Jul 17, 2010

The Ongoing Destruction of Jerusalem

The Ongoing Destruction of Jerusalem
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

When Israel has needed us, we have shown up in numbers.  On the UC Berkeley Campus, at Berkeley's Peace and Justice Commission, at Richmond City Hall, at San Francisco City Hall, and many other places, publicly and privately.  When Israel will, in all likelihood, need us again, we will show up based on an unconditional love for our family, for our homeland, for the Jewish People.  But this is meant to be a mutual love, a visceral family bond, and Israel is not doing its part.

This past week, on Rosh Chodesh Av, two events in Israel fulfilled the Mishna's teaching that "when we enter the month of Av, joy is reduced. (Ta'anit 4:6)"  Anat Hoffman, director of Women of the Wall, was arrested by Israeli police who violently wrested a sacred Torah scroll from her arms as she and a large group were singing their way from the women's side of the Kotel to Robinson's Arch.  Not 30 minutes later, Yisrael Beiteinu Minister of Knesset David Rotem presented a bill to hand all power over conversion into the hands of Israel's Charedi-dominated Rabbinate.  The bill passed through its first reading (of three required before final presentation) in the Knesset law committee by a 5-4 vote.

If you have not yet fasted on Tisha Be'Av, perhaps because you do not mourn the Destruction of the Temples, or the Destruction of Jerusalem, I ask you to fast this Tuesday for Tisha Be'av, because Jerusalem is not finished being destroyed.  Fast for spiritual reasons or fast for the despair of and hope for Jewish Peoplehood - those should be, and must again become synonymous.

Religious pluralism is both an Israeli national security issue (only a handful of Charedim serve in Tzahal) and a Business issue (Charedim spend however their leadership directs them).  In a few years, more than 50% of the Israeli children who enter first grade will be Charedi, thanks to government subsidies for Charedim to have more children. In 12 years more than 50% of Israeli 18-year-olds won't join the army.  In 15 years, more than 50% of them won't go to university or join the workforce. Israel's fabric is being torn.   I will not dehumanize Charedim, but I'm reframing my perspective.  They act as a dynamic political block despite the differing views of various sects - we must too.  

I am seething with hurt and anger. Israel is my home, and I will not be alienated from it.  Not by extremist politicians nor by those who serve neither its army nor the spiritual interests of their global family.  I pray that the soul we all share has its home reaffirmed by our homeland.

Become a supporter of the Masorti Movement's commitment to changing the fabric of Israel's Jewish experience.  It isn't Movement-building for the sake of a Movement being built.  Israeli Arabs and Ethiopian Olim, Sephardim and Russians - we claim their presences in Israel as success stories but the societal bigotry and government inaction that has been their experience for decades is finally touching closer to home.  I am a champion of Masorti Judaism because it believes righteous insitutions exist for purposes greater than themselves.  Israel should too.  Segregated schools and anti-police violence make all the very real triumphs and advances in Israel seem less.  It is harder to lobby against Iran's nuclear program (again, for Israel's sake) with a crushed Jewish heart.

From the depths of my Zionist heart, I encourage you to join the fight against this bill and all it represents.  I ask you to rage at the vile remarks made by Charedi and Yisrael Beitinu MKs against non-Orthodox Jews during the bills reading, to rage at the arrest of Anat Hoffman.  I'm asking you to join the urgent fight against the worst enemy of the Jewish People: spiritual and physical violence being done by Jews to the Jewish People one by one, and as a whole.

Here in the States, and particularly in the Bay Area, Jewish Pluralism is alive and well, affirmed and lived by rabbis and communal leaders.  How terrible that to experience Jewish Sisterhood and Brotherhood I cannot (so far) turn to Israel.  Change is hard, and this is a moment that demands action.  The Knesset need not be the current elected officials. Therefore the symbol of Jewish National sovereignty is redeemable.  It is up to us to mobilize the Jewish People, and Israeli society to recognize that the symbols are the people, not relics controlled by fundamentalists.  Extremists can be permitted to determine Israeli politics and "Jewish authenticity" no more.

There is an election to win - it just hasn't been announced yet.  It begins this week with a fast, but we have a lot of important work ahead of us.  

"For Zion's sake I will not keep silent (Isaiah 62:1)."

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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