Yair Lev

Standing on the Right Side of History: A Call to Protect Israeli Democracy

Shana Tovah to my Jewish brothers and sisters, especially to the esteemed Rabbis and community leaders who bear the responsibility of guiding our spiritual journey.

As we immerse ourselves in the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, our attention is also drawn to the impending visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu to the UN in NYC.

This visit is not merely a diplomatic formality; it represents a defining juncture in Israel’s journey, underscored by the thousands of Israelis and American Jews raising their voices in the presence of numerous international leaders. Our aim is to assertively and powerfully convey our apprehensions about the gravest threat Israel has faced since 1948, embodied by Bibi Netanyahu, while orchestrating the largest pro-Israeli democracy protest ever witnessed outside of Israel.

Our protest stretches beyond mere concerns of the judicial overhaul. It stands as a vehement opposition to the actions of a radical and racist right-wing government, helmed by a leader who, for nearly three decades, has shown increasingly authoritarian tendencies. This man, indicted for dire charges ranging from breach of trust to bribery and fraud in several high-stakes investigations, clings to his seat with a desperation fueled by the haunting clang of jail cell bars and the distant footsteps of prison guards. Instead of savoring luxury meals, pink champagne, and Cuban cigars, he faces the grim prospect of trading them for the blandness of prison fare. As the chilling reality of confinement draws nearer for him, he appears to double down with heightened fervor. Through a web of lies, deception, and a poison machine, he commands an army of loyalists who are both devoted to and fear him and his wife. These individuals, resembling more of a mafia than a government, work relentlessly on his behalf. With the singular aim of sowing hatred, division, fear, and chaos among Israelis, he hopes that in this volatile atmosphere, he can manipulate the disorder to his advantage, crafting a dictatorial regime that might be his salvation from the looming prison walls.

As Netanyahu boarded his flight to the US, it was clear that he sought an eight-day respite from the turmoil back home, with plans to meet Mr. Musk in San Francisco and, in an act of apparent desperation, maneuvering a meeting with President Biden in the corridors of the UN assembly. His departure was marked by astounding claims, accusing protestors — who oppose his and his government’s policies — of ” joining forces with the PLO and Iran” and actively undermining Israel. The desperation in his voice is evident; he senses the imminent collapse of his regime and the dissolution of his ambitions to transform Israel’s democracy into a theocratic dictatorship.  Netanyahu, through his leadership, actions, and policies, is directly causing Israel to be under attack from within. This internal crisis is arguably more perilous than any external threats, even those as formidable as Iran.

To our Esteemed Rabbis and Jewish Leaders of different organizations and communities: We stand at a crossroads, with history keenly observing our choices. The current Israeli government will be remembered as one of the most distorted, corrupt, and perilous chapters in its annals. Yet, history will also recall the bravery of millions of Israelis and Jews worldwide who championed democracy against such odds and triumphed. This isn’t about political parties or affiliations, whether it’s Republicans vs. Democrats or AIPAC vs. J Street. It transcends the divides of Right or Left. This is fundamentally about Right versus Wrong!

Over recent months, with each passing day and week, a growing number of Jewish public figures, Rabbis, and leaders from local to international organizations are awakening to the reality. They courageously confront the concerning state of affairs. Identifying the damaging governance steered by the indicted and compromised Netanyahu, they are stepping forward decisively. Through open letters, heartfelt discussions with their congregations, thought-provoking articles, and active participation in protests, they champion the pro-democracy cause, even in the face of adversity.

And yet, despite the clear signs and alarms, numerous American Jewish organizations and individual leaders remain hesitant, choosing to straddle the fence. While they recognize the catastrophic trajectory of this administration, much like watching a trainwreck in slow motion, they stand immobilized, hesitant to express their deep-seated concerns. Various valid reasons hold them back—mixed political affiliations within congregations, a fear of further polarizing their communities, or dependency on influential donors with conflicting viewpoints.

As the Days of Awe unfold and Yom Kippur looms, we are called upon to delve deeply into introspection, scrutinizing the current state of affairs and discerning the true nature of this government. It is a time to genuinely reflect on our individual sentiments and core beliefs. Let your “Emet,” your inner truth, lead you to the righteous path. When you consider the current state of Israel, tap into your innermost sentiments. Beyond the smoke of justifications for silence, visualize the enduring walls of Jerusalem and the pulsating spirit of the Israeli people. Reflect on the profound place Israel holds in your heart.

Your voice and influence can and will amplify this movement, steering Israel towards a luminous future marked by strength, unity, and unwavering democratic values. Israel shall thrive and its democracy will prevail!

About the Author
Dr. Yair Lev holds dual citizenship in Israel and the US. For the past 15 years he has resided in the US, first in New York City and now in the Philadelphia area. He lives in Lower Merion township with his wife and two children.
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