At the outset of the Jewish new year 5784, Diaspora Jews have a decision to make: Will we stand with the State of Israel in its existential struggle to remain a liberal democracy, or will we sit passively on the sidelines and watch the country we love disintegrate?
The time has come to take action! In an open letter to Israel’s friends in North America, authors Matti Friedman, Daniel Gordis and Yossi Klein Halevi issued a plea to Diaspora Jews when they wrote: “We need your voice to help us preserve Israel as a state both Jewish and democratic.” And The New York Times is also weighing in on the growing need for American Jews to make their voices heard.
A group of Jewish Americans and Israeli Americans, of which I am a part, have joined forces to plan a “Solidarity with Israeli Democracy Mission” to Israel from Oct. 20-23 to enable Diaspora Jews to show our support for the Israeli majority who have been valiantly protesting non-stop for close to 40 weeks to preserve Israeli democracy. This first-ever solidarity mission will enable participants not only to demonstrate collective solidarity by showing up in Israel, but also to better understand Israel’s existential crisis through a variety of lenses, including those of leaders of the grassroots protest movement, the legal and academic communities and the judiciary (including a retired Supreme Court justice), as well as from representatives of the high tech and Arab sectors.
Yossi Klein Halevi, senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, will be one of the many high-profile Israeli thinkers and activists that mission participants will meet with. Here is what Halevi has to say about this mission: “This is exactly the kind of initiative that Israel needs from Diaspora Jews. With the fate of Israeli democracy hanging in the balance, this is the time for Jews around the world to stand with the most remarkable protest movement in Israel’s history, and together affirm the decent Israel we love. Standing with hundreds of Israelis waving dozens of giant Israeli flags is one of the most moving Zionist experiences you will ever have.”
It is indeed part of the “silver lining” of this fraught period in Israel’s history that authentic partnerships are being created between Israeli Americans and Diaspora Jews. Together, we are joining both locally and nationally to realize the vision of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which aspires to create a Jewish state “based on freedom, justice and peace (that) will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race and sex….”
Attending local protests has been a very important and meaningful way to advocate for Israeli democracy. So has writing to elected officials, attending Zoom and webinar sessions of explanation and analysis and following the news closely in Israel. Being physically present in Israel is the next step to show support.
During this year’s High Holidays, as you gather round with your family and reflect on the past year, please consider taking a stronger stand: Participation in this solidarity mission will provide a front-row seat and send a powerful message of support to our Israeli sisters and brothers. What’s worthier and more powerful than standing united to defend our shared values?
Here is the link to the mission registration page, which contains all the information you will need to take direct action for Israeli democracy.
Be on the right side of history and make your voices heard on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv. No doubt you have supported Israel in the face of external threats over decades; now is the time to display solidarity in the face of Israel’s greatest internal threat in 75 years by showing up and making Diaspora voices heard loud and clear.
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