnXeptable share the following:
Join us this Sunday, 4 PM October 1st, at Cedarvale Park for a holiday-themed solidarity gathering potluck!
Out of respect for those who are celebrating Sukkot we will have a more relaxed and family friendly social event aimed at showing our continuing solidarity and support for the protests in Israel while getting to know each other better!
Bring food, tables, plates, drinks! Whatever you feel comfortable bringing!
We pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
September 1: Featured Reading
Demonstrations continue weekly, but with the Knesset on recess, the legislative blitz has ceased until after the High Holidays. Our eyes turn to other issues facing the Jewish state.
Three of the most prominent voices in the Jewish world share a vision of assistance. Editorial by Matti Friedman, Yossi Klein haLevi and Daniel Gordis.
Head of IRAC (Israeli Religious Action Center) Orly Erez Likhovski, shares about her efforts to defend the rights of women in Israel. Orly will be speaking at Holy Blossom on October 18th. You can register here.
President Isaac Herzog shares a special message as Israeli children return to school.
News and Peace
Parts of the pre-discussion from the Oslo Accords were declassified this week, including comments made by Shimon Perez and Yitzchak Rabin.
Gilad Kariv, MK and Reform Rabbi met with Palestinian officials in Ramalah this week to discuss security cooperation.
A diplomatic kerfuffle exploded this week when a Likkud minister revealed that he had been having secret meetings with his Libyan counterpart. Anti-Israel protests broke out in Libya and Libya has denied any normalization or peace options with Israel in the fallout. Libyan Jews remembered the brutality of the regime.
A Lone Soldier, Maxim Mulchanov, from Ukraine, was murdered in a terrorist attack committed by a Palestinian. 6 more were injured in the attack. The terrorist was also killed.
The grand Ben Ezra synagogue of Cairo, where the Cairo Geneza was discovered, reopens after extensive renovations.
Podcasts and Videos
What Matters Now: A video series from the Times of Israel detailing what matters in the lives of everyday Israelis throughout the world. This week’s episode is an uplifting interview with two Israeli camp councillors who spent the summer in the USA.
Doniel Hartman and his colleagues talk security and the challenges of division/disunity in the IDF.
We pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
August 4: Featured Reading
One Week Later…
One week after the first judicial reforms have passed the repercussions of these new laws are being felt internationally and internally.
Must Read: The Knesset has gone on recess, the Jerusalem Post offers a comprehensive explainer of what happens next.
The Times of Israel’s editor in Chief David Herzog offers a scathing editorial on the failure of leadership demonstrated by the Prime Minister and his extremist allies. Throughout he links to various news stories and supporting articles demonstrating his points, the challenges Israel will face in the coming months, and the repercussions of treating a democratic mandate as unlimited power.
Yossi Klein haLevi presents a thoughtful essay about the deep divides in Israel society, calling upon empathy and morality as our only balm.
Shay Menuchin of our Israel Engagement Committee recommends this podcast, asking the great question “Will Israel Face Civil War?”
Sweden and Israel have had a series of diplomatic spats in the last month, as the European nation has been granting permission to anti-religious demonstrators to burn Torah scrolls. The Jerusalem Post discusses and investigates the growing Jewish Swedish community.
Rabbi Splansky’s sermon from last Shabbat: how to stay involved with Israel and a message of hope.
July 26: Featured Reading
On Monday the Knesset passed the first of the proposed Judicial Reform bills designed to reduce the power of the Israeli Supreme Court, by overturning the “Reasonableness Standard”. All 64 members of the ruling coalition approved the law, while the rest of the Knesset walked out in objection. Below you will find information on the details of “Reasonableness Standard”, as well as numerous perspectives and statements from Jewish Organizations and leading thinkers in Israel and the Diaspora reacting to the new law, the passage of it, the schism in Israeli society, and the repercussions of unilateral action.
To learn more about the “Reasonableness Clause” which was overturned this week…
Opinion Pieces from…
Michael Oren, former MK, former Ambassador to the United States. (Times of Israel)
Rabbi Eric Yoffe, Former President of the Union for Reform Judaism (Haaretz)
Meyer Ben Shabbat, former National Security Advisor for Israel (Israel haYom)
Editorial Board- The Jerusalem Post
David Horovitz, Editor in Chief of the Times of Israel
Doubtless, more leading thinkers will speak out in the coming days with their own perspectives.
July 7: Featured Reading
Judicial Reform: The Government continues its movement to redefine the powers of the Judiciary, despite the rift that it is creating in the community and the ongoing damage done to Israels’ international and financial standing. Benny Gantz, one of the opposition leaders, called for Netanyahu to return to the table this week. Protests are spreading beyond city centers and Motzei Shabbat, spilling out into the airport and the homes of leading ministers. Tel Aviv’s top Police Officer was removed from his position this week, with many blaming MK Ben Givir’s meddling, and was protested by thousands who see this as more overreach of the government. Throughout, Israel’s Attorney General, has urged the Prime Minister to continue to obey the law and not to get involved in specific policy or instruction which could be seen as a breach of the political independence of the police.
