There is what could be seen as a huge contradiction in this week’s Torah portion, “Ekev.” We are told several times that we will inherit the Land, and drive out other nations. Yet, we are also told,
“For Adonai your God, is God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great God, the mighty, and the awesome, who neither shows favoritism torwards persons, nor takes reward. God executes justice for the fatherless and widow, and loves the ger (non-Jew living in harmony among you), in giving him/her food and raiment. Therefore love the ger, for you were gerim in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 19:17-19)
With nationalism strengthening around the world, nation states increasingly desire to restore what they perceive as lost greatness. However, the Torah teaches us that there isn’t a contradiction between being a strong nation inheriting the Land, and treating each citizen equally. It is wrong to treat some with greater regard than others. In fact, God’s Greatness is defined by the fact that God does not discriminate. God cares for every human being. If this is how the Torah would have us treat the “ger,” the non-Jew living among us but not necessarily being a part of our society, how much more so for the non-Jew who is a citizen like us.
That is why I am part of an effort crossing political lines to appeal to our Israeli High Court against the recently passed “Nationality (or Nation-State) Law. Almost five hundred citizens, some well-known and most not, have already joined, and all Israelis are invited to do so. Regardless of whether we define ourselves as “left,” “center,” “right,” or “none of the above,” we believe in democracy and the committment to equality in our Declaration of Independence. Whether or not the appeal succeeds, it is critical for the eventual healing of our society that as Jews, we say to non-Jewish Israelis, “I will stand and be counted, because I count you. I count you whether you are Jewish or non-Jewish, powerful or not. You are a fellow human being, and a fellow citizen. You are equal in my eyes, as you are equal in God’s eyes.”
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