Letter: What Will Happen to the Refuge That Is Israel?

Dear editor:

I share Bruce Ticker’s concern about the future of Israel as the home of the Jewish people – the place where no Jew who needed to go there would ever be turned away. (What Will Happen to the Refuge That Is Israel? Boulder Jewish News August 3, 2023.) And I am especially saddened that the current unrest threatening the country has come about because of the attempt of a “democratically elected” government to reform excesses of an activist judiciary (something that the previous, “democratically elected,” government had also endorsed during its (abbreviated term) in office).

I used the quotation marks above because, while Israel is a democracy and runs fair and free elections (frequently, in recent years), the governments produced by those elections are coalitions hammered out, post-election, which often do not conform to the voters’ expectations. Thus, many Israeli who are currently talking about not showing up for reserve duty, and even planning to move abroad, are not necessarily strongly opposed to judicial reform; they are frightened over the prospect of Haredi (fervently Orthodox) parties in the current coalition forcing their interpretation of Judaism on all Jewish citizens in Israel.

I believe it is important for Jews to have a home (as defined above) and would like to suggest a way to keep Israel as the home for all Jews who want to live there. People unhappy with the current government should start planning on electing a new government. While Israelis have moved to the right (partly in reaction of Palestinian intransigence and attacks against Israel and Israelis), the current government did not receive an overwhelming mandate from the voters (the Coalition holds 64 seats; the Opposition holds 56). Unsatisfied voters should be urging the parties in the Opposition to begin working together to create several large parties which could campaign on the issues facing Israel, perhaps calling for less severe judicial reform. Items might include:

1. Replacing sitting judges and lawyers on the Judicial Selection Committee with Members of Parliament (MKs) in proportion to the number of seats held by Coalition parties and parties in the Opposition.

2. Supporting an override law requiring a supermajority of 75 or 80 MKs for the Knesset to undo the Supreme Court’s striking down a law judged to be “unreasonable.” This would require at least some “yea” votes from members of the Opposition as no Israeli Coalition has had many more than the simple majority (61 seats) in the last three decades.

3. Recognizing the need for the nation-state of the Jews to retain its Jewish majority population by giving non-Orthodox streams of Judaism full recognition and developing a system to facilitate the conversion of people (such as hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the Former Soviet Union) who obtained Israeli citizenship, legally, under the Law of Return, but who are not Jewish according to Halakha (Jewish law).

Toby F. Block
Atlanta, GA

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