Israel | Reconstructing Judaism

Statement on Recent Events in Israel

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association condemn and are saddened by the recent terror attacks by Palestinian extremists against Israeli soldiers, police and civilians in the West Bank and Jerusalem. In the past week, two attacks near the settlement of Ofra have claimed the lives of two Israeli soldiers and a prematurely delivered infant, and have wounded nine Israelis. We mourn those who have been killed and we pray for speedy and thorough healing for all those wounded. Terrorism is never justified, and attacks like these increase the potential for escalating violence as Israeli forces respond with intensified measures in the West Bank. We urge the leaders of all parties to prioritize the sanctity of human life, to deescalate the current flaring of violence, and to seek pathways back to good faith efforts to negotiate a just and lasting future of dignity and peace.  

 

Statement on October 7th Terrorist Attack

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association condemn the terrorist attack that killed two Israeli civilians, Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, 29, and Ziv Hajbi, 35. May their memories be a blessing.  The attack took place in a factory at an industrial complex in the West Bank, and was carried out by a Palestinian young man. Our condolences are with the family and friends of the victims, and we hope for a full recovery for the wounded. Terrorism is never justified and will not help end the Occupation of the West Bank, nor will it pave the way to a lasting, fair peace agreement. May those who work for peace, justice, and reconciliation throughout the region be strengthened in their work and their ideals.  

 

Response to Murder of Ari Fuld

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association condemn the stabbing attack carried out by a Palestinian youth that killed Ari Fuld, an American-Israeli father of four, at the Etzion junction in the West Bank. Our condolences are with Mr. Fuld’s family and friends. We appreciate press reports of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s condemnation of the attack.  At this moment, when Jews around the world are focused so intently on the question of how we can live our lives so that our most sacred hopes and aspirations can be realized in the year ahead, we join in President Abbas’s recognition that  “Everyone loses from violence.”  May Israelis and Palestinians alike have the strength and courage to fulfill our dreams of peace, mutual respect and shared prosperity in Israel and Palestine, and the wisdom to recognize that escalating violence will never be the means through which those dreams can be fulfilled.

Statement on Israel's Passage of Nation State Law

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association strongly oppose the Nation State Law that the Knesset has now established as one of Israel’s Basic Laws, which carry constitutional weight.

Israel’s Declaration of Independence states:

The State of Israel … will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations… .

We appeal … to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

The Nation State law undermines the democratic commitments of the Declaration of Independence by 1) terminating the status of Arabic as one of Israel’s two official languages; 2) strengthening the Orthodox monopoly on Jewish religious life; 3) impeding the ability of Israeli elected officials to negotiate a peace agreement that includes any form of compromise on Jerusalem; and 4) creating a legal basis for potential discrimination favoring Jewish over non-Jewish citizens of the state in matters of housing and community development.

Defenders of the law argue that it simply asserts the Jewish right to self-determination in Israel. However, Israel’s Declaration of Independence, its Law of Return granting Jews everywhere the right to emigrate to Israel, and the 1947 United Nations resolution establishing the partition of Palestine into a Jewish state and a Palestinian Arab state all make it abundantly clear that Israel is the sovereign homeland of the Jewish people. Furthermore, Israel already devotes tremendous resources to supporting, serving, and settling its Jewish citizens, including new Jewish immigrants, and it does so both within Israel-proper and in West Bank settlements.

This law isn’t a benign restatement of long-established Jewish identity markers in the State of Israel, nor is it a course correction designed to protect Jewish Israelis from non-Jewish hegemony. Rather, it is the legislative product of groups that seek a more theocratic and nationalistic Israel, and the weakening of Israel’s democratic character. That vision of Israel stands in stark contrast with the vision of the signers of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, who struggled to establish a state that would always carefully balance its Jewish national character with a vigorous commitment to democracy.

