Avidan Freedman

Dear Mish: They can’t make us give up on our home

My dear friend Mish,

I agree with literally almost everything you wrote in your powerful and pained Yom Haatzmaut reflection, and completely disagree with your final conclusion, which unfortunately became the headline of your piece.

I, too, find myself doom-scrolling late into the night, and the question of whether there would be a time to leave has haunted me as well.

And like you, my steadfast answer when considering external threats to my safety and the safety of my family is: absolutely not. There is no such time. My wife and I didn’t decide to make aliyah with any romantic illusions that we would always be safer here. We understood that there are risks, and that on some days and some years, those risks are greater than the ones we faced in Riverdale, New York. But, like you, we understood that this is home. And you can’t give up on your home if you want there to be a place in the world that, as Robert Frost wrote, “when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

But Israel, and a true home, is so much more than that. Like you, an Israel that is not Jewish and democratic is not my dream home. And an Israel in which someone like Itamar Ben Gvir is defense minister is my nightmare home. But then again, the Israel in which Itamar Ben Gvir is “National Security Minister” is the nightmare that I’ve been living for the last year. And like you, that, and other decisions by our government, have led me to take to the streets for the last year (and in my case, prior to that), to fight for the home that I aspire to build.

I applaud your commitment to dedicate your powers to fighting this good fight, and join you in it. Before this government was elected, I told a friend of mine that if it were to be elected, I will need his help bailing me out of jail for my activism. I have to admit that the only reason that my prediction has (thus far) proven wrong is because I’m more of a wimp than I thought. There are many protestors, braver than I, who have seen the inside of jails, felt the hoofs of horses that have trampled them and the sting of whips or stun grenades used by policemen whose prospects for promotion stand in proportion to their aggressiveness against these protestors (and not others with whom the minister sympathizes).

But here’s where I passionately disagree with what you wrote, and where I beg you to reconsider your red line. God forbid that we issue an ultimatum like that issued by the winner of the Israel Prize, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef! God forbid that we entice those whose vision of Israel we deeply oppose with the hope that if they continue, we will give up, get up and leave. This is our home, and we believe that that is not something with only material significance.

This place is much more than a shelter in the night. The home we belong to has deep spiritual foundations, and we have a claim to the meaning of those foundations as homeowners. That’s not a claim we can assert, or have any interest in asserting, in any other place in the world. Here, even if we find ourselves in the minority, even if we find ourselves oppressed or silenced, whether our king be Tzidkiyahu or Netanyahu, our responsibility is to raise our voice like a shofar, and to call out our vision of Zion.

Agreeing with everything until your red line, Mishael, let me offer you a different one, one that may particularly appeal to you. Your namesake, Mishael, was thrown into a fiery furnace for civil disobedience, for refusing to bow to an unjust king and an unjust law. He did this as a guest in a foreign country.

For most of your life, you have had the merit and the privilege to teach and lead and build your dream home. The fact that you find that your home has been overtaken by dark voices doesn’t mean it’s time to leave. It means it’s time to fight, by every legitimate, non-violent means. It means that a government that passes laws that are illegitimate and unjust, and that does not itself abide by legitimate laws, loses its legitimacy. “When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty,” Thomas Jefferson taught, inspired by the Bible and the prophets. It has, and it has.

We need to be very clear, my dear Mish. We’re here to build our dream home, and no threat, neither external nor internal, can cause us to give up.

About the Author
Avidan Freedman is the co-founder and director of Yanshoof (, an organization dedicated to stopping Israeli arms sales to human rights violators, and an educator at the Shalom Hartman Institute's high school and post-high school programs. He lives in Efrat with his wife Devorah and their 5 children.