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September 2, 2014 | 7th Elul 5774

Israel

SUBMITTED BY THE PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE COMMITTEE
HOUSTON, 2005

BACKGROUND

The sobering developments of the past year have reminded us yet again of the profound challenges that Israel faces; we have seen too that not all of these challenges come from external enemies. As Israel withdrew from Gaza this summer, the opponents of disengagement demonstrated that Judaism is not immune to the religious fanaticism so prevalent in our world today. The settler leaders and their rabbis fomented civil rebellion, urged soldiers to disobey orders, and profaned the Holocaust by making despicable comparisons between Nazi expulsions and actions of the Israeli government. The pain of the evicted could not, in any way, excuse or justify such outrages.

Still, what is important is that the extremists failed. And the disengagement became a proud moment for the Jewish State; it demonstrated, once more, the good sense of the Israeli people and her determined Prime Minister. We saw that Israel will be governed by its democratic institutions and not by the messianic zealots who profess to speak in the name of God. And we saw again that while Israelis will never compromise in their battle against terror, they will compromise on matters of territory.

We hope and pray that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will do what until now he has refused to do, and crack down on the factions that murder Jews and challenge his authority. If he acts, we can expect a return to negotiations, renewed American involvement, and progress toward the two-state solution that is the only road to peace.

The Reform Movement’s connection with both Eretz Israel and Am Israel has been, and remains steadfast. But a new relationship is needed, one that is at once both deeper and broader. We must bring many more Reform Jews to visit Israel, transcending just talking about what is required to promote better ties between Israel and North American Jews. What is required is getting Jews to go there, because once they do, they find a rollicking, dynamic, fervently Jewish country that invariably sells itself.

This year’s World Zionist Congress election provides an important opportunity for the Reform Movement to increase support for its institutions in Israel, and to play a greater role in the shaping policy at this crucial level.

We are excited about the growth of the Reform Movement in Israel. Today, the dynamism of our faith and the egalitarianism of our ways have allowed us to thrive in Israel as never before. Three dozen Reform congregations are now to be found up and down the country. Our network of schools is expanding and our seminary is flourishing, yet we know that in the short term only North American dollars will sustain the Movement.

We note with eager interest a case that our Israel Religious Action Center has brought to Israel’s Supreme Court demanding equitable treatment for Rabbi Miri Gold of Kibbutz Gezer. She does the same work as fifteen other rabbis who serve other communities, and all fifteen of them receive a salary from the state; only Rabbi Gold does not, because she is Reform and a woman. This important case being brought by the Israel Religious Action Center simply asks that Rabbi Gold be treated just as her colleagues are treated.


THEREFORE, THE UNION FOR REFORM JUDAISM RESOLVES TO:

  1. Play a leading role within the North American Jewish community in building a consensus of support for the peace process, by:

    1. Reaffirming our view that a two-state solution is the only road to peace, and that American leadership will be necessary to accomplish this;

    1. Commending the Israel government, and the Prime Minister Sharon in particular, for the wisdom and courage they showed by moving forward with the disengagement process; and

    1. Calling on Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, to do what until now he has refused to do, to crack down on the factions that murder Jews, challenge his authority and jeopardize the peace process; and

  1. Recognize the need to forge a deeper and broader relationship between the Reform Movement and Israel, by:

    1. Bringing many more Reform Jews to visit Israel, knowing that once they do, they will find a rollicking, dynamic, fervently Jewish country;

    1. Urgently calling upon every Reform Jew to register for the World Zionist Congress election, and, once registered, to vote the ARZA slate; and

    1. Commending the Israel Religious Action Center for its advocacy on behalf of our Reform Movement institutions and its leaders in Israel in their critical battle for legal recognition and equitable treatment, and calling on Members of our Congregations to support this crucial effort.

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