We hold out hope that this law, which was passed with 62 votes out of 120 in the middle of the night, will be reconsidered. Meanwhile, we will continue to stand for the ideals of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, lending support to the many Israeli organizations and individuals who share this vision and advocate for it in Israeli society every day.

Correction: An earlier version of this statement incorrectly stated that Israel had three official languages, which in fact it only had two. English, while widely used in Israel, has never been an official language of the State.

 
Israel

Statement on Recent Events in Israel and Gaza

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A message from Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association:

The events of the past two days in Israel and Gaza have been intense and overwhelming. First and foremost, we feel shock and sorrow over the killing of approximately 60 Palestinians and the wounding of over 2000 during demonstrations near the border fence between Israel and Gaza. Rabbi Benjamin Weiner of the Jewish Community of Amherst writes, “As I sift through the various media reports, it has repeatedly occurred to me that only a true sage, or a fanatic, would know exactly what to make of them —would be able to boil it all down to an absolute and incontrovertible judgment of right and wrong. Being neither sage nor fanatic I find myself instead stuck in a quagmire of competing perceptions and interpretations, feeling grief and shame at the horrendous loss of Palestinian life, anger and frustration at the failure of many to recognize the explicit threats of violence against Israeli civilians, and, fundamentally, despair that as Jews we are enmeshed in an evolving historical tragedy that lays atrocity so frequently on our doorstep, when all we really want is to thrive.” (For Rabbi Weiner’s full remarks, click here.)

While it can be hard to know which sources of information to rely on, one thing that’s clear is that hopelessness in the lives of Gazans is driving people to desperation. Whatever uses Hamas or other groups have made of the protest marches, they began as a nonviolent demonstration by people living in intolerable conditions, trying to raise awareness about their situation and to exert a new kind of leadership. 

Meanwhile, many of us struggle to reconcile different strands of emotion over the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem. On the one hand, we have long advocated for the day when a negotiated peace agreement ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would lead to the formal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, not only by the US, but by all nations. Many of us have envisioned that day as one in which the international community would even be celebrating the establishment of two capitals in different parts of the Holy City – one of Israel and one of Palestine – ushering in a new era of coexistence and mutual recognition. On the other hand, so much about the inauguration of the new US embassy is painful. For many in our movement, it is painful that the US administration being lionized in Israel is one that has emboldened racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and xenophobic forces in America. It is painful to see pastors who are leaders of the Christian Zionist movement, closely aligned with dangerous, apocalyptic, end-times theologies, offer public prayers at the event. And it is painful to see the US walk away from its role as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians.

And yet, there is still hope. There are still millions of Israelis and Palestinians who want to live side by side in peace, and who believe the conflict is not a zero-sum game. We can still work for a day when we’ll be able to celebrate a two-state peace agreement, in which Israel and Palestine each have their respective capitals in different parts of Jerusalem. And there is always the possibility of diplomatic or political surprise, and good reason to continue to advocate for a diplomatic breakthrough, with every US administration and every leader in the region.

As Rabbi Toba Spitzer of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek puts it, “At moments that feel as demoralizing and hopeless as this, I try to make it my practice to remind myself of those doing the hard work on the ground of building relationships, rather than destroying them; those working to transform hatred and grief.  … There are over one hundred organizations on the ground – in Israel, in the West Bank – working to transform the conflict, empower those most affected by the occupation, and foster the relationships that will be necessary to build any kind of alternative future for both Israelis and Palestinians.” (For Rabbi Spitzer’s full remarks, click here.)

May we be blessed with the courage, the openness, and the faith that our deepest Jewish values and hopes – for peace, for justice, for safety, for dignity – will be borne out, and may our labors help bring us closer to that reality.

Israel

An Open Letter Concerning the Safety and Future of African Asylum Seekers

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In an open letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Reconstructing Judaism and the other undersigned organizations urge him to pursue a humane solution for the 39,000 asylum seekers currently within Israel’s borders.

