24Do not defile yourselves in any of those ways, for it is by such that the nations that I am casting out before you defiled themselves. 25Thus the land became defiled; and I called it to account for its iniquity, and the land spewed out its inhabitants. 26But you must keep My laws and My rules, and you must not do any of those abhorrent things, neither the citizen nor the stranger who resides among you; 27for all those abhorrent things were done by the people who were in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28So let not the land spew you out for defiling it, as it spewed out the nation that came before you. (Leviticus 18:24-28) Continue reading →
The Western Wall Agreement and What You Need to Know:
The Western Wall Agreement refers to the recent decision to add to the Egalitarian section at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel. Yet, the historic agreement has come under fire and there are threats to undo the progress made by the momentous and progressive Western Wall Agreement. Understand the background here.
Last week, we had the privilege of serving as Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) delegates to the 37th World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem. During the course of the week, we met leaders dedicated to the growth of the Reform movement in Israel, learned from African refugees and asylum seekers in Israel, joined with students from the Abdullah Ibn Al-Hussain Secondary girls’ school in East Jerusalem, and heard Knesset leaders share their vision for Israel’s future.
All these experiences came together in our final two days of the trip, when ARZA joined the other delegates of the World Zionist Congress to fight for our Zionist ideals through resolutions, votes, and (perhaps most importantly) cross-cultural dialogue. Continue reading →
It’s bad enough that Israel is being attacked by terrorists – now mostly in the West Bank and less in Jerusalem, after Israel’s government imposed strong security measures separating East Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods from West Jerusalem Israeli neighborhoods. What is perhaps even more searing to the Jewish soul is the way some Jewish delegates at the World Zionist Congress behaved toward their fellow delegates.
We of ARZENU (the world Reform Zionist movement) were warned that yelling and delaying tactics would be likely in committee meetings and in the plenary sessions, especially when discussing contentious resolutions.
On this final day of the 37th World Zionist Congress, it is clear that Israel continues to exist, in part, because of the vibrant and difficult tradition of machloket or debate, dissent, and disagreement at our center.
This final day proved challenging in many ways, but the tikvah, the feeling of hope, was palpable. Being in Jerusalem with 500 Jews from around the world who represent every stream of Judaism and every political affiliation in the world is in itself hopeful and an act of courage.
Today, we managed to vote on almost 2/3 of the 90 resolutions put forth by the disparate delegations of the WZC. The voting came with passion, anger, yelling, finger-pointing, and bureaucratic and technological challenges that threatened to derail us completely, but as one of our delegation aptly reminded us, “Israel is a total balagan [mess], but everything still works.” Continue reading →
Sitting in a committee of World Zionist Congress, debating 19 resolutions under the theme of “The Structure of the National Institutions in the Mirror of Time,” I kept thinking of the instruction we give little children who are frustrated, angry, or upset and are striking out: “Use your words, not your hands [or feet, as the case may be].”
This came to mind because in more than one instance during nearly three hours of debate, I was glad that the delegates around the table had all learned that lesson. There was ample frustration, anger, and upset. Thank goodness – in our committee at least – it resulted in no more than yelling, provocation, and the occasional insult. In other committees, rumor has it, things got a bit more physical. Continue reading →
Did you vote in the elections for the World Zionist Congress last year? You’ll recall that we spent a lot of time registering progressive Jews to vote. Well, today I saw the results of our success at the polls firsthand.
And have no doubt, we were successful. ARZA garnered the largest bloc of votes in the U.S. — larger than the next two blocs combined (Mercaz USA [the Conservative movement] and the Religious Zionist slate, respectively].
Today we began the painstaking (painful?) process of considering more than 170 resolution proposals for the Congress. The delegates were divided into smaller committees, and each committee took up 10-20 of the proposals. Each committee was a proportional microcosm of the larger Congress, so in our room we had representatives from Reform, Conservative, Orthodox Ashkenazi, Orthodox Sefardi, Labor, Likud, Greens, the left-wing Meretz party, the right-wing Zionist Organization of America, youth movements, and more – all in one room, trying to reach consensus on some of the testiest and most controversial issues.
Can you imagine it? Where else in the world could this scene ever take place? Continue reading →
On August 29, 1897, the first Zionist Congress convened in Basel, Switzerland, chaired by its pioneer and visionary leader, Theodor Herzl. One hundred and eighteen years later, the 37th meeting of the so-called “Congress of the Jewish People” was called to order this week in Jerusalem.
The Reform and Progressive presence at the congress was made clear and evident to the world community.
The congress was opened by Zionist Supreme Court Judge Tova Strassberg-Cohen, who reaffirmed the organizations’ commitment and our individual and communal mandate to embrace pluralism, civility, and progress. This set the stage for our voice to be powerful and vitally important. Continue reading →
Gidi is a handsome, 53-year-old Israeli taxi driver whose grandfather made aliyah from Iraq in the 1920s. Loquacious and charming, Gidi gave me to a 50-minute Hebrew monologue on the situation in Israel in light of the Iran agreement, the recent Palestinian stabbings of innocent Israelis, his views of the American government’s involvement, and his frustration in light of current realities.
Gidi is smart and well informed, a practical, no-nonsense man who believes in a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – but he sees no way to get there because of the Palestinian propensity to blame Israel for all its problems and take no responsibility for themselves or their children.
I didn’t raise the issue of Israelis’ co-responsibility for the logjam because I wanted to hear his views. I just listened – a lot!
While driving up the mountain to Jerusalem, Gidi became so exasperated by the recent stories of Palestinian-on-Israeli violence that he took both hands off the wheel and gesticulated angrily about the immoral character of these terrorists. Thankfully, he grabbed the wheel just before I begged him to watch out for the cars careening alongside us.