Posts Tagged With: Conference

The Z-Word: Reimagining Zionism

Israel's Declaration of Independence

In the last several years the Z-word, Zionism has taken quite a beating. It has been associated with poisonous nationalism, apartheid like prejudice, and Nazi like racial cleansing. College students are often on the defensive when they talk about Zionism. The lastest news from Israel doesn’t help matters either. Leaders within and outside of Israel have looked at some of the legislation going through the Knesset and wondered about our commitment to democracy. The well-publicized exclusion of women has engendered comparisons to Iran.

What makes all of this so very sad and ironic is that Zionism was not meant to be this way. The Israeli Declaration of Independence spoke of a very different vision:

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it 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.

The past few weeks have been very painful for those of us who love Israel. They are a stark reminder that justice, freedom, and peace are fragile. They can only be maintained by constant effort. There must be an on-going effort to clean house and fight hatred and exclusion. Without such an effort, power struggles and political and economic gamesmanship quickly cast shadows over human rights.

This is a problem inherent in all democracies. Few would question the commitment of the USA to democracy, yet in recent years the USA has also faced a string of challenges to its own constitutional vision. Interment and torture of foreign soldiers in the name of security has challenged the moral commitment to constitutionally guarenteed rights to due process. Invasive body search by the TSA challenges the right to privacy. This fall at least one candidate expressed disregard for the US Supreme court and constitutionally mandated balance of powers. Other republican candidates acted as if separation of church and state was a typo in the US constitution. Recently proposed internet legislation put free speech at the mercy of high powered corporate legal teams.

The difficulties in the USA and Israel are both reminders that each generation must take its own responsibility for their parent’s and grandparent’s vision of justice, freedom, and peace.

Today gap year students will be gathering together at Hadassah College in downtown Jerusalem to discuss Zionism for their own generation. The conference, titled “The Z-Word: Reimagining Zionism” will bring together college and gap year students in Israel to study and debate both the historic vision of Zionism and its current challenges. Speakers include experts from across the political and academic spectrum as well as think tanks and activists.

This conference is clearly important as a way for the next generation to take responsibility for preserving the best of Zionism. However, it is just as important as a meeting of minds between Israelis and the Diaspora.

Israel will fail to be a Jewish state if it only represents the Jews who actually live in Israel. We Israelis hold in sacred trust a land of deep symbolic meaning to all Jews across the globe. Although we have our own distinct identity here in the Middle East, we can never forget our role in the wider Jewish world. However we cannot include that which is silent. Diaspora Jewery must speak up and engage Israelis. Ingathering isn’t just physical. It doesn’t just mean aliah. It also means a meeting of minds and hearts throughout the Jewish world.

Categories: Building a Just Israel, Diaspora and Israel, Our Zionist Forebearers | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Tell JFNA What You Think

On Tuesday, January 17, 2-3pm EST, the Jewish Federations of North America is sponsoring a teleconference call with Ron Dermer, senior advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to discuss recent challenges to the fabric of Israel’s civil society. Free Israel from Anti-Women Rabbinic Control is encouraging people to join in on the call to express their views of religious extremism to Netanyahu and the Federations.

For more information on how to join the conference call, see here.

Categories: Calls to Action | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Modiin Meets to Discuss Extremism

On Wednesday, January 4, EJewishPhilanthropy reported that eighty residents of Modi’in, both religious and non-religious, met to dicuss the current hot button issue in Israel: exclusion of women and the use of shared public space. The meeting was sponsored by Limmud Modi’in, Melitz and the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.

Rachel Azarya, a member of the Jerusalem Municipal Council known for voicing opinions against the exclusion of women seemed upset by the latest turmoil in Israeli society but said she was pleased that the term “exclusion of women” has finally found its place in common conversation, and not only in university gender studies courses.

Esther Salmon, an ultra orthodox social activist, remarked that when you attack a group, they will react in defense. “In the past, the ultra orthodox lived in a closed society, but in recent years we’ve seen great development in the form of attending academic institutions, going out to work in the general society and serving in the army,” said Salmon. “Attacking us now can set us back fifty years.”

Ma’ayan Cohen, an ultra orthodox member of the Beit Shemesh Women’s Council, added that the latest events brought out the extreme radicals from each side. In her words, “The fools on either side got the courage to speak up.”

Levana Shiffman, a member of the Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut municipality, could not hide her dismay at what she called “the radicalization of the righteous. “When a religious group decides that you need kosher for Passover toilet paper, you can’t let that extremism enter the public space.”

The only male participant of the panel of five, MK Uri Orbach, retorted “You speak of the public space as if it were exclusively secular, or exclusively yours – but public means everyone. On one hand we have religious newspapers that do not portray any pictures of women – whether three years old or eighty. On the other hand, general media portrays women scantily dressed in various advertisements and on television shows.

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Categories: Building a Just Israel | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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