To my friend, shalom,
Now that so much of our time is spent on Zoom, I am sure you are constantly being told to “unmute yourself.” I am turning to you today as the chairperson of Women of the Wall to ask you to unmute yourself regarding Israeli governmental policies. During our Rosh Hodesh (New Moon) Adar service at the Western Wall, a yeshiva student threw his hot coffee at my back, ruining my tallit beyond repair and drenching my siddur. The injustices taking place against women in Israel are appalling, and we need our brothers and sisters living outside of Israel to say something!
I know there is hesitation to speak up. I have heard you express deeply personal thoughts. You feel it is not your place to say something. You respect the boundaries of Israel being a sovereign nation and don’t feel you should interfere with another country’s policies. You’ve told me that you feel that because you don’t send your children to the Israeli Army, you do not have the right to comment regarding policies.
If Israel is the most important Jewish project of our lifetime, then no Jew is excluded from a seat at the table. Furthermore, it is your duty to call out that racism, hate and misogyny are not Jewish values and will not be tolerated in a Jewish state. Remaining silent is only a betrayal to our Jewish tradition and Torah values.
I understand the sentiment of why you remain quiet, yet I reject these with every fiber of my being. First, respecting the boundaries of a sovereign nation is a virtue, yet conservative members of world Jewry have no qualms asserting their influence on Israeli policy as they see fit. Liberal Judaism cannot fairly stand against a force that strong without its own patrons.
In 2019, 49% of the people eligible to serve in the Israeli Army fulfilled their duty, while 51% were exempt. Just because your children have not enlisted does not keep you out of the conversation.
Next, when it comes to funding, Israel has not shied away from asking world Jewry for financial support. Some of the biggest projects such as hospitals, emergency services and natural catastrophe assistance have been funded by Jews worldwide. But don’t forget, this is a partnership. World Jewry is not simply an ATM available for Israel’s projects. Your opinion matters, and you must make your voice heard. As Jews, we are taught to speak up in the face of injustice; it is our obligation. Israel is far too important to be left in the hands of Israelis alone. What happens in Israel affects every Jew on the planet.
What can you do? I urge you to once again call or write to your local Israeli representative detailing your concerns. Write or blog about your love and concern for the Jewish homeland. Continue to support Israeli organizations that share your values. Let them know you stand with them in their activism.
With these few actions, you can “unmute yourself” and claim your stake in Israel, and I will gladly pull out a chair for you at the table.
The writer is chairwoman of the board of Women of the Wall.