Yom Kippur Morning 5778
Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld
Michele and I invited some friends from out of town to come with us on the congregation’s Israel trip this coming April. (There is still time to sign up. Information is on the table in the rotunda!) They sent an email a few weeks ago outlining the reasons they did not want to go.
- Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right wing government’s treatment of Israeli Arabs and obvious disdain of any kind of meaningful peace process.
- The numerous corruption scandals concerning Prime Minister Netanyahu and his family, including his son’s recent anti-Semitic online posts, and his using the defense of “it is my enemies spreading fake news.”
- The Israeli government’s kowtowing to the Orthodox parties for decades and denying equal rights to non-Orthodox Jews most recently by reneging on an agreement to establish an egalitarian prayer area at the Kotel - the Western Wall.
- Prime Minister Netanyahu’s claim to be the Prime Minister of all the Jews. They did not have the opportunity to vote for him so he cannot represent him. (I know Mr. Netanyahu claims that title, but I cannot imagine anyone actually wanting it!)
I agree with every single point except the part about not going to Israel. Like many of you, my consciousness of Israel began in 1967 with the Six Day War. Looking back, I can count on one hand, with fingers to spare, the number of years there was an Israeli government the majority of whose policies I agreed with, and yet, the current government is, in my opinion, the worst and most corrupt ever. When I recently addressed the Southwest Hispanic Leadership Council of AIPAC I said so clearly and without hesitation.
And now, to paraphrase the immortal Paul Harvey, here is the rest of the story which I also told it to the Hispanic Leadership Council.
I love Israel. Let me tell you about the Israel I love.
Fifty years ago this past June, the Israel I love rescued 300 Vietnamese boat people. In fact it was Menachem Begin’s first official act to instantly make them citizens of Israel.
The Israel I love brought to Israel and saved 135,000 Ethiopian Jews and many of their non - Jewish family members. Their integration into Israel has not been perfect and often times difficult but they are full and equal citizens.
The Israel I love sponsors camps, schools and nature programs bringing diverse groups of young people together to see each other as human beings and break the cycle of indoctrinated hate. Camps like ILAN bring disabled Jewish, Arab and Palestinian children together across the country. Wings of Peace brings Jewish and Arab middle and high school students together throughout the year and for a week each summer to learn to see each other as individuals.
The Israel I love comes up with cutting edge treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s, ALS and Parkinson’s.
The Israel I love sends humanitarian aid and assistance to any country that needs it and will accept it. They have sent rescue workers to Haiti, numerous African countries, Japan, and even the United States. They work in Gaza bringing humanitarian aid.
The Israel I love is providing life-saving medical treatment to over 3000 Syrian refugees. Ismael Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas who has sworn to destroy Israel, sent his mother-in-law, daughter, and granddaughter to Israeli hospitals. They were admitted and treated without hesitation.
The Israel I love will take in me, and every other Jew, if, God forbid, we ever need to flee.
The Israel I love is the only place in the Middle East where the LGBTQ community has equal rights and can live openly. There are pride parades in almost every major Israeli city, including Jerusalem.
The Israel I fear for has ISIS, Syrian, Russian, and soon, Iranian forces on her borders.
The Israel I fear for is one that continues to be led by those who think the only way to survive is to copy the militaristic and discriminatory regimes of the Middle East.
The Israel I yearn for transforms me from a member of a minority into a member of the majority sensitizing me to understand what it means to be both a minority here and, as a caucasian, a member of the majority.
The Israel I yearn for no longer needs to be a refuge for the oppressed of our people and all others.
The Israel I yearn for is no longer seen as a pariah.
The Israel I yearn for is home to some dear friends.
The Israel I yearn for is my home and yet it is not.
The Israel I hope for finally grants religious freedom to all, including non-Orthodox Jews.
The Israel I hope for looks into its ethical heart and finds a way to make peace with its Palestinian neighbors.
The Israel I hope for leads the world in pursuing justice and making peace.
The Israel I hope for is one that fulfills the prophecy of being a light unto the nations.
כן יהי רצון – So may it be soon and in our day.