The High Holidays are my favorite time of year because they are a time of coming together as a community. In fact, many Jewish laws and traditions focus upon not being alone and upon coming together. In prayer, birth, marriage, even after death as our body awaits burial, Jewish life compels us to be in the presence of others and to feel a community togetherness. And yet, the looming danger of a divide between American and Israeli Jews threatens just that; it is threatening to make us feel separate and to stand alone.
Given that American and Israeli Jews have always faced tremendously different challenges, it makes sense that we might both turn inward toward ourselves. Instead, we must turn toward one another. Close relationships are not “all or nothing.” Rather, we allow our dynamic to be ever-changing and to hold one another’s hand as we make space for the other to grow.
I believe that Israeli and American Jews have the capacity for this deep relationship, where we can walk alongside one another in all of each other’s complexities and dimensions.
Israel has proven in the last 70 years that it can have a religious component, Judaism, and be a democracy. Christian and Muslim places of prayer are protected. The Masorti and Reform movements are vibrant and growing, and non-Orthodox Jews have a proud, prominent place in society. Non-Jewish Arab Israelis make up the third-largest party in the Knesset. Israel’s democracy is so vibrant that it even gives parliamentary representation to explicitly anti-Zionist members — unthinkable in any other nation. And, Israel’s Supreme Court is one of the most independent judiciaries in the world.
And yet, it turns out that creating an entirely new political paradigm isn’t simple or easy. As Israel explores its Jewish democracy, we invite our American brothers and sisters across the ocean to be part of this exciting time. The nation-state law complements existing laws that focus on the democratic state of the nation and gives expression to the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination in Israel. The law does not affect or detract from the existing rights of individuals and minority groups, and affirms the commitment to preserving the affinity between Israel and the global Jewish people.
The Jewish history of Zion, of course, did not start in 1948, nor did it begin with the Holocaust. Our enemies have tried to convince us of this so many times that some of us even start to believe it.
To the contrary, to walk through Israel is to bear witness to thousands of years of Jewish history. This history, as proven by documents, architecture, science, archaeology, literature and cartographers, is frankly impossible to reasonably deny.
This special place is the homeland of all Jews, where we can cherish the Jewish nature of our state alongside our profound regard for freedom and equality for all.
I have no doubt that Americans and Israelis can maintain our strong connection for millennia to come. This 3,000-year peoplehood transcends eras, administrations and world political climates.
During this season of introspection and renewal, let us pray for a year of security, peace and unity for Israel and the Jewish people everywhere.
Aviv Ezra is Consul General of Israel to the Midwest.