Thursday, 29 June 2017

On The Kottel and Unrequited Love

 It’s a bit like when you think a girl you like likes you, only to discover they were only interested in your money. When it comes to a decision as to whether to hang out with you, or someone else, they choose the other guy. Sure they’ll tell you to your face that you are important to them, but it just doesn’t feel that way.

I’m having a tough relationship with the State of Israel this week. I love Israel. I’ve spent over three years of my life in the country and probably just as many hours back in England advocating for her, thinking about her and learning her language and ways. This week, as a Masorti Jew, I’ve had - we have all had - two significant snubs. On Sunday, led by the Israeli Prime Minister, more power was placed into the hands of the Ultra-Orthodox on an issue around conversion courts and then came a second Netanyahu-sponsored decision to suspend plans to build a suitable space next to the Western Wall that could be used by those who didn’t wish to pray according to ultra-orthodox rites.

Together with my Reform and Liberal colleagues in this country I’m angered and hurt. We are not alone. Natan Sharansky, celebrated Refusnik and former MK, forged the carefully balanced plan for a permanent pluralist space at the Kottel. He has reacted furiously. The leadership of the Jewish Agency cancelled a gala dinner with the Prime Minister in protest. Within Israel, the suspension has been opposed by those on a spectrum as broad as the leadership of the modern-Orthodox Tzohar organisation and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

But the thing that makes this snub feel most like a trauma of teenage love is the experience that wells up when I consider the other suitor. What does she see in him?! The Ultra-Orthodox leadership, who have fought tooth and nail against this plan, are hardly dashing suitors. They are prepared to prop up the Netanyahu-led government for whatever the kosher version of pork-barrel is, but their vision of a Jewish State is not only alien to me, it’s alien to even the most avid fan of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

So what do I do? I’m not giving up. I’ll share some of my pain in a forum like this. I’ll take up my cudgel in defence of Israel and her current political leadership a little less readily. But I won’t walk away. I need Israel and while I am prepared to admit that those who live in her borders, and certainly those who serve in her defence, deserve a far greater say in her future than I, I will insist on speaking up for the version of Israel that I believe in. That’s certainly what I plan to share with the Israel’s Ambassador next week when some colleagues and I will be making the case that Israel’s rejection of its aspiration to be a home for all Jews is a terrible mistake. If you want to share with me your thoughts - to share with Ambassador Regev - please do.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Jeremy

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