Isaac Herzog speaks at the Knesset.
(photo credit: ISAAC HARARI)
Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog and Diaspora Jewish leaders sent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an angry letter on Wednesday, protesting Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev's decision to end the practice of a representative of Diaspora Jewry lighting a torch during the state Independence Day Eve ceremony on Mount Herzl.
Regev instituted the lighting of a torch by a Diaspora Jew ahead of the torch-lighting ceremony in 2017, with Birthright co-founder Michael Steinhardt and Simon Wiesenthal Center founder Rabbi Marvin Hier. She decided to cancel the Diaspora torch following the controversy surrounding the construction of an egalitarian prayer plaza at the Western Wall.
The signatories of the letter said they were very surprised by the decision, which they said was mistaken and sends the wrong message. The Jewish leaders warned that the decision could lead to increased alienation among Diaspora Jewry and urged Netanyahu to reverse it.
"Needless to say, this decision comes against the backdrop of a very challenging year in the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry," they wrote. "While Israel is the nation state of the entire Jewish people, many of the Jewish people still live outside of it. Diaspora Jews take a central part in ensuring Israel's security, providing support in many ways, and promoting the State of Israel and the Jewish people."
Besides Herzog, the letter was signed by Agency board chairman Michael Siegal, Keren Hayesod boad of trustees chairman David Koschitzky and Jewish Federations of North America board of trustees chairman Mark Wilf and president and CEO Jerry Silverman.
Regev’s office has defended her, stating that she had never said the inclusion of Diaspora Jews would be permanent.
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