Responding to Recent Events Involving Israel’s African Asylum Seekers

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) urge Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government to reconsider its decision to abandon the agreement it initially announced it had struck with the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, on April 2, 2018. Several hours after announcing the agreement, the Netanyahu government reversed itself and stated that Israel would not be taking part in the deal. The previously announced agreement with UNHCR would have allowed about half of the African asylum seekers in Israel to remain permanently in Israel, while offering the other half safe passage to various Western countries. The UNHCR plan still represents a clear opportunity for Israel’s government to honor the Jewish values of caring for the stranger, the refugee, and the vulnerable. Other options that Israel’s government reportedly had been pursuing, such as forced deportation to Rwanda or Uganda, may imperil many of the asylum seekers. We stand with the many Israeli activists, rabbis, and organizations who are working  tirelessly to advocate for a compassionate and humane resolution to the fate of these asylum seekers, many of whom have fled persecution and war in places like Eretria and Sudan. We hope the Netanyahu government will give this matter more thought, and return to its earlier decision to adopt the agreement with UNHCR.

 

Israel

Response to Recent Violence on Gaza Border

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) are deeply saddened and concerned following the deaths of approximately 18 Palestinians,  and the wounding of many others, by Israeli army fire during last Friday’s Palestinian-led marches near the border fence between Gaza and Israel.

As is often the case, conflicting reports are emerging about what happened. Spokespeople for the Israeli authorities assert that their aim was to secure Israel’s border and that Israeli soldiers took appropriate action in response to violence, rioting, and serious danger. Palestinian spokespeople claim that the demonstrations were overwhelmingly peaceful, posed no threat to Israeli troops, and that the use of live ammunition and the high number of casualties indicates an intentional decision on the part of the IDF to use unethical levels of lethal force. These issues are being vigorously debated in the Israeli government and by the Israeli press. Internationally, harsh words risk an escalation into bigger crises.

As this news arrives, we stand in the midst of a week of spiritual and moral focus on the great themes of Passover: oppression, liberation, freedom, struggle, and hope. Our prophets and sages tell us that we have a duty to seek those blessings for ourselves and for all others. Torah teaches us to ensure the safety of our own people, yet it simultaneously demands that we be scrupulous in the way that we treat others, especially others who also have suffered loss, degradation, and hopelessness. 

With these values in mind, we call on all parties with the power to affect the situation to move swiftly to deescalate the likelihood of more violence, and to guard against the ways in which moments like this may trigger new rounds of war. If there is to be a formal inquiry, we urge that it be organized in a way that gives people on all sides of the conflict good reason to believe in the integrity of its findings. We call on governments with influence on the region to renew their efforts to bring the parties back to the negotiating table, to finish the work that remains to be done to create and secure a future of co-existence, peace, and justice for all in the region.

Public Statements, Israel

Letter Urging Israel to Halt Deportation of Asylum-Seekers

Endorsement

 

Reconstructionist leaders were among the early signatories of this letter urging the Israeli government to stop the deportations of asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea who have sought refuge in Israel.

Joint Statement on Recent Abbas Speech

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association strongly condemn the recent public remarks made by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Denying the legitimacy of the historic and religious connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, Abbas claimed that the Zionist movement was a European colonial plot having nothing to do with Judaism or with the true desires of Jews facing peril during and after World War II. He also referenced longstanding conspiracy theories claiming that covert Zionist plots were the “true” cause for the flight of hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab and Middle Eastern countries. These offensive remarks undermine prospects for a viable peace process, precisely at a time when the Israeli and American governments have also taken recent steps that move the parties further away from a constructive, viable peace process.

Jews and Arabs both have sacred and ancient connections to the holy land, and both deserve the dignity of having those claims respected and honored. What’s needed, now more than ever, is a recommitment on the part of all leaders to focus their energies on paving the way for a negotiated peace agreement that ends the Occupation, provides for Israel’s security, establishes two states living side-by-side, and brings dignity, freedom, and political sovereignty to Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Public Statements, Israel

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