Below is a letter in response to the recent decisions made by the Israeli government written by the Rehovot and Minneapolis Partnership2Gether steering committee members. This letter will also be published in the Rehovot newspaper.
Tammuz 5771, July 9, 2017
To the Honorable Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Ministers of the Israeli government
Re: A call for honoring the understanding with American Jews about the Western Wall prayer space and the conversion law
We, the undersigned, Israeli citizens from Rehovot and members of the Jewish community in Minneapolis (Minnesota), voluntarily serve as members on the steering committee of Partnership2Gether within the framework of the Jewish Agency.
Our partnership – along with its 46 members of this global network of communities – connect Jewish communities in Israel and around the world, with an emphasis on deepening our Jewish identity and Jewish Peoplehood awareness, community building, and leadership development. We run a variety of programs for children and youth, college students, educators, and social entrepreneurs. Our activities are funded by the Jewish community in Minneapolis, the Jewish Agency, and the Rehovot Municipality.
For us, the citizens of Rehovot, our personal acquaintance with our friends in Minneapolis revealed the rich diversity of the Diaspora Jewry, in which Jews from different streams manage to maintain a cohesive community, to address issues, to respect each other and at the same time strengthen the common values, culture, and awareness.
This exposure enriched both our own world as well our Jewish identity and deepened our commitment to fight for Jewish pluralism in the State of Israel. We are dismayed and concerned with how the persistence of one particular interpretation of Judaism in the Jewish state achieves the exact opposite of what is intended, and even contradicts the Declaration of Independence. It distances many Israelis from the Jewish component of their identity rather than uniting.
For us the Jews of Minneapolis, who see firsthand (as a result of our partnership with Rehovot) the challenges in the Israeli society, the June 25th government decisions are yet another slap in the face with the ongoing saga of non-recognition and humiliation towards us, in the Diaspora. We are shocked that the Israeli government has chosen to cancel a historic agreement that was reached with great effort amongst representatives of the various Jewish streams: to establish a dignified area at the Western Wall to be run by the government and the liberal streams. We are equally appalled with the Conversion Law, which reinstates the monopoly of conversion to the Chief Rabbinate and affects thousands of Jews who have been converted in recent years placing them into alternative tracks that the Israeli establishment does not recognize.
The decisions of the Israeli government are equivalent to turning a blind eye to the strategic challenge of connecting Diaspora youth to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. These government decisions directly affect the ability of the young to view Israel as their home. Needless to say, government decisions also undermine the efforts to recruit and train Jewish students to protect Israel from BDS supporters on campuses.
The media frequently indicated the potentially damaging effect on the level of support from the Diaspora Jews through their donations, however, in our opinion, this is not the main thing. The unfortunate government decisions on June 25th directly affect our common future as a nation, the security and economic interests of the State of Israel, and the original purpose of the State for the Jewish Nation.
We stand a few days before the seventeenth of Tammuz, and it is our duty to remind you that because of hatred, the Temple was destroyed twice. We stand before you, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu and every member of the government, demanding that you recognize the seriousness of this matter and act decisively to cancel the government’s June 25th decisions.