I am moving apartments this week. It’s a tough and emotional process, but like everyone else coping with these kind of challenges these days, how can you complain? Proportionality has become a fact of life in Israel, just like the sirens and the terrible images from southern Israel and Gaza. I spent this Shabbat in an empty apartment, surrounded by boxes, not sure where I packed my reading glasses, fully aware that my quiet desperation paled in comparison with the feelings of the thousands of mothers who spent this Shabbat unsure of where their sons or spouses are.
What is the significance of IRAC’s work against segregation, for religious equality, and against racism in these awful times? Unfortunately, there is more than one frontline in this war. Israel’s democracy is undergoing one of its hardest tests these days.
The test we face is to make sure that this war doesn’t destroy the vision that a shared society is possible in Israel. On Sunday, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union of Reform Judaism, joined IRAC staff on a visit to a hospital. We came to visit victims of extremism: two young Palestinian men who were beaten up by a Jewish mob last week. They were lying in rooms just down the hall from the soldiers hurt in Gaza. We shared with all of them our prayers for their quick and full recovery and our hopes of a safe and democratic Israel.
Racism against Israeli Arabs is a threat to Israeli society. We have been struggling against racism (with the support of many of you) throughout the past decade. In times of war the fragile balance of our society becomes even more vulnerable. We are seeing mob attacks on Arab citizens and a virtual flood of racist incitement on social networks.
Over the past month, in the wake of the murder of Mohammad Abu-Khdeir, we have seen some concrete and positive changes in our struggle against racism. The police established a cyber unit to target racist incitement on the internet, and many racist Facebook pages, like that of Lehava, have been taken down. We have seen that the police force has actively prevented violence in demonstrations in Israel. And the Ministry of Justice established a new hotline to report racist incidents- with already more than 800 complaints filed. These steps are important, but we need to continue our work.
We are hopeful that Israel’s leaders will soon come forward with a strong condemnation of the anti-Arab violence and racism on the streets. This is exactly the time to invest in and renew our commitment to a shared society. Like moving into a new apartment, it’s a daunting task, but there’s no other way to secure a better home.