Out Loud

  • Coalition Tag Meir

    20 June 2012

    June 18, 2012

    Tag Meir -- a coalition of Israeli organizations convened by NIF -- sent the following letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.



    The Prime Minister
    MK Benjamin Netanyahu
    Jerusalem

    Dear Mr. Netanyahu,

    Re: Price Tag – A Strategic Threat

    We -- the members of the Coalition Tag Meir (Bright Tag) comprising non-profit organizations from all sections of Israeli society working to counter Jewish terrorism and violence against Palestinians, Israelis working for human rights and even IDF officers -- turn to you concerning the Price Tag attacks that have, to our distress, been continuing for over two years.

    Following the decisions of the Government, the Knesset and the High Court concerning Givat Ha'Ulpana, we believe that there is a serious threat of Price Tag attacks erupting in the West Bank and within Israel itself. Warnings of such attacks have been received in the last few days in the Jewish-Arab settlement of Neve Shalom and in the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat in Jerusalem.

    During the past two years, a dozen mosques have been desecrated, hundreds of car tires have been punctured, olive trees uprooted, shops and bazaars vandalized, threatening graffiti daubed on the homes of high ranking IDF personnel and IDF bases have even been penetrated and attacked.

    Mr. Prime Minister: Past experience has proven that Price Tag activists, bolstered by "Halachic" manuals and "learned" articles, will continue to attack innocent victims to revenge the withdrawal from settlements and homes. Warning of Price Tag attacks has been given: the writing is on the wall.

    Sir, we urge you now, not to surrender to these threats and to Jewish terror and vandalism. We are horrified at the ease at which these attacks have taken place in the past and we urge you to order increased security around the Palestinian settlements most at risk, to guard the mosques in these settlements, to increase the number of police and border police patrols in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the inter-denominational institutions. We ask you to increase the security surrounding officials of the Chief Public Prosecutor and high ranking IDF officers who will bear the responsibility for evacuating Givat Ha'Ulpana and the IDF bases in the vicinity.

    We believe that the actions of "Tag Machir" present a strategic threat to the moral fiber of the State of Israel to its Jewish character, to its security and its social complexity and it is your responsibility to act with determination to remove this threat from our midst.

    Sincerely,

    The Action Committee of the Kibbutz Movement, Bina – The Secular Yeshiva, Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, The Masorti Movement, Yeshivat Talpiot, Elijah Interfaith Institute, The Shittim Institute, Oz VeShalom Netivot Shalom, Realistic Zionist Movement, One Voice, Rabbis for Human Rights, Shatil, Combatants for Peace, Yod Bet B'Heshvan

    c.c.: Minster for Defense, MK Ehud Barak
    Minster for Internal Affairs, MK Yitzhak Aharonovitz
    Police Commissioner, Yohanan Danino
    Attorney General, Adv. Yehuda Weinstein
    State Attorney, Adv. Moshe Lador

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  • From Hope to Fear

    07 June 2012 by Stephen Slater

    I met George Kulang in 2007, he had heard of the plight of Sudanese refugees fleeing first from genocide, and then racism and state sanctioned murder in Egypt. Like myself, he had arrived recently in Jerusalem. I was part of a group of student activists from Hebrew University, where I was studying for my Masters in ancient Jewish history.

    George stands a head taller than most but weighs far less. Scars mark his face from ritual cuttings done in his tribe. But he looked at me with gentle eyes, and he said, “When I came across the border, I was tired and thirsty. I walked for a long time. Then I saw an Israeli flag, and I thought to myself, I must walk to that flag, because the Israelis are good, they have democracy, they will not turn us away. When I came to the flag, I could see that it was a military base. I walked up to the gate and I called out to be let in. No one answered. I called again. No one answered. Then I went to a nearby tree and sat down. A little while later, a man dressed in a soldier’s uniform came out and gave me a jug of water and a piece of bread. He gave them to me, and he said, ‘Do you know where you are?’ I said, ‘I am in Israel.’ He said, ‘Why are you here? I told him. He said, ‘You can’t stay here.’ I said, ‘I can’t go back’.”

