The upcoming elections and the Diaspora Jews

Israel has not had an approved budget for almost two years. The education and health systems are collapsing.

Ultra Orthodox students listen to their socially-distanced teacher at their school in Rehovot in September (photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90)
Ultra Orthodox students listen to their socially-distanced teacher at their school in Rehovot in September
(photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90)
It is beyond cliche to talk about Israel’s innovative abilities. We all know about “Silicon Wadi’s” accomplishments: Waze, Iron Dome, drip irrigation – the list is long. Yet in the past few days we saw perhaps the greatest example of Innovation Nation’s ability to break with the consensus. With the announcement of new elections (number four in two years), our leadership declared that our pioneering spirit is so great that we are even reinventing accepted wisdoms. Third time’s the charm? Try fourth (and maybe fifth).
Politicians are slinging the blame for lack of stability at each other, but the truth is that we are going to elections during a major worldwide crisis due to a lack of policy. To be fair, our leadership does employ a form of policy based on those who exert the most pressure. In Israel’s case, this means the ultra-Orthodox parties and their constituents.
Israel has not had an approved budget for almost two years. The education and health systems are collapsing. Welfare institutions that provide critical services are desperate for funding. Yet the exception that the Treasury made in terms of funding for 2020-2021 benefits only the ultra-Orthodox parties: money to fund their schools, care for their people and other issues related to this singular population’s needs.
When you have the government’s support, it is easy to push back when something is not going according to your wishes. The ultra-Orthodox have demonstrated this: While the entire Israeli education system was shut down due to COVID and parents and children were going stir crazy at home, the ultra-Orthodox religious education systems (for boys and men only) remained open.
Why should one group receive favorable treatment, especially during a worldwide pandemic that affects every person on the planet?
This policy of favoritism makes the Israeli leadership’s (mist)treatment of Liberal World Jewry even more glaring. For too long, the diverse streams of non-Orthodox (and even, arguably, Modern Orthodox) Judaism have been ignored by the Israeli elite who claim to represent all of World Jewry. On the rare occasion when one of our politicians voices their concern over the ever-growing rift between Israeli and Diaspora Jews, they employ shallow slogans like “building bridges,” “re-uniting”, “all of Israel is one family” – avoiding the core issues or even trying to understand what led to this great divide. These fluffy words are useless; cotton bandages on a deep gaping wound. After a minute, blood seeps through and the untreated injury is left to fester.
This ailment cannot be cured by words and platitudes. It needs a deeper treatment. We need brave leadership that will build bridges through action: national funding for non-Orthodox communities, recognizing conversions performed by liberal rabbis, implementing the historic Kotel agreement so that they (literally) have a place in the story – the list is endless.
Israel has given world Jewry the feeling that they do not belong, that Israel is not theirs, and, worst of all, that , they do not even have the right to demand any of this.
Put simply, if Israel is truly the home of all Jews, we cannot keep ignoring all of the Jews.
I call upon the various parties to spare us the cliches, slogans and catchphrases. As we enter into this historic fourth election cycle, it is time to do something truly innovative and pioneering: commit to acting on this critical matter.
And to you, world Jewry, I say, “Do not surrender.” Together we will act to bring forth  the day where we can all proudly call Israel our home.
The writer is the executive director of the Women of the Wall organization.


Tags education