A number of weeks have passed since I returned from Israel. My intentions are to share insights and observations at an upcoming Shabbat service, but before too many weeks pass, I thought I would share a few observations regarding the protests that are currently taking place in the streets.
From the moment I arrived in Israel, there was a sense of dissatisfaction in the air. Fear, frustration, anger, and even helplessness were common sentiments in the conversations I had with friends and family. Most share a sense that the future of Israel was being compromised by efforts to remove the checks and balances of the judiciary. Civil liberties, Arab rights, women’s rights, gay rights, and countless other issues are among the concerns that emerge in conversations I had personally as well as by the Members of Knesset who addressed our group throughout the week. Many see Israel’s democracy as being threatened, and as a result, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets.
These protests span every demographic of Israeli society including faith, culture, ethnicity, profession and age group. On my first day in Israel, there were over 100,000 people marching around the Knesset, and on my final Shabbat in Tel Aviv, over 160,000 filled the streets. It was estimated that nearly half a million Israelis protested on that Shabbat alone, as a broad cross-section of the country seems to be coming together in demanding the protection of fundamental democratic practices within the government.
As my 10-day experience in Israel unfolded, these protests were constantly in the background. While it was challenging to fully understand what was going on, it was very apparent that Israel is currently immersed in a state of devastating internal upheaval.
There are legitimate fears regarding Israel’s future as a democracy, and there are legitimate concerns that the consequences of the current government’s efforts to tinker with the checks and balances of the judiciary could be devastating for generations to come.
While there may be very little we can do as American Jews, we should not allow the crisis unfolding on the streets and in the courts to compromise our commitment. Our support needs to remain steadfast, and remaining informed is more important than ever.
In the coming months, HCRJ programming promises to include some important Israel focused opportunities. We will also be sending out a survey to gauge interest in a future HCRJ trip to Israel. As Israel celebrates 75 years this year, we are planning to be fully engaged in the celebration!