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Nov. 28, 2023-15 Kislev, 5784

11/28/2023 01:26:47 PM


Through the extended Thanksgiving weekend that just passed, the world has had front-row seats on the trickle of hostages released after seven weeks in captivity. There is much to celebrate in each life thus restoring to its pre-October 7 liberty. However, for those captives, nothing can restore lives disrupted and destroyed by terrorism. 

If 240 is the correct count, some 20% are out of captivity. That leaves 80% still to be found, liberated, and redeemed. They weigh heavily on my heart. For their loved ones waiting for their moment, the anguish is closer. While much has been made of the nationality of the liberated, which has added to Israelis, Thai, Philippine, German, and American passport holders, the complex depth of Israel as a desirable destination for emigrants is clear.

Amid cries for the safety and defense of Palestinian civilians — distinguishable at times from Hamas collaborators only with greatest difficulty — there is a shared trauma based on their utilization by Hamas as shields to ensure the violent and random effort whose larger goal still seems to be the complete rejection of Israel as a legitimate and internationally recognized nation. A century of tragedy has been extended in recent weeks by terrorists who are exceedingly challenging to hold accountable.

Inside Israel, it is plain to see the diverging trends in civil society. Seventy-five years of threat, violence, and military conflict have taken their toll. Trends in demography and immigration, particularly Aliyah by many deeply observant Jews and emigration of Christian Palestinians, occupation of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) have reshaped the very soul of the Zionist project. Consensus government, with carefully considered goals that adhered to the intent of the 29 November 1947 Resolution on the Partition of Palestine, the Plymouth Rock of Israel’s legitimacy, have been replaced by notions of biblical entitlement to all the land from Jordan River west. 

Mass demonstrations that can only occur safely in a democracy have been ongoing for most of a year. The assemblies, first to keep judicial authority in place, now shifted to humane justice for the hostages, are likely to continue until yet another election must be called. The Rosh Memshalah—Prime Minister—still faces criminal charges. It is a process that needs to be concluded urgently. 

Democracy is in any case an inefficient and awkward system. Yet it remains the best protection for minorities, outsiders, and disadvantaged members of society. (Jewish) orthodoxies are troubled by the unpredictability of free and fair elections. Yet Israel was founded on the principle of a democratic government, on the value of social welfare, and the urgency of educational opportunities. As Jewish diversity grows around the world, as interaction in open societies continues, Israel’s continued existence, heightened relevance, and centrality to Jewish identity for Israeli and diaspora Jews, make for imperatives of government and civil society that are inclusive, welcoming, and progressive.

All that is not easy to achieve. Many feel Israel is held to an elevated moral standard. That may be so. As a state, Israel has historically chosen to live by an ethos that is just that, just the idea promulgated by Prophet Micah (6:8):

“You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what God requires of you: Only to do justice, and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with Your God.”

I believe these words are valid in our times, valid personally, and valid nationally.

I pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784