The Promised Land is described in this week’s portion of the Torah as a land that has the best of everything, “a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything… When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.” Still there is some worry in all of this especially when so much good is promised to human beings, there is a fear that they will forget, a concern that “when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them,… then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” It is then, when we are surrounded and full of all that earth can provide us with that the crisis occurs, “you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’” Suddenly it all becomes part of us, we are in the center and we are in control, we owe nothing to anyone, it is our might that entitles us to all of this good of the earth, and this is what allows us to forget that which we should have remembered. There is still a glimpse of hope, a call for proportion, “But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth.” It is our ability to remember that is so importance at times when we conveniently forget, so that we can think that we are at the center and the rest?! Who are they?! Why on earth do we need to care for them?!
My beloved State of Israel is going through tough times these past few weeks. Hasty legislation promoted and supported by the government of Israel created what it call the Nation’s Law (חוק הלאום) which reads and feels much more like a Law of Nationalism (חוק הלאומנות) or, by simply changing the aleph (א) to an ain (ע) in become the Law of Confrontation (חוק הלעומנות) – admittedly a word play that sounds much better in Hebrew. I say so because this law is in confrontation with all that is proper, that is just and which is Jewish. It is an unnecessary manifestation of “My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.” And it is complete forgetfulness of that we have come from “the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” It is confrontational because it will never achieve the national goal that supposedly its creators are claiming it wishes to reach. The law was driven forward by MK Avi Dichter who was perplexed when he was called a Nazi; of course he is not, but him not being one does not change the corrupt nature of the law, that fact that it is unjustified, or some kind of corner legislation that one can be proud of. Even the attempt to make all kinds of changes to calm down our Druz blood-brothers is despicable, because it still takes citizen of the Land and makes them feel unequal before the law. Some shout loudly that the Arab minority in Israel cannot even begin to compare to what is going on in other Arab countries that surround us but this too is a futile argument. Really? We living in the villa in the jungle want to compare ourselves to that jungle we live in? we want to be compared to those countries on the globe where inequality is the basis for their law?! To be a Light to the Nation means that we need to shine even more than the brightest, and this unfortunate law is a step towards lesser light and more shadows of darkness.
Last Wednesday I participated in a moving evening of another organization I volunteer at – Unistream (www.unistream.co.il), an NGO founded by Mr. Rony Zarom and of managed by Ms. Bat Sheva Moshe. This organization’s goal is “to increase social and economic mobility in Israel, by introducing underprivileged Israeli teens to the business world” through entrepreneurship. I participated in the first even quite a few years ago standing in a small yard in the town of Or Yehuda, not far from the Ben Gurion Airport. This time there were thousands of us at Heichal HaTarbut in Tel Aviv, the home of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. It was filled to the brim with youngsters, leaders of Israel’s economy, ambassadors and other officials, and at the presence of the Minister of Science and Industry. Both Rony and Bat Sheva boldly spoke about the need for equality in Israel’s society. It was an unequivocal demand from all of us, to accept everyone regardless of their religion, gender, their place of birth, beliefs, or preferences. There was so much enthusiasm and hope in this hall, new friendships that have been created and are still to come, and many graduates of the program who become mentors themselves for these very basic and much needed messages. I am so proud to be able to take part and be a small sponsor of this very important endeavor that build good houses, that generates the wealth needed for this country, and equal opportunities to all.
On Thursday it was Jerusalem Pride Day. It cannot be ignored any more with tens of thousands of marchers in the street. The call from all walks of society is simple and clear – Justice! It is not about might and it is not about force, just one basic thing – Justice! Justice for All. If was want Israel to be a good place, it has to be good for all, and while it is not good for all, at least provide equal opportunities to reach such goodness. True, the State of Israel is by far better than many other countries of the world, close and far away, quite possibly it is one of the best. Here in Israel we know, deep in our hearts, that we can make it much better. The way of reaching that is not through unnecessary legislation that belittles and is ugly. The way to go is to remember from where we came, the place where we were unequal, we came from slavery – is there anything more unequal than that?! Our goal is to make this land a place where “you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything”. This week I saw two bright lights here in Israel, and I do know that there are many more of those laying around the country. The only thing I would like to ask you, in the spirit of this week’s portion of the Torah is simple, “you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth”. This is how together we will change realities, here and now.
Reuven Marko, 3 August 2018, 23 Av, 5778