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Zionism Today

I am a Zionist. For me, that means a strong belief in a Jewish and Democratic state. It means a firm conviction that the opportunity to build the Israel of our dreams is a mitzvah for every Jew whether in the Diaspora or in the State of Israel. We waited for 2000 years to have a land of our own, to have a chance to bring Jewish ethics and thought into the reality of a State. Now that we have it, the work and the dreaming only gets harder.

Last week was tough. Palestinians murdered two Israelis near Huwara. This was horrible. I want such violence to stop. A mob of Jewish settlers then set on the town and burned much of it to the ground. I’m ready for Palestinian mothers and fathers and officials to hold their people accountable when they commit acts of violence and murder. We must do the same now.

These Jews stopped in the middle of burning this town and to pray Ma’ariv, the evening service. Somehow when they said, “the God who brings order to the Universe, may that God bring order upon us,”  nothing woke them up to see: this is wrong. We need to stop. We need to trust the system of justice and keep working for an end to violence.

And then a senior Israeli official seemingly approved of these attacks. He said that Huwara needs to be leveled. He retracted slightly, saying he meant via government action rather than vigilante violence. Jews know that words mean something. When Smotrich called for the destruction of Huwara, the rioters knew he was approving of them. There was nothing about this that was okay. In such a moment, it's easy to give up. It's easy to say: I wash my hands of Israel. I’m done.

I refuse to give into that kind of despair. I am here to call us to action. We dreamed of Israel for 2000 years and I for one am not ready to give up because things got tough. Jews survived pogroms, massacres, the Holocaust, the Inquisition, being locked up by the British in Cyprus, and we never gave up. Now that Israel is wrestling with the challenges of power and nationalism we should continue to dream.

What then can we do? For one, we can support religious pluralism. The TALI schools, an effort of the Conservative movement in Israel, have been educating Israelis to feel more connected to their Jewishness and to realize Orthodoxy is only one way of being Jewish. Their funding is on the chopping block. Supporting them is a great way to stand up for the Israel of our dreams.

We can go. Israelis feel abandoned by American Jews. Making a trip to Israel, visiting places like Hanaton, a kibbutz working to create strong bonds with their Arab neighbors, or Roots, an effort by Settlers and Palestinians to find a path to peace, shows our interest and support for the Israel about which we dream.

It can be funding our Impact Scholar. Kol Emeth is helping a 24 year old Israeli of Moroccan descent go to college. He is the first generation of his family to get a college degree. We know that greater education correlates with a greater awareness of and interest in key freedoms like freedom of religion and speech. By helping him lift up his family (he got married three weeks ago) we are supporting the future of Israeli democracy.

I am and remain a Zionist. I am deeply committed to a Jewish state that is democratic and Jewish. I intend to keep working for that dream. The work is great and may not be for us to finish. All the more, we must continue the effort.

Thu, May 30 2024 22 Iyyar 5784