It has been 26 weeks now that Jews and Israelis around the world have been watching, with horror, the attempts of what many Israelis call the “coalition of zealots and ultra-religious” to use opportune timing – when corrupt politicians need their support – to “reform” the judicial system. This “reform” would turn Israel’s liberal democracy into an effective theocracy that would suppress human rights and its adversaries to shape the country in accordance with its vision.
However, as it has always been in Israel’s short history, this “little engine that could” never fails. We look at our sisters and brothers in Israel, who are the backbone of Israeli society, with awe and fascination. You have been a great source of pride, admiration, and inspiration to the democratic liberal world in general and to the majority of world Jewry in particular. Your fight against the corrupt, messianic government, with conviction, resilience, unity, and civility, is nothing but admirable and inspiring.
Our sisters and brothers in Israel, the liberal world has been watching you – hundreds of thousands of Israelis, from all corners of the country, Left, Center, and Right, Ashkenazi, and Sephardic, observant and non-observant, Jews and Arabs. They are watching you with marvel, seeing how you conduct your struggle in a sophisticated, determined, and non-violent manner.
This struggle is not led by leftists, anti-Zionists, or anarchists, or funded by foreign money, as the corrupt government tries to portray you. It is a struggle that you carry on your back for the soul of Israel, the survival of the Jewish and democratic state, and the values that you believe in – which the current prime minister likes to point to when he talks to foreign media.
Israeli public opinion on the reforms
According to many recent polls, this sinister reform is supported by not more than 40% of Israelis, but it intends to make irreversible changes to Israel’s democracy. Thus, winning your struggle is so crucial and requires Israelis and Jews who want to see a liberal democracy in Israel work together, and take all necessary steps, short of violence.
Above all, it will be won thanks to you and your sacrifices. Once you win this struggle, Israel will become a role model of resistance to undemocratic forces, a “light unto the nations.”
My sisters and brothers in Israel, you should know that many Jews around the world and Israeli ex-pats are behind you, in Kaplan and all over Israel. Israeli ex-pats established UnXeptable – a grassroots movement supporting saving Israeli democracy – which has spread like wildfire to 50 cities around the world.
Expat demonstrations and other acts around the world have added to the pressure on Israel’s government. Many ex-pats are extremely concerned about the undemocratic coup taking place in Israel and about Israel’s democratic future.
They feel “ownership,” they care about Israel, they understand its politics, many served in the Israeli army, they visit Israel frequently, they immerse their children in Israeli culture and Hebrew, they have families in Israel, or they are planning to return one day. Israel’s Jewish and democratic identity is dear to their hearts.
To the undemocratic forces in Israel – who believe in imposing a messianic, extreme way of life on everybody else – I say: You are achieving the opposite. Thanks to your extreme actions and words, many Israelis have learned to despise religion and many associate Judaism with religious oppression, coercion, abuse of power, and sadly with corruption. You have hijacked our Judaism for years, you believe there is only one way to be Jewish, and you have tried to impose this way on everybody else.
But the recent coup-like reform attempts have woken up Israelis like frogs in a pot full of boiling water. Israelis are able to jump out of the pot, before they are fully cooked, and say: No more!
Over the short 75 years of its existence, Israel has slowly become a central pillar in the Jewish identity of many Jews around the world. As the world has been watching this tiny country become an engine of power in every field and industry it touches, it has helped Jews around the world to create a self-image of a productive, innovative, self-reliant, powerful people; no longer the antisemitic portrayal of a parasite in a gentile society that obtains its wealth and power from exploiting the society around it.
Over the years, Jews have been proud of Israel’s military might; agricultural innovation; entrepreneurship; science; and the advanced hi-tech of the start-up nation – and just now our potential soccer power too.
This brilliant civil protest movement will help shape our homeland to be more democratic, liberal, and true to the Jewish values we can all identify with, and it will become one more important building block in strengthening Jewish identity and the pride of modern liberal Jews around the world.
And for this, we owe you big thanks, our sisters and brothers in Israel. We are behind you. Kol hakavod – well done!
The writer, an Israeli-Canadian, is a lay leader in Toronto. She has dedicated herself to numerous Israeli and Jewish organizations, promoting meaningful engagement and fostering Israel-Diaspora connections.