Rabbi Ira Youdovin: What Can be Expected from the New Israeli Government?
Folks are asking how long will the new Israeli government hold together, and what might it accomplish? My answer to both questions is the same: I don’t know. And anybody claiming to know is fooling himself and/or trying to fool you.
On the one hand, prospects for its survival are dim. Composed of eight parties with a staggering diversity of views, many of them conflicting, it’s difficult to identify significant issues on which all will concur. But the parties understand this and agreed that each of them, including the Palestinian Ra’am, will have the power to veto legislation before it’s introduced for Knesset discussion and vote, thus avoiding the danger of losing a vote of confidence that would force yet another national election. They were willing to take this unusual step for the specific purpose of forming a coalition with the votes to end Prime Minister Netanyahu’s twelve-year tenue, the longest in Israel’s history.
But Bibi isn’t fading away. He’s leading the opposition while awaiting a court’s ruling on the three felony counts on which he’s been indicted. This could take months, even years. But it’s well within the realm of possibility that the parties will maintain discipline until then, rather than risking another election which Netanyahu, emboldened by his rivals’ inability to form a stable government, is virtually certain to win.
The new government might be stable, at least in the near term and possibly even longer. But what can it accomplish when any of its eight member parties can block proposed legislation before it reaches the Knesset floor? Well…some things are possible.
Without (ultra-Orthodox) Haredi parties in the coalition, it should be possible to take a few steps forward in the on-going struggle for Jewish pluralism. For example, a plan for facilitating women’s and mixed-gender worship services at the Kotel (Western Wall) should (at long last) be implemented. It was approved by the Cabinet in 2017 after a heroic effort led by Natan Sharansky, but withdrawn at the last minute when the Haredim threatened to bring down the government. It’s been sitting in limbo ever since, angering Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews throughout the world.
But while the Haredi parties are gone, Haredim are not. Prime Minister Bennett’s Yamina Party is right-wing Orthodox. (Bennett is Israel’s first prime minister to wear a kippah in his daily life). So it’s highly unlikely that the Knesset will vote to allow civil marriage and marriages conducted under non-Orthodox auspices in Israel to be entered into the population registry.
There could be a dramatic, and long overdue, enhancement in the quality of life for Palestinian citizens of Israel (those living inside the Green Line). The Palestinian Ra’am party ran the same kind of election campaign waged by politicians throughout the world, promising to deliver new opportunities for its constituents’ advancement in Israeli society, cleaner streets, fewer potholes, better schools, more effective policing against crime in their neighborhoods, and a greatly increased budget for infrastructure. Because Ra’am’s four seats gave the coalition a slim Knesset majority, the new government’s platform calls for huge expenditures in these areas.
On the other hand, it’s likely that the standoff over the future of the Occupied Territories and their inhabitants will continue. The three hard right parties in the coalition—Yamina, Yisrael Beiteinu and New Hope—are committed to expanding settlements and moving toward annexing at least a substantial portion of the West Bank. But they are blocked by the leftist Labor and Meretz parties, as well as Ra’am and, to some extent, the centrist Yesh Atid and Blue/White who seek to end the Occupation and move toward a two-state solution.
But there may be subtle, yet significant, changes in the nature of the Occupation. Although there is no Israeli consensus for ending it—with opposition rooted in ideological aspirations as well as fears of repeating what happened in Gaza in 2005 when Israel withdrew and Hamas terrorists surged in—-Israelis are asking themselves if it needs to be enforced with brutality bolstered by a two-tier