Progressively Speaking: Israel’s new government and Progressive Jews
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Progressively Speaking: Israel’s new government and Progressive Jews

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith takes a topical issue and looks at the Progressive response

New Israeli Prime Ministers Naftali Bennett (R), leader of the Yamina right-wing alliance, and Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid opposition centrist party attend first cabinet meeting at the Israeli Parliament (Knesset).
New Israeli Prime Ministers Naftali Bennett (R), leader of the Yamina right-wing alliance, and Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid opposition centrist party attend first cabinet meeting at the Israeli Parliament (Knesset).

Shammai, Jewish teacher par excellence in the first century, gave a sound piece of advice to anyone looking to make a difference: say little but do much (Avot 1:15).

This is what we hope of the new Israeli government formed by Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett.

The action we need, as always, is one that is consistent with Jewish values as we understand them. 

We need this government to work on the tough task of ensuring no one is left behind in Israeli society, whether Jew or non-Jew.

We need this government to pursue justice and peace so it walks forward with efforts for peace with the Palestinians, inside and outside of Israel, and with the Arab nations that surround the Jewish state.

We celebrate the diversity of this government; its inclusion of so many interests in Israel matches the pluralism that is central to
our Judaism. 

It is time Israel became a country that is hospitable and respectful of all Judaism and not only the narrow interests of strict-Orthodoxy.

It is time for Israel to have a constructive place in government for the 20 percent of its population that is Arab. 

This government may achieve both. We are impressed that the new government rapidly turned rhetoric into action by sharing more thanone million doses of Covid vaccine with the West Bank and Gaza.  

Both Prime Minister Bennett and Foreign Minister Lapid understand that the Jewish diaspora matters to Israel as much as Israel matters to the diaspora. 

We journey through the 21st century together and we cannot park our Jewish values when we work with each other: they have to be part of our relationship.  

Mr Lapid gave a moving address at this year’s World Union for Progressive Judaism Conference in May.

He spoke of his own involvement in Israeli Reform Judaism through the Beit Daniel Synagogue in Tel Aviv and was clear that the struggle of Progressive Judaism to build Jewish pluralism in Israel is his struggle too. 

We look forward to today’s Israeli government acting to bring prosperity and progress, Jewish and secular pluralism, peace and mutual respect between Jews and Arabs to our Jewish state.

Mark Goldsmith is Senior Rabbi at Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue

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