Chayei Sarah - weekly Torah portion
Death is inseparable from life. “Now Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan”. In a normal life cycle people are born, raised, grow up, grow old, and then die. This was the case with Sarah, experiencing a life full of trauma and change, difficulties and challenges. Her natural life cycle has come to an end. This is of course not always the case and sometimes this beautiful and demanding life cycle is abruptly ended by brutal, unexplainable, unjustified and immoral act of murder, just like the one we have witnessed last Shabbat in the Conservative synagogue “Tree of Life” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Eleven people lay slain and several others wounded in different degrees of severity. A wave of solidarity with the victims and congregation swept the nation and the Minister of Diaspora Affairs hurried to join them in their mourning of this senseless loss. There is no doubt that the shock wave hit throughout the various communities in Israel, and one should not be impacted from one quote or another.
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Nevertheless, the president and CEO of the Israel Reform Movement, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, was right to write in an article in YNET that “The sense of solidarity of Israelis requires them to also try to show empathy through the eyes of the Jews living in America and not solely from an Israeli perspective… The call for fairness and honesty has to also be applied vis-à-vis the long standing of the State of Israel towards the liberal religious Jewish identity of the majority of USA Jewry… Those who wish to show solidarity with the worshipers of the Conservative synagogue in Pittsburgh and the USA Jewry, must also ask themselves how this solidarity is manifested also when bodies of the slain are not before us and them.” When Rabbi Kariv puts this demand before the Israelis he does so fore and foremost to the Israeli leadership that must take the step and move beyond the heartwarming statements to true action. Equality Now!
If one would like to judge the Israeli populous in the context of the recent municipal elections held last Tuesday, it seems that the public begins to understand that calls that lead to separation and hate do not really work in their favor. True, the politics of foreign affairs and security are complex and paramount to the long term survival of the state and there are various opinions on what is the proper, just and equitable solution to it. A solution that provides security on one hand and on the other hand reflects a society of high values that is confident of its ability and not afraid from its enemies, real or imaginary. It seems that the Israeli voter of all walks of life has ditched in these elections the traditional partisan partitions of the general elections and concentrated on providing a new solution to the local governments. The public seems to be distancing itself from the partisan politics that made every effort and attempt to push us away.
Already in the first round a dozen women one the election to become mayors of cities and towns, which is a dramatic change. We can see this change also creeping into the Haredi society where the larger and larger periphery begins to reject the authority of their self-appointed rabbis. As voters they become more and more independent and vote for whom they believe will provide a better solution to everyday problems. In the township of Kfar Yona Ms. Shosh Kahlon-Kidor will become mayor after ousting a mayor who stood at the head of the municipality for no less than 41 years. For those who do not know, Kahlon-Kidor has openly supported the founding of a Reform congregation in Kfar Yona, appropriately named “Al Kanfei Yona”. She received no less than 51% of the popular vote and I would like to join in and wish her much success in her new role as the mayor-elect of my neighbor town.
We also read this message loud and clear in a report, “Rising Streams” by the researcher Dan Feferman, published by The Jewish People Policy Institute established by the Jewish Agency for Israel. He states that the “continued attempts by the Haredi parties to push legislation that would grant greater control to the Rabbinate and block the non-Orthodox movements… is driving Israelis to bypass the Rabbinate altogether.” He further notes that “…most recent studies consistently place the number [of Reform and Conservative] at over 10 percent combined” and suggests that according to his survey that some 8 percent identify themselves as being Reform and 5 percent as being Conservative, together being some 13 percent identifying with non-Orthodox streams of Judaism. We should be therefore not surprised from the shifts we are only beginning to see in the Israeli society. Therefore, even at the time we bitterly morn our dead, when the grief and sorrow are overwhelming, we keep focused on life and what it entails, our ever increasing commitment to live them to the fullest and realizing them to their fullest potential – together. Equality Now!
Reuven Marko, 3 November 2018, 25 MarChesvan, 5779