Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
3 Kaplan Street
Hakirya, Jerusalem, 91950
It’s hard to know if this letter will ever reach you, but I am hoping that it does, and is received in the way in which it’s intended. This is not political in nature; just a heart-to-heart letter from one Jew to another. Like my family in Bozeman and Jews all across the world, I know that in just a few short hours you will sit at your Seder table in Jerusalem with your wife Sarah, your children, and perhaps a group of close friends, and usher in Passover 5783.
I can’t even fathom what it’s like to be the Prime Minister of Israel and the responsibility that rests on your broad shoulders. Like your predecessors, you’ve been entrusted by the Israeli citizenry to lead them militarily, to create policy that will boost the fragile economy, to maintain stability in a very unstable region of the world, to represent Israel with class and Chutzpah on the world stage, and to ensure that every Jew who chooses to live in their ancient homeland is gifted the opportunity to learn about their heritage and be inspired to live by its invaluable traditions.
For the past two decades, I’ve watched many of your speeches, delivered with eloquence and depth. I’ve followed Israeli politics and have found your voice, like the voices of Benny Gantz, President Isaac Herzog, Naftali Bennett, to be one imbued with Jewish pride and tradition. I recently read your biography and found it to be a fascinating tale of perseverance and hope. Though I don’t agree with many of your ideas, religiously and politically, I’ve been impressed with the many occasions in which you’ve had the gall to stand up for what you believe and to be continuously reelected by the citizens of a very diverse country. While the media doesn’t do a good job portraying Israel’s diversity, I lived there for three years and know that Israel has Jews and Baha’i, Christians and Muslims, Bedouins and Druze tribes, Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews, Yemenites and Russians, white Romanians and black Ethiopians, and somehow, you’ve managed to get enough votes time and time again to form a coalition.
Yet, today, just hours before I will lead the Passover Seder in my beautiful community of Bozeman, Montana, I write to you from the depth of my broken heart about the current reality in Eretz Yisroel. I know that everyone in Israel always thinks that they are 100% right, but we both know that it takes two to tango. You’re a man of pragmatism, you are wise, and I beseech you to take the high road of humility and bring the Israeli populace together, ushering in a desperately needed dose of calm. No, I don’t agree with the tactics of your opposition, nor do I agree with all of yours, but for heaven’s sake and the sake of our people Israel, we need to find common ground and we need to stand united. There are some Jewish values that are non-negotiable, but on issues such as judicial reform, we don’t have the luxury to be divided to the point of no return.
Furthermore, Bibi, we are truly one.
3,335 years ago, we were an enslaved Abrahamic family suffering immeasurably in Egypt, whose future was uncertain. With G-d’s incredible love and intervention, Moses was chosen to lead us out of Egypt on a journey to freedom, en-route to our homeland Israel. Fifty days after the Exodus we stood at Sinai, together as one, and G-d gifted us a Torah and the eternal gift of nationhood. No longer can Jewish brothers and sisters ask, “Am I my brothers’ keeper?”; we are, and always will be. When a Jew is hurt in Perth it affects the Jew in Billings, and if a Jew is celebrating a Bar or Bas Mitzvah in Jerusalem, it’s a Simcha felt in Missoula. Watching Israelis say, and do, hurtful things to each other, is heartbreaking. We are better than this, we should be better than this. Gideon Saar is my brother as much as Itamar Ben Gevir and Miri Regev is my sister as much as Meirav Michaeli.
Bibi, it’s your job, your responsibility, to empower every Israeli with this innate realization. The buck stops with you; you are to remind your citizenry each and every day that we are one and that despite our many differences we are united at the core.
In the 80’s, when you were appointed Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, my Rebbe of blessed memory, who you admire immensely, told you “You are going to the House of Lies. Remember, that even in a hall of total darkness, if you light just one candle, its precious light will be seen far and wide. You will light that candle of truth for the People of Israel!”
Today, Bibi, your role as a candle is more important than ever; you don’t have a choice. Jewry will sit tonight at the Seder and celebrate our freedom, our peoplehood, our heritage, our inheritance of the Holy Land, and the story of our survival which is dependent on our unity. No, you don’t really catch a break, and it must be really tiring, but this may be your moment of all moments, and with a change of tone, a change in perspective, a deeply expressed love for all of Am Yisroel, you can change the entire conversation. I am sure there will be those who will view your shift in approach as weakness, but right now we can’t afford egocentric leadership, Jewry in general, and Israel in particular, needs heavy doses of humility and compassion.
It’s above my pay grade to deal with political solutions, but as we enter the eight days of Passover (seven for y’all in Israel), days of introspection and renewal, I am grasping for change, hoping for oneness. Some reading this will think I am being too harsh with you, other will claim I am being too kind to you, yet, I am writing from my soul, hoping for respect, love and familial love to feel our Jewish Mishpacha. In the Vehee She’omdah passage in the Haggadah we talk about our survival. I once heard an explanation, brought about through a play on words: When we are in a state of “Lo Echad”, when we aren’t one, when we aren’t unified, that’s when “Omdim Aleinu Lechaloseinu”, they, our enemies the world over, stand up and try to destroy us. My mother’s cousin in Savyon and my cousins in Sdarot may see the world differently, they may experience Israeli life differently, but they both love the land, love their people, love their faith, and would do anything to have leadership that is calming and unifying.
Dear Prime Minister, as you sing Dayenu and eat your Shemura Matzah, please take a moment to internalize the Jewish reality that all four sons, all types of Jewish children, are welcome, and should feel at home, at the Seder. I saw this spark of unity as I watched a secular Jew, who was publicly demonstrating against you, pause to sing Sholom Aleichem with heart, soul and tears, on the streets of Bnei Brak. I saw the unity when demonstrators stopped at Habimah in Tel Aviv to fill Kimcha Depischa Passover food boxes for the poor. I see this unity every time there is a terrible terrorist attack on our brothers and sisters. We have some family issues to deal with on occasion, but we love each other and want to get along. I am asking, maybe even demanding, of you, that you stand up at your podium at the next chance and announce, “We are one Jewish nation under G-d with way more that unites us than divides us”.
Thank you for reading this, Bibi, and next time you’re in the States, please come visit our beautiful Jewish community in Big Sky Country.
Chag Sameach, A Zissen Pesach, and I hope to celebrate “this year in Jerusalem”,
Your brother in Montana,
PS I’ve always been inspired by the heroism of your brother Yoni. I know you miss him every day, and I hope you find some comfort in knowing how much he inspired our people.
May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Mashiach speedily. May G-d protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Chag Sameach! Chazak!!! L’Chaim!!!