Today we got to hear a very interesting lecture from Rabbi Michael Melchior. During this he talked a lot about the failures of the two modern forms of Zionism and the growing distance between Jews in Israel and the Jews in Diaspora (everywhere besides Israel). To summarize a very complicated lecture, the failures of Secular Zionism and Religious Zionism need to be heeded by those working to create an atmosphere that inspires people to love Israel and to feel a part of a national identity.
Although he expressed some very good goals and presented logical ways of attaining them, I'm still not convinced. After being here for a month and a half I believe that Israel is an important place for us as Jews. You literally cannot walk around a corner without finding something that contains the history of the Jewish people. We were reading my ulpan class about the connections between the date that the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered to be what they truly are and the date that the United Nations voted for partition of Palestine -paving the way for Israel to be created.
Yet there are so many maddening things that keep popping up here. Rabbi Melchior talked a bit on the Rotem Conversion bill, which was a very hot button issue and it will be again once the Knesset reconvenes after the High Holy Days. During this explanation, he fell upon a phrase that sums up my current frustrations with the government of Israel. Since I didn't get the exact quote, I won't pretend to quote Rabbi Melchior, but the essence of his statement was this; I [Rabbi Melchior] don't accept a conversion performed by a Reform Rabbi in my synagogue. I do not consider it a valid conversion. The state, however, should.
In sound byte form, to me this means, In the Knesset it shouldn't matter, but in my Beit Knesset (synagogue) it does.
This is where I get frustrated. For some reason the Israeli government panders to a minority of Jews who practice an incredibly closed-minded version of Judaism. This is how we end up with laws of a country that ban people from praying in their own way in a public space (see my Women of the Wall blog post), this is why there is the issue of settlers stealing homes from families of Palestinian heritage and of course the Rotem bill.
While the Israeli government continues to enrage Liberal-minded Jews in Diaspora, Israel continues to face harassment from other groups throughout the world and this is a huge problem. The question remains, how do we make Judaism and Israel not only relevant to people coming of age today? How do we connect connect the two magnets that are pushing each other away?
I don't precisely know. I don't have the answer. I would assume that like magnets, one of them needs to be turned around a little. We need to find a way to connect through our similarities and work together with passionate people finding a way to reignite the intense love of Israel that was embodied in the spirit of the early Zionists and Chalutzim. It was their desire to be in a place they could call home. It was not their desire for a place to practice extremely conservative Judaism. Their desire was to be in Israel. Maybe this year can help me answer this question.
Maybe this is why they brought us here.