Over 1,600 Jewish immigrants to Israel petitioned the Israeli government to halt the judicial overhaul legislation on Monday.
In a letter copied to President Isaac Herzog, an olim group called Olim for Democracy - including immigrants from the US, the UK, several European countries, South Africa, Australia, Russia, Ukraine and South America - called on the government to stop the radical legislation and on the Jewish Agency to take a clear stand.
“We write to you as olim and olot, devoted Israeli citizens by choice, who made an active choice to leave everything that was familiar to us in our countries of origin and weld our destinies to the destiny of this country,” the letter says. “We are writing this letter with heavy hearts. The Zionist vision that inspired us - and all the olim who came before us - has been hijacked by extremists who threaten the very fabric of this country as a Jewish and Democratic state.”
What does the letter say about Israeli judicial reform?
The letter goes on to point out that the judicial overhaul package being advanced by the governing coalition threatens to irrevocably damage Israel’s delicate system of checks and balances, and leave Israeli society vulnerable to a tyranny of the majority.
“Coming from Jewish communities around the world, we know what it’s like to feel prejudice and discrimination as a minority group. For us, it is inconceivable that the State of Israel, where Jews are the majority, could so gravely threaten the basic rights of women and minority groups including Arabs, members of the LGBTQ community, and others.”
“Olim who came to this country following the Zionist dream are in a state of despair. They didn’t uproot their lives in their home countries to find themselves living in a dictatorship.”Kalela Lancaster
Kalela Lancaster, an olah from the UK and one of the letter’s initiators, said on Monday that “Olim who came to this country following the Zionist dream are in a state of despair. They didn’t uproot their lives in their home countries to find themselves living in a dictatorship.”
The letter is signed by olim of varied backgrounds, including Orthodox, Secular, Reform, Conservative and haredi Jews; representing the full spectrum of Israeli political opinions.
The letter goes on note that Israel’s Law of Return pledges that Israel will be a safe haven to all Jews facing persecution; yet today, despite rising antisemitism worldwide, the legislation currently being advanced forces Jews to choose between living in a society where they may suffer hate crimes, or moving to a country with restricted freedoms and a compromised justice system. Moreover, coalition partners have threatened legislation that will strip those with Jewish grandparents of their Jewish status and aliyah options.
“We add our voices to the alarm that has already been sounded by Israeli legal, financial and economic experts, hi-tech leaders, women’s groups, decorated military officers and our foreign allies”, the letter states.
The letter was addressed to Aliyah and Integration Minister Ofir Sofer, Diaspora Affairs and Combatting Antisemitism Minister Amichai Chikli, Jewish Agency for Israeli Chairman Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Doron Almog, Jewish Agency CEO Amira Aharonovitz and Nefesh B’Nefesh CEO Rabbi Yehoshua Fass.
Another of the letter’s initiators, Deborah Meghnagi Bailey, said, “at the first demonstration I went to, I saw someone holding a sign that said, 'I thought I made aliyah to a democracy,' and I nodded. That’s what I did, 27 years ago; that’s what all of us did, whether we came last year, or in 1948. Democracy is inherent in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and that is what we all signed up for.”
Those who initiated the letter said that they received no response from the government after sending the letter.