Arriving Back from Israel
I just landed in the Bay Area after 10 days spent in Israel with JCRC Bay Area and members of BANJO (the Bay Area Network of Jewish Officials).
It was a profoundly meaningful trip exploring Jewish identity as well as personal connection to Israel. The trip was an opportunity to bond as Jewish electeds, and to connect Jewish identity, Jewish values, and their relationship to Israel to the work they do in the Bay Area.
No matter who we heard from…
Jewish scholars at the Shalom Hartman Institute | LGBTQ rights activists | Arab experts on Jewish-Arab relations, Members of the Knesset | Palestinian Americans | Residents of Kfar Aza (kibbutz just outside the Gaza Strip) | Tzedek Centers (non-profit working in shared cities to train citizens on how to work together and solve local problems)
…an emphasis was placed on the importance of the protests occurring in Israel and around the world as well as the critical nature of this moment in Israel’s history.
I was witness to the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who protested against the proposed changes to the Israeli judiciary.
What is happening in Israel today is unprecedented. Within the last 24 hours of writing this, the airport was shut down hours after our flight left Tel Aviv.
This email from the Jewish Federations of North America gives a good overview of what has occurred.
A majority of the Israeli population is against the judicial reforms as they are currently proposed. The voices of the Israel population against the judicial reforms as they are currently proposed seem to have been heard.
The process has currently been postponed until after Passover.
The suspension of the legislative process has been publicly applauded by The Conference of Presidents, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and the Jewish Federations of North America.
The protests highlight the significant and meaningful difference between a vibrant democracy, like Israel, and non-Democratic Countries where protests are also currently taking place.
Identity Crisis, a podcast hosted by Yehuda Kurtzer recorded this episode yesterday in which he summarized all the different stories contributing to this moment in Israel. He emphasizes that there are legitimate arguments on both sides of the current debate about Judicial reform, and encourages American Jews to support a democratic Israel by educating ourselves and speaking up.
While I am still processing all that I learned and experienced on this incredible trip, one thing became very clear to me, the work of the JCRC - building bridges of understanding - is more important than ever.
No matter what the policies of a government, you cannot regulate people’s hearts and minds. Relationships anchored in trust are the undergirding of a stable and peaceful society.
JCRC has a unique role as a relationship builder. We are the convener of conversations across viewpoints, perspectives and lived experience. It is through learning and dialog that we will build a society grounded in trust and understanding.
The Israeli-led protests that have occurred across the globe have been a unique invitation to diaspora Jews to get involved. Consider exploring the following resources/links as a way to inform your engagement:
- Unxeptable is a grassroots movement launched by Israeli expats in support of a democratic Israel. There is a particularly strong community of Bay Area Israelis who are inviting the local Jewish community to engage with them.
- Israel Policy Forum is a wealth of information and educational resources including a legislative tracker and webinars that address the current moment.
- The Shalom Hartman Institute of North America is a Jewish think tank focused on strengthening Jewish peoplehood, identity, and pluralism, as well as enhancing the Jewish and democratic character of Israel. In addition to the Identity/Crisis podcast they offer a wealth of programming and scholarly resources.
- The New York Times published this newsletter this morning that offers an overview of the last few days in Israel and what to expect next.
- Daniel Gordis, author of Israel from the Inside, a substack focused on analysis of Israel, authored this piece – What you just witnessed was one of the greatest weeks in Israel’s history
As we prepare our homes to observe Passover, the celebration of Jewish freedom and resilience is as relevant as ever. We will continue to monitor the situation and share resources.
We invite you to share your questions, comments and concerns.