It is Sunday afternoon, the first full day of spring, and Mother Nature has given Beachwood ideal weather to celebrate the change of season. From my window, I am watching the gradual greening of branches and limbs with a new sharpness and clarity. Several weeks ago, during my eye exam, my eye doctor suggested that after 10 years of Lasik correction for distance, it may be time for new glasses. How right she was! Until I put on my new glasses, I didn’t realize what I wasn’t seeing.
As I watch spring arrive from my window, from my computer screen I am closely following the election news from Israel. I’ve read that no matter what happens on Tuesday, President Rivlin has given the parties until April 7 to try to form a governing coalition. I’ve seen that the head of Shas believes that it is not a woman’s natural place to be in politics. I’ve learned that in a market in Tel Aviv, Likud supporters heckled the head of Labor Merav Michaeli, calling her a “lesbian”, “garbage”, “slut.” I’ve read that Dani Dayan of the New Hope Party defended the Reform Movement in the face of pressure from Netanyahu to shift blame for the failure of the Kotel Compromise Agreement to move forward. Most important, according to Channel 13 pollster Camill Fuchs, 1/3 of Israeli voters are undecided.
This is a huge number of undecided voters with less than 48 hours to go until the polls open. So, maybe there is still a chance to sway an undecided Israeli voter to see the facts on the ground with a new pair of glasses. Perhaps, with a new lens, you will see things with a sharpness and clarity. Perhaps with new glasses, you will realize what you were not seeing with enough focus and precision. And perhaps with new insights, you will vote for a new way to balance Judaism and Democracy in the State of Israel.
Being blessed to come of age in Akron, Ohio in the ’70’s, feminism in the civil society and egalitarianism in my spiritual life were influential in creating the frames in which I experience the world. When I put myself out there as an artist/activist in 2010, calling on the American Jewish community to take notice of the disturbing facts on the ground in Israel’s civil society, I did so as a loud, proud, liberal Jew. From firsthand experiences and the accounts of many, I knew that Jewish life in Israel was struggling to grow in the repressive environment created by the Status Quo Agreement. However, I also knew that there were many pockets of creative Jewish expression. Over the years I hosted many Israelis who had seen the vibrancy of American Jewish life and wanted to create that in Israel.
What I know for a fact today is that there is an alternative to ultra-Orthodox Judaism in the Jewish State and it is called Israeli Judaism. The time has come for the voters to demand that the politicians take notice of these facts on the ground and demand that they protect the Spiritual Civil Rights of all Jews, regardless of gender or adjective. It is that simple. By insisting that the governing coalition include parties that embrace Israeli Judaism as the “State Religion” and exclude the current ultra-Orthodox political parties Shas and UTJ, the Israeli voter can make a major change in the direction of the history of the State of Israel.
There are those who say that Israelis do not care about Judaism. From where I sit, with the glasses I wear, I see that in fact there are many Israelis who do care about the essential nature of the Public Judaism of the Jewish State. I want to believe that Israelis understand that the Jewish People and the Jewish State are linked by our Judaism. I also want to believe that Israelis see that after 73 years of statehood, there is an Israeli Judaism that can guide the State of Israel and her Jewish residents in a direction that is just, right, equitable and fair. I also see that if Netanyahu continues to lead the State of Israel, he will do so with partners whose worldview is simply inconsistent with the best of what Jewish values teach the world.
As the sun begins to set here in Ohio, I pray that when the sun rises in Israel, those undecided voters will think about casting a vote that affirms the modern Jewish democratic State of Israel’s core ideals. As a reminder of what those core ideals are, I include, yet again, the Sh’ma Israel video that was made as part of the Sacred Rights, Sacred Song project. In the weeks ahead, we are planning to produce the next version of our musical call to action, sung in Hebrew, by Israelis, who see that a different way is possible. They will sing out, demanding to be heard in the conversation about how to balance Judaism and Democracy in the State of Israel. On Tuesday, may many of the undecided 1/3 of the voters see things in a new and different way. May you decide to raise your voice and cast a vote for Religious Freedom for All Jews in the Jewish State. By doing so, you may literally usher in a new Season for the Jewish People, just as we celebrate our spring Festival of Freedom.