    In many ways this exchange captures the relationship between my Sudanese friends and the state of Israel.

    When I asked George what he wanted to do with his time in Israel, he looked at me and replied confidently, “I want to read the Bible in Hebrew.” George is a Christian from the South of Sudan, so the Hebrew Bible is his holy book. Though he could read it in his native Dinka, he wanted to read it in the language in which it was written. This man, who had literally walked out of Africa and across the Sinai, wanted nothing more than to learn the language of his holy text. I too had come to study in Israel in order to learn to read the Hebrew Bible, and was by then teaching it to American and European students. So I agreed to teach him Hebrew. He learned quickly. Due to his knowledge of Arabic, he found many cognate words. “Learning Hebrew is easy,” he once told me with a broad smile. We found a scholarship for him to come to a Hebrew Ulpan. Then, after working for over a year, he had saved up enough money to pay for Ulpan fees on his own. He worked below minimum wage while paying rent and taking care of himself. And every evening he studied. When I asked him what he would do upon his return to Sudan, he said, “I will teach my people Hebrew.” George has since returned to Sudan, but he has not been able to find a job. His country teeters once again on the brink of war with the Sudanese government. Many times while working with George, I was overcome by his hope. His story is filled with many crushing experiences. Though he averted his face to tell me this, his wife and children were killed when the Janjaweed raided his village. That is when he walked out of Sudan. He experienced torture in Egypt, so he walked across the Sinai. He sat in an Israeli jail for months. But every time I spoke to this tall, soft spoken man, I heard hope spring anew.

    These noble and proud Sudanese people now live in fear again. After the anti-migrant riot in Tel Aviv I called a leader of the Sudanese community in Israel to ask him how they were doing. He said, “It has become dangerous for the community, so that we can’t even go out at night. I called one of my friends yesterday, and I said, ‘I have to tell you, make sure you go on the good side of the street. Don’t go in corners.’ My friend responded, ‘Thank you for telling me, But I already know. I didn’t go out from morning to night.’ He added, ‘Visas have been cancelled three months ago, so they are not able to work.” My friend had been working in a hotel before his visa was taken away. Voices for Sudan, a US based Sudanese advocacy group, claims that many Sudanese are now facing starvation in Israel.

    I asked my friend if he feels safe in Israel today. He answered, “I don’t feel safe. I am concerned for my life. You don’t know when you will be taken by the police, arrested and deported. You don’t know how long it will be. We’re living in an uncertain future. We are living in fear. We might be attacked in the street.” To illustrate the point, he went on to tell me, “I have another friend who was beaten up by migration police, they broke his arm, drove him around for a long time, then dropped him on the street. He was lucky to find an American doctor. He almost died. His shoulder is in pain.”

    When I heard all this I told him, “You know this is hard for American Jews to hear.” He responded, “I know it is hard for you to hear. But southern Sudanese find it hard to believe too. When we had never come to Israel, and someone said this or that bad about Israel, we would have fought to say, it is wrong, Israel would never do that. I tell you my friend, the South Sudanese people believe in Israel.”

    On May 24th, at a political rally in South Tel Aviv, politicians egged on a crowd with sayings like, “Sudan is not here.” Soon anti-African violence broke out; migrants were chased through the streets, their property destroyed as they fled. On Monday, the Prime Minister announced plans to quickly expel 25,000 Africans from Israel, and to expand the detention facilities in the Negev to hold the rest until deportation could be arranged. He specifically targeted the South Sudanese and Eritreans for deportation, and has scheduled flights this month and next to send my friends and a large portion of their community back to Africa. Directly following the announcement, arsonists lit fire to an apartment building, trapping 10 Eritreans inside.

