This week’s two voices considers the importance of the result of the Israeli election for British jewry.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner says…
There was a sea of soundbites. British politicians and religious leaders rightly warned against importing a conflict taking place many miles away in Israel and Gaza. They urged British people instead to “export peace”.
Sadly, this warning often fell on deaf ears. The fallout demonstrated that events in Israel sometimes matter for the wrong reasons. I believe that, as British Jews, we must define our own relationship with Israel.
Our instincts may lead us to avoid discussing Israel when it’s mentioned at a dinner party, but the interaction between Diaspora and Israel is far too vibrant, and valuable to Jewish life, for difficult times to lead us to evasion.
Every election, in Israel or here, lays bare the relationship between people power and political power that lies at the heart of a vibrant democracy.
The fact elections take place so often, and the turnout rates are incredibly high, shows Israelis refuse to accept any status quo or the idea that there is a permanent or immutable reality on the ground. British Jews can take strength and inspiration from that critical engagement and emotional investment. We can take much from the feisty public debates in Israel.
They matter because they can free us from our fear that might shape our experience as diaspora Jews and they have the potential to shape our debate here, too.
• Laura Janner-Klausner is senior rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism
Ben Crome says…
This week, many of us awaited the Israeli election results with excited anticipation.
How will our preferred politicians and parties fare? Others may have felt sceptical about change. Meanwhile, British Jewry continues to function, no matter who is prime minister of Israel. No change in government will prevent the Limmud Conference from attracting thousands from across the communal spectrum again this year.
Israeli politics barely affect the fundamentals of communal life in the UK. The relevance of the Israeli elections to British Jewry is less practical than ideological.
In January, Labour MK Stav Shaffir made a Knesset speech, which went viral.
With references to Ben Gurion and the very foundations of the state Shaffir, Israel’s youngest-ever female MK, demonstrated eloquence and passion in her decrying of governmental corruption.
Over a century ago, the influential Zionist polemicist Ahad Ha’am argued that a primary function of a Jewish homeland would be to exist as a cultural and spiritual centre to galvanise the entire Jewish people.
This would fuel our collective drive for the betterment of ourselves and of the world. Only in Israel can we see Jews using Jewish sources to argue for the Jewish political future they are attempting to create, in so doing providing models of visionary Jewish leadership, such as Shaffir, for us to replicate in the UK.
• Ben Chrome is an RSY-Netzer movement worker