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Opinion: Shlichah Osnat Fox on Wall and Conversion Decisions

Osnat Fox

After a tough week, I want to talk about Sunday’s (June 25th, ed.) decisions of my government in promoting a conversion bill and suspending the Kotel agreement from last year.  Let’s be clear first about what these decisions are not:

  • They are NOT a fight between Orthodoxy and other streams – So many voices on the ground show that unity is actually greater than ever.
  • They are NOT a debate about who is a better Jew and who’s traditions are more worthy in the eye of G-D.
  • They are NOT a fight between Israel and the Diaspora Jews – don’t believe anyone who tells you they are.

They ARE a fight over power and control. The power of a small group that is trying to dictate their agenda on our lives.

And in this fight we all lose.

We lose because we are led to believe that all the rest are true. Led to believe that rather than a power struggle, it is actually an ideological debate, we are led to believe that the issue is about who is a better Jew, that “they” are disastrous traitors.

Just over a month before “Tisha B’Av” when we commemorate the destruction of our ancient temple, said to have been destroyed due to “Sinat Hinam” – internal hatred- the signs of in-fighting and hatred now are frightening. After days of public debates and endless personal conversations I would like to say a few things:

First– I hate the recent decisions. I think they are hurtful and destructive. Halachic debates have always been a part of Judaism but Israel is a democratic country where the vast majority of issues are run by secular law that accepts diversity. It is NOT the role of the state to dictate which forms of prayer will be accepted in certain places or who is recognized as Jewish for different purposes. It is wrong, even disastrous, to set one rule for all- not in prayer, not in the Western Wall, not in Conversion- not anywhere at all.

Second– I think that the dynamic nature of Judaism and our huge internal diversity is our true power. If you know me well you know that I have been living between diverse Jewish worlds for many years now, in the last two years I have been exposed to more Jewish worlds and way to practice and be Jewish than ever before. I am in close friendships with Jews that see their Judaism in such different ways than me. Now, more than ever, I understand how much I need them. I need the Rabbi who loves Israel with all her heart in spite of the awful Jerusalemite who yelled at her for wearing her Kipah, I need the leader who considers how to do an halachic and meaningful Bat Mitzva to his daughter in the small egalitarian platform in the Kotel, need the Rabbi who loves Israel with all his heart but feels that she is confused, losing her way. He wants so badly to help her and guard her from the damage she is doing to herself and that others are doing to her. I need the Colorado family that decided they will do a Bar Mitzva in Israel but in a place that fully accepts their Judaism and embraced them exactly the way they are – in Ramat HaNegev.

Third – above all the logic – Oh my, THIS REALY HURTS. It is insulting and painful to feel that the state you love so much, put so much hours and money into – slaps you in the face. It is not less hurtful to hear from a young adult – “I used to love and believe in Israel – how naïve of me.” It pains me to see leaders struggle with trying to explain this – trying to explain the complexities of a coalition government and the delicates of a different democratic system to someone who just found out that when the government said “a state for all Jews,” well… actually… they didn’t mean him, and all his devotion, Neshama and hours of services will not change their minds.

I love our people. I truly do and I believe in our power together. We cannot let this decision or any drive us away from each other and create a split. We should not abandon each other but we also should not stay quite.

I have been following this issue very closely in Israel and I can tell you that reading and hearing the huge media coverage in Israel, the public opinion and so many debates and initiatives to fight these decisions has been the one encouraging factor of this. Friends – please know that we are fighting a political decision, the strong bonds of partnerships between Israel and Diaspora Jews in many ways tighten through challenges. I see them tightening as we speak.

I call on my friends – Israeli and Americans – orthodox, reform, conservative, reconstructionist – lets all say load and clear – dismissing other people’s way to pray and be Jewish is a crime – stop it already!

We want unity in Israel but Uniformity is dangerous.

Wishing all my friends in both sides of the ocean Shabbat Shalom and hope for easier times for our people,

Yours, Osnat

Osnat Fox, JEWISHcolorado’s senior community emissary (Israel Emissary -“Shlichah”) holds a non-governmental position of the Jewish Agency for Israel funded by JEWISHcolorado. She is here from Israel for a three-year term to bring Israel to Colorado and Colorado to Israel. She works to educate, connect and advocate for Israel through programs, being a resource to the community and working with the JEWISHcolorado’s partnership region of Ramat HaNegev in Israel.

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