    When there is rioting against "foreigners" because they are foreigners, when a building is burned down because it is full of foreigners, when governments declare a mass deportation of foreigners, then we who have been foreigners must speak up. We must speak for the kind of Israel that my Sudanese friends have believed in, a place where all people are safe from harm. Now is the time for a unified voice from around the Jewish world telling the Israeli government that this kind of behavior coming from citizens or from our Prime Minister is unacceptable.

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  • Progress?

    30 April 2012

    by Noam Shelef

    Social change is a long, drawn out process, frustratingly so. Sometimes it’s hard to decide whether to welcome modest change, or wait to celebrate until the change amounts to a significant revolution.

    Two of our colleagues -- Rabbi David Rosenn (our COO) and Naomi Paiss (our Communications Director) -- had an instructive email exchange earlier last week about the significance of a recent High Court ruling. I thought it was worth sharing.


    David:

    Israeli advocacy groups (including our grantees) are talking about this latest High Court ruling: a victory (although partial and complicated) over the ultra-orthodox hegemony on the conversion issue.

    Naomi:

    It’s still a situation where you have to convert Orthodox to be considered Jewish in Israel, so the impact is limited. And this is a case where the Orthodox were trying to reverse other Orthodox conversions – nowhere is there a hint of recognition for Conservative or Reform conversions.

    David:

    I won't argue about limited impact, but the story here is that the High court told the rabbinical court that they had gone too far. That is a positive within the current framework.

    Also, there's an underlying outrage. The rabbinical courts had, in a radical interpretation of Jewish law, retroactively annulled the conversions of people who had been living for years as Jews.

    It's like the U.S. Supreme Court telling Madeline Albright that she's no longer a U.S. citizen because they deem her current behavior to be so unAmerican that her oath of citizenship must have been a lie and therefore her status as a U.S. citizen was never valid. Crazy!

    We shouldn’t have to wait until there is a story about the elimination of Orthodox requirements for conversion, to see progress. Even this more limited issue is significant.

    Naomi:

    Excellent point, that last one. Unfortunately, if we insist on real pluralism in conversion to celebrate, or even better for the disestablishment of the ultra-Orthodox hierarchy, we might be sitting next to each other at the Hebrew Home when we break out the champagne.

    But in the meantime, I’m more worried about by the link you sent me regarding the ordinary, Masorti woman who was threatened in her ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. When the modesty police become vigilantes, the trend we’re seeing of extremism shading into violence should be our central concern.

     

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  • The women of the wail

    04 May 2012

    by Rabbi Joshua Hammerman


    Just as the so-called “War on Women” has become a major issue in American politics, it appears likely that it will be prime subject in the upcoming Israeli campaign. Pundits and politicians from around the world, including Hilary Clinton, have joined Israelis in questioning continued segregation, discrimination and humiliation of women in the public sphere. The images of females being shunned on buses and spat at on their way to school have generated an outcry even among Israel’s most solid supporters, and they’ve found their way into the mainstream media, permeating the pages of The New York Times and the airwaves of CNN.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands that the treatment of women is a ticking electoral time bomb. Although most of the coverage of his March speech at AIPAC dealt with his use of Holocaust imagery and the Iranian nuclear duck, something he said at the very end of the speech got one of the loudest ovations:

    And as prime minister of Israel, I will never allow anything to threaten Israel’s democratic way of life. And most especially, I will never tolerate any discrimination against women.

    While the prime target of feminist scorn is typically the haredim, there is more than enough blame to go around. Secular leaders and police have tacitly accepted the increased humiliation of women because of coalition politics and simple apathy, but also ostensibly out of respect to ancient traditions. Funny, I don’t recall where the Talmud states that women need to ride in the back of anything. And nowhere do Jewish sources suggest that there should be gender segregated HMO clinics, banks, elevators, grocery stores and pizza parlors, and a corner snack shop in the Bukharian quarter of Jerusalem that has a side entrance with a sign marked “women only” (as reported in ”Excluded, for God’s Sake: Gender Segregation in the Public Sphere in Israel”).

