Michael Boyden

Is It Time To Leave?

A good friend of mine, who made Aliyah from North America many years ago, encouraged others to do likewise, and is very involved in the Anglo community in our area, told our mayor today that, if things don’t change politically in Israel, many of them plan to leave.

As someone who also made Aliyah, and whose son gave his life in defence of this country, it saddens me to even contemplate living elsewhere, but as the historian Tom Segev wrote nearly twenty years ago “the land has changed its complexion”.

Israel has moved to the right politically and the Left are regarded as traitors. Several days ago Likkud Knesset Member, Nissim Vaturi, is quoted as having referred to those who protest against the current government as “a branch of Hamas”. Those protesters include many who put their lives on the line every day fighting Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Vaturi’s remark was disgusting, it showed a lack of respect for diversity in political opinion, and an inability to recognize that people who oppose the government are not enemies of the Jewish State.

But concern for Israel’s future does not end there. It was disconcerting to hear Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai state publicly following the High Court of Justice hearing in connection with extreme right-wing Minister Ben-Gvir’s efforts as National Security Minister to be granted additional powers: “I came here today out of a deep concern for the future of the Israel Police as a professional, apolitical (body)” Shabtai said.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is being politically blackmailed by his right-wing coalition partners and is so intent upon remaining in office that he is prepared to sacrifice Israel’s democratic values to stay in power.

However, there are other issues that are no less important. Attempts to pass legislation that would continue to exempt haredi yeshivah students from military service ought to be a non-starter. 25% of males cannot be automatically released from defending our country against its enemies. The army is desperately short of soldiers, reservists are having to serve for longer periods while most of the haredim stand idly by.

Once again, Bibi is unwilling to take the necessary steps for fear of losing his haredi coalition partners.

Our country is politically paralyzed by the haredim and right-wing extremists, who demand their pound of flesh as a condition for enabling Bibi to remain prime minister.

Who wants to live in a place like that? That wasn’t the Israel to which many of us made Aliyah nearly half a century ago. That wasn’t the Israel envisaged by the pioneers who built our country.

Not surprisingly, there are many who don’t want their children to fight for a country like that. Israelis are reluctantly leaving for Greece, Portugal and elsewhere. More and more of them are applying for foreign passports.

If things continue this way, Israel will be left to the haredim and right-wing religious, messianic zealots. Those who can will have left, and the country will, God forbid, suffer the fate of Bar Kochba’s rebels and the zealots of Masada.

Those who understand that, need to act now before it is too late.

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.
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