New Knesset lobby promotes civil equality and pluralism

Team will fight violence and harassment against non-Orthodox Jewish institutions.

A new Knesset lobby plans to establish a team to monitor and react to violence and harassment against non-Orthodox Jewish institutions.
The Knesset Lobby for Civil Egalitarianism and Pluralism, which met for the first time on Tuesday, is headed by MKs Shlomo Molla (Kadima) and Nitzan Horovitz (Meretz), and includes nine other legislators from Kadima, Meretz and Labor.
According to the announcement issued by Horovitz’s spokesman, the group has set out to deal with issues that are being insufficiently addressed at the parliamentary level, such as the struggles against religious coercion and for equality in military and civil service, and promoting the state education system.
“This lobby is part of an awakening taking place among the liberal public in Israel, an awakening that can be felt in the struggles in neighborhoods, in the activist groups and their struggles for our freedom,” Horovitz said. “Our lobby will connect between the groups active nationwide and lawmakers who support our common struggles. Today, we took an important step in the journey for a free Israel.”
In recent weeks, stones were thrown at Reform and Conservative synagogues in Ra’anana, and a woman who had imprint marks from tefillin on her arm was accosted in Beersheba.
Horovitz also spoke out harshly against the recent incident in Mea She’arim, where Interior Minister Eli Yishai was stoned by members of the Eda Haredit organization protesting the detention of a rabbi who had led a demonstration against the intention to exhume ancient bones in Jaffa. Yishai, chairman of the Sepharadi haredi Shas Party, was in the neighborhood to pay a condolence visit to Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, 100, the top rabbinic authority for the Lithuanian haredi community.
Molla said pluralism and religious tolerance were part of the foundingprinciples of the state. “We must maintain the compromise and balancethat guided the formulators of Israel’s Declaration of Independence,and the opportunity it gave different streams of Judaism to beexpressed and take part in shaping the state. The state of the Jewsmust be based on pluralism and tolerance,” he said.
Also attending the lobby’s meeting were more than 100 representativesof civil rights movements, women’s movements and various streams inJudaism.
“Forming a pluralistic lobby in the Knesset is an important milestonein Israel’s parliamentary democracy,” said Yizhar Hess, executivedirector of the Masorti (Conservative) movement in Israel, who was alsoat the session. “The Israeli public had enough of the Chief Rabbinate’smonocracy, reinforced by Knesset legislation, that follows the Jewishindividual from birth to death... The silent majority has begun tospeak.”
The lobby will next convene in July, and focus on the freedom of allthe Jewish streams and persuasions to pray at the Western Wall.