    That “respect for ancient traditions” is overrated.

    Maybe this tipping point of outrage will bring about a change in attitude that, for too long, has tolerated the intolerable.

    A new form of exile

    Since 1989, the Women of the Wall, a prayer group consisting of women from all Jewish streams, has been denied the basic right that every Jewish group should have: the opportunity to pray peacefully at Judaism’s holiest site. The Kotel should be for everyone. Sadly it is not. As one committed to egalitarianism and inclusiveness, I’ve long since stopped bringing my congregation groups to the Kotel Plaza to pray together. Too many scary experiences have led us to the Robinson’s Arch area, which is the Kotel’s equivalent of the back of the bus – though also a beautiful and peaceful spot.

    Who said the back of the bus can’t be comfortable?

    It’s the same Wall, but an area that can only be used by appointment, and it is clearly not the place that people think of when referring to the Kotel. For Jews from the liberal streams, to visit the Kotel these days is to experience a new form of exile at the very moment of supposed return. The Judaism that we grew up with is not accepted in the singular place that was intended to be for all of us, our courtyard of ingathering. Historically, the Kotel was never a synagogue, nor should it be one now, much less a place that excludes the majority of Jewish congregations from praying as they normally do. But even if it were a synagogue, what synagogue have you ever seen that sanctions people throwing everything from verbal abuse to chairs to excrement at women?

    I recall my first visit to that holy spot, on Tisha B’Av when I was 16, on a summer teen tour. In ancient times, the Kotel was the Temple’s outer, retaining wall, the place where all the people could gather, from the largest to the small, sheep and pigeons in hand, before arriving at the inner courtyards where degrees of separation set in. The Kotel has always been a festival of earthy democracy for the plain folk: the sweaty Herodian-era laborers who moved enormous slabs of rock; the late-Roman period artisans who scribbled joyous graffiti from Isaiah; the dying whispers of medieval pilgrims, having reached their long-sought final destination; the teary paratroopers in ’67; and the final breath of my grandmother, who never got there. At the Wall, the Jewish body beat with one heart.

    When I first came to the Kotel that Tisha B’Av, I saw a white dove about halfway up, glowing in the light, perched on a nest of moss. I quivered with recognition of the Shechina, God’s most manifest and loving presence, sent to that very spot to weep with Her people among the ruins. For centuries, that legend and that weeping bound motionless stones to a yearning nation. Now the stones have lost their heart — and strangers beware.

    The courageous Women of the Wall continue to stand their ground. Each month on Rosh Hodesh, they pray in the women’s section of the main plaza, at least for a while. In order to read Torah, they then descend to Robinson’s Arch. And they do this in an atmosphere of intimidation and abuse, some of which is tolerated by the police, reminiscent of the anti-Semitism faced by Jews over the centuries as they sought only to pray in their little shtiebels in peace.

    ‘Why do they hate us?’

    A few days ago, I received an email from Allison Green, a congregant of mine, a proud and committed young woman who is on a fellowship in Jerusalem this year. She decided to attend the Women of the Wall’s service last week for the first time, on Rosh Hodesh Iyar. With her permission I’m posting her stunning, distressing email here with minimal editing, because it is a reminder to us all that the things we have come to accept – or overlook – can appear incredibly shocking when seen through fresh eyes:

    Hi Rabbi Hammerman,

    How are you? I’m so sorry that I have been so out of touch all year. I’ve been meaning to email you since the fall and suddenly now, it’s late April. However, I’ve also been meaning to attend Rosh Chodesh services with Women of the Wall since the fall, but that did not happen until last Monday.