Operation in Jenin: The IDF launched a major operation in Jenin this week to destabilize “Iranian-backed terrorist infrastructure.” Jenin is located in the West Bank, in a section of the territories that are controlled and operated by the Palestinian Authority. Non-Active Military Israeli Citizens are not permitted to enter Jenin. There was significant damage done to both infrastructure and the city during the operation. Whenever there is an operation in the West Bank, Israel faces large-scale international condemnation. Former Prime Minister Naphtali Bennett spoke with the BBC in a confrontational interview, where he rebuked the media for their one-sided coverage, which has been received very well inside of Israel and many Jewish communities. Staff Sg.t Shilo Yosef Amir of the elite Givati Brigade was killed during the operation, he was buried today.
Article on Growing Tensions between Jerusalem’s Christians, including Messianic Jews, and the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem. Some Jews say that there are new and stronger attempts to missionize and convert Israelis, Christian groups are claiming to be misunderstood.
New Editorial from HBT Members living in Israel on Beer Sheba’s Pride Parade.
Les Rothschild writes on the “reasonableness” bill- which is at the center of much of the Judicial overhaul …
The Reasonableness interpretation that is currently used by the Supreme Court may be difficult to understand fully. It does have a broad scope. It is one of the key parts of the judicial practices that the Coalition wants to eliminate. A recent example of the way the Supreme Court used its power was when the Coalition wanted to appoint Ari Deri as a cabinet minister even though he had been convicted of fraud and part of his sentence was based on the fact he would not enter politics again. The Supreme Court found that appointing him as a Minister was unreasonable and blocked the government from acting.
To get a better understanding of this part of the judicial overhaul please listen to this legal explanation of the piecemeal dismantling of Israel’s judicial power. Prof. Amnon Reichman, “Genuine Alarm – The (un)Reasonableness Doctrine – From Shock & Awe to Piecemeal Legislation.”
A Journey of Learning with Shalom Hartman Institute
By Mark Madras
June 23: Featured Reading
After several months of slowdown, negotiations, and protests, the Judicial Overhaul is swiftly returning to the spotlight. In response to consistent protests and international condemnation, government tactics shifted over the last few months. While they continued negotiating with the opposition about legislation, the coalition attempted to solidify control over the governing bodies which elect judges and determine the leadership of the Supreme Court.
However, the governing block lost a key, anonymous, vote to determine who would be on the nominating committee for Supreme Court Justices. You can read more here. Having lost the ability to unanimously control the committee which selects the Judges and following a high turnout for the Israel Bar Association, which also elected an anti-overhaul leader, the government has returned to its previous tactics of pushing through Judicial Reform exclusively through the Knesset.
The future of Israel’s judiciary remains uncertain, with the coalition making it clear that they intend to push through and pass legislation which will limit the power of the supreme court.
Terrorism in the West Bank…
A brutal attack this week committed by Palestinian terrorists resulted in the murder of 4 Israelis in the West Bank. Israeli Extremists turned to vigilante violence targeting Palestinians, their property, and land- engaging in retributive violence and murder. Initial calls for calm from international sources have turned into criticism over the IDF’s failure to curb settler violence in the territories.
Powerful editorial from the leadership of the Hartman Institute…
Reflection and Readings from Mark S. Anshan…
Since the formation of the coalition government of Prime Minister Netanyahu, a focus for diaspora Jewry has been on the judicial proposals put forward by the government. They have created among a great many Israeli and diaspora Jews a deep sense of anger and anxiety, fearing the collapse of democratic values that inform the very existence of Israel as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.
President Herzog is trying with a sense of vision and leveraging the strength of his office to facilitate discussions among the major parties in the Knesset, with the hope of finding reasonable compromises to the government’s proposals. Thus far, success has not been achieved and there is considerable jockeying for position – politics is interfering with a political crisis.
While the government continues to declare its intentions to push forward with the judicial proposals, it appears incapable of dealing effectively with the violence that has taken hold (once again) in the West Bank between Palestinians and Israelis living there.
Two interesting and thoughtful reflections on the situation are provided by Michael Koplow of the Israel Policy Forum https://israelpolicyforum.org/2023/06/22/take-a-deep-breath/?utm_source=koplow_column&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=koplow_column&utm_id=koplow_column and Rabbi Eric Yoffie https://mailchi.mp/291c4fc43399/read-rabbi-eric-yoffies-new-post-in-haaretz?e=f9366779f7
This week we celebrated Israel’s 75th birthday with numerous festive, joyous, and thoughtful celebrations. On Yom Ha’Atzmaut members of the Jewish community from across Toronto gathered to watch the Abraham Global Peace Initiatives’ new, hopeful and positive, documentary- The Future of Israel and its Defenders! And on Thursday night, Holy Blossom Temple was honoured to welcome Haaretz journalist Allison Sommer Kaplan as she sat in dialogue with the Toronto Star’s Martin Regg Cohn. Together with CBC Ombudsperson Ester Enkin (ret.), they discussed the Israeli protest movement, its roots and its future. On Monday we will continue our ongoing discussions of Israel with a fascinating panel presented by Women of Holy Blossom and The Israel Engagement Committee, attended by our Consul General – Idit Shamir. You can register here!
April 14, 2023: Featured Reading
Among all our people in Israel, we mourn the deaths of Lucy, Mia, and Rina – who were senselessly murdered last week. While political perspectives around the state of Israel, and deeply held convictions, are dear to each of us – life is dearer still. We mourn for our sisters. We mourn for their family and all who loved them.
May the source of comfort shelter and protect the brokenhearted at this time.
April 5, 2023: Featured Reading
National Post: Our Concern for Israel
Petition signed by Rabbi Yael Splansky