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Michael Boyden

A Letter to Yariv Levin

In any other circumstances I would have addressed you as, as we say in Hebrew, כבוד השר ליון”” (the honorable Minister Levin). However, I believe that your legislative initiatives have created more division in Israel than that of almost any politician in Israel’s history, and you are therefore unworthy of the respect to which a government minister would normally be entitled.

The truth is that I am not surprised by your behaviour. Back in 2016 you attacked the Reform and Conservative Movements in North America and accused them of assimilation.

It only displayed your ignorance of the reality of those communities, and showed how little you knew about Diaspora Jewry and the challenges faced by its religious leaders. Even Prime Minister Netanyahu denounced your remarks.

Your comments only went to demonstrate how unaware and unreceptive you are to the reality of religious pluralism. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that a person, who sees things in black and white terms as you do, should be advancing a legislative agenda that is bringing hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the streets in protest against his intentions.

There may well be room for a re-assessment of the balance of power between Israel’s legislature and its judiciary. However, discussion of such a weighty subject needs to be given serious consideration by all segments of Israeli society, and any changes to the current balance of power should not be taking place in a blitzkrieg of legislation which most Israelis oppose.

What’s the hurry? If the re-vamping of Israel’s democratic system is in need of the changes that you suggest, why are you in such a hurry to complete it without taking into account the views of those who question your views?

You are racing down a track that could not inconceivably lead Israel to civil war. There have already been incidents of violence. If things get out of control, people will be wondering why our Prime Minister allowed you to advance a legislative agenda that a considerable proportion of Israel’s population and many serious international figures oppose.

Maybe you are so convinced of the veracity of your cause that you have become blind to the views of others. That is how political extremists behave. Not democrats.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.