    I have a friend on Otzma who just moved to Jerusalem and started interning for Women of the Wall; since she now lives across the hall from me, I had no excuse not to join the group the other morning for what would be one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

    We arrived at the Kotel a bit early and found a few of the organization’s board and staff members at the back of the women’s prayer section; they welcomed us with open arms and were extremely excited to meet the organization’s new intern. As 7:00 am rolled around, more and more women showed up, and we were all handed the new (and almost finished) Women of the Wall siddur for Rosh Chodesh. Apparently, the women who brought these for the group had problems getting the books into the Kotel complex, as security guards argued that 7 siddurim was a large number and broke some rule instituted by the rabbi in charge of the Kotel. Still, they were somehow able to bring the books in and distribute them.

    Next, the policemen hired by the organization for our protection showed up. This was our cue: those of us who had them took out our talises and kippot. The first Orthodox woman to come up to us simply asked what blessing we say when we put on the talis; the second woman asked if our talises keep us warm; and, so, the heckling and harassment continued. Mind you, the policemen were there for our protection, but also to make sure that we did not break any laws; they filmed everything from the minute they arrived at the Kotel to the minute we left for Robinson’s Arch to read Torah. Still, before we even started praying, the Orthodox onlookers were not our only problem.

    The police told a young woman next to me that she was wearing her talis incorrectly, according to the rabbinical courts, because rather than wearing it like a scarf, as women are apparently supposed to do, she wore it as a prayer shawl. Some women thought they did this because she has led services before and would be doing so again that morning. Others thought it was because Orthodox women were saying things to us and the policemen felt the need to do something. Still others said that this particular young woman often gets a lot of grief because of her alternative haircut and piercings. I think that it may have been a combination of all these things. However, I also think that it was because those of us who were wearing talises were wearing very feminine ones, regardless of which style it was (simple shawl or the one you fold over the shoulders), but she was wearing a traditional white and navy talis which you fold over the shoulders.

    Regardless of the reason for their singling her out, she told the policemen to stop looking at her. The rest of us gathered to surround her so she could lead the service. Meanwhile, the police talked to their superiors on their radios and cell phones. There seemed to be a very good chance that our chazanit would be arrested at any moment.

    At this point, I felt my muscles tense and my jaw lock; my eyes, open wide, darted from one policeman to another. I found myself hiding in the middle of the crowd of women, right next to our chazanit. I shrank into myself and my generally decent posture ceased to exist. My shoulders were closer to my ears than I thought was humanly possible and I slouched so much that my back hurt.

    The concern over our chazanit only intensified when she alone, or all of us together, sang and prayed out loud. However, my own fears and discomfort quickly dissipated. The louder we sang, the taller I stood; the further into shacharit we prayed, the bigger my smile (and everyone else’s) grew. The policemen tried telling us that we were forbidden to sing, but they soon seemed to gather that there was no stopping us.

    Throughout the service, more and more women and girls joined us; some came ready with their tallises, others had no idea what was going on, but felt inclined to become part of the group. Tourists, seminary girls, and pious Kotel regulars stared at us as they entered the female section and approached the holiest Jewish site of today’s world. A few young men stood on chairs to see us from their seemingly endless side of the mechitzah. We could hear husbands, brothers and friends behind us, standing in the main part of the plaza in order to show their support and pray with us.

    Upon finishing Hallel, the organizers told us we would grab our stuff quickly and then walk to Robinson’s Arch together for the Torah reading. But, before we moved, we said the Prayer for the Women of the Wall. As I read the English translation, all I could think was “this prayer belongs in every siddur, everywhere; in every Jewish day school and Hebrew school classroom.”

    Finally, we quickly grabbed our things and sang and clapped our way to Robinson’s Arch. Tourists waiting in security lines, who probably had no idea what we were doing or that we were breaking any laws, clapped along with us as we passed.

    Since we could not bring a Torah into the Kotel complex, it was waiting for us in the archaeological park. We set down a table cloth and talis over a stack of ancient Jerusalem stone bricks and laid the torah down. It was as if this pile of bricks was left just for us as a lectern for the Torah. The organizers asked that the men and boys who joined us to step to one side, so that the women could have the “front row seats.” The entire Torah service was conducted by women. It was followed by a quick Musaf and then an oneg and dvar Torah. As I was already late for work, I grabbed a few almonds and was on my way.

    As I made my way out of the Old City, to a bus stop, and to my office on the other side of Jerusalem in Talpiyot, I could not stop thinking about what I had just done. I felt so empowered and rebellious, part of something so important and special, I wanted the whole world to know. Instead, I just smiled to myself, knowing that my morning made a difference in the struggle for religious pluralism in Israel, a cause that I continue to work so hard for as the Public and International Communications Fellow at Melchior Social Initiatives.

    When I settled in at work, I opened the internet to find the headline “The Real War Against Women” near the top of my homepage. I immediately clicked and was redirected to Why do they Hate Us? The Real War on Women is in the Middle East. As I read, I felt my feminist high of the morning come tumbling down. While the article concentrates on Israel’s neighbors, which is for another email and conversation entirely, there was one quote, attributed to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that struck me: ‘”Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me…. But they all seem to. It doesn’t matter what country they’re in or what religion they claim. They want to control women.” This resonated so deeply with me because she’s right: whether we’re talking about the Taliban, the Christian right in the US, or the hareidim and Chief Rabbinate of Israel, they are all patriarchal social movements which seek to unjustifiably and irrationally control women with burkas, trans-vaginal ultrasounds, and a monopoly over religious expression in the Jewish State, which is supposed to be the only democracy in the Middle East.

    I could go on, but I need to get back to work and do not want to take another week to actually send you this email.

    I hope all is well and I look forward to seeing you when I come home this summer.

    Best,
    Alli

    I read Alli’s words and shuddered. Why are women treated so harshly, so many decades after they were supposedly liberated? What craziness guides the thinking of supposedly sane men, who blindly follow what they misconstrue to be God’s wishes? How long will the politicians endorse extremism and tolerate hate?

    I’ve always loved the Kotel. And yet, now, as the global War on Women plays itself out in Israel, the Wall has become a locus of strife rather than unity.

    How lonely sit the stones of the Kotel. The dove is gone.

    The Shechina has left the building.

    It is up to us all to welcome her back.


    This article was originally published in The Times of Israel and is reposted with the author's permission.

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  • Israeli Independence Day 2048: Shaharit's Centennial Celebration

    26 April 2012

    Imagine what Israel will look like on its 100th birthday.

    Israel of 2012 is a place of stark contradictions. For most Jews, Israel is a dream fulfilled: a national home and a place of their own. It is also a homeland for Palestinians who also seek a state of their own. Israel is a boisterous democracy, with courts committed to humane, liberal values and a contentious watchdog press. It is also a country where discrimination,, especially against Arabs, is commonplace. Israel's economic success has been remarkable, from the agricultural miracles wrought by the collectivism of its early days to the "Start-Up Nation" it has become. But economic growth has left many behind, producing gaps between the powerful haves and the vulnerable and often alienated have-nots. Israel is a rich and splendid quiltwork of cultures - some woven here and some gathered from every corner of the earth – that together produce literature, music, arts, sciences and scholarship of world renown. Yet many see it as a culture in decline, newly reluctant to fund universities, libraries, theaters and museums. Israel is a land of extravagant natural beauty. But its landscape is blighted by strip malls and polluted water and air, as open spaces yield to the asphalt and concrete of thoughtless development.

    All these contradiction can equally fund hope and despair. Increasingly, despair wins the day. It is a regrettable fact that most discussions of Israel’s future are self-lacerating and unflaggingly critical. They proceed from an unspoken assumption that today’s problems will only worsen tomorrow. Polls show that only a minority of Israelis believe that the future will be better than our embattled present. This pessimism is twice a problem. It prevents us from seeing Israel's extraordinary achievements, and thus from identifying those things that can strengthen and expand on those achievements. And it discourages us from giving voice to a vision for a better future. Absent such a vision for the future, it is hard to figure out what we ought to be doing today. Despair breeds inaction which in turn breeds despair.

    In the Fall of 2009, the Shaharit initiative was born. Its goals at the outset were at once both modest and ambitious – to bring a diverse group of Israelis together who would together imagine the future, and would then strategize about how to bring such a future into reality. We brought together a unique group of twenty participants, which has met regularly for the past two years. They came from varied social, cultural and religious backgrounds. They are Arabs and Jews, religiously observant and secular, Ashkenazi and Mizrachi, immigrants and native-born Israelis. All of us share criticisms of the current ideological discourse in Israel; we also share an aspiration to establish the intellectual and social infrastructure from which a new approach to Israel's future can emerge.

    To do this, we took to the road, meeting with leading scholars of Israel's politics, economics, law, history, culture and society. We spoke with politicians and policy makers. And we set out to revisit the country. We spent days and nights with Ultra-orthodox Jews in Beit Shemesh. We did the same with Russian immigrants in Ashdod, with Palestinian Israelis in Nazareth, with Mizrahi residents in the development town of Yerucham, with Bedouin in the neighboring unrecognized village of Rachma, and beyond the Green Line in the settlement of Kfar Etzion and the Palestinian town of Beit Jallah. We travelled to Efrat, Uhm el-Fahm, Tirat Carmel, Ein Hud, Haifa and Jerusalem. When the summer protests produced tent camps across the country, we visited them from Kiryat Shemona in the north to Dimona in the south.

    In every place we visited, we found people working with single-minded devotion to strengthen the places which they live – their neighborhoods, towns and cities -- and to building bridges between these communities and those that surround them. We met with concern for the future of the country, and frequently with disgust for its politicians. No less, we met with quiet and determined hope that things can be better.

    Our most surprising finding was a great and growing discrepancy between the way Israeli politics and society are discussed, at home and abroad, and the way they operate for real around the country. The dichotomies that so many of us have for so long believed define the country – Ashkenazi vs. Mizrahi, Jew vs. Arab, secular vs. religious, center vs. periphery, native vs. immigrant, left vs. right – no longer reflect the complexity of Israeli society. There are commonalities in values and in visions that have gone largely unnoticed, and in these things that we share one find seeds of a common future characterized not by conflict, but by community.

    We are publishing the conclusions from our experience in a series of essays. The first – Israel at 100 – indeed envisions what 2048 might be. In keeping with the spirit of Shaharit, it chooses optimism to pessimism; hope to despair. And in an attempt to capture something of our own conversations over the last two years, we have chosen to publish it as a Talmudic conversation, with the commentaries of Shaharit's travelers illuminating the essay.

    It is of course far from certain that the future we describe will come to pass; the nightmares of the pessimists have a plausibility that one cannot deny. And yet, after revisiting the country and its people, seeing and hearing people of different backgrounds and different beliefs, we have seen that the seeds of such a future have already been planted. With much work, and a good bit of luck, these seeds will blossom and, by the time Israel celebrates its first centennial, will flourish.

    In 1906, Theodor Herzl ended Altneuland, his novel anticipating a Jewish State, with an aphorism: “If you will it, it is not a dream.” This implausibility was dismissed by Herzl’s contemporaries, but only forty-two years passed before Israel was established. Herzl himself insisted that the seeds of the future he envisioned had already been planted when he wrote, and that his was less an act of prophesy than it was of sensitive observation of a future already unfolding. Today there are many who regard Israel with bleak resignation that leaves little room for hope. They are wrong. For those able to look with a careful eye and an open heart, there is far more here, and far more to come, then they are willing to imagine. It takes no great act of imagination to envision an Israel at 100 that is decent and sustaining for all Israelis, at peace with its neighbors and at home in the world.

    Click here to download Israel at 100 (PDF).

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[image]

Israel's dilemma: Who can be an Israeli?

By Daniel Sokatch and David N. Myers

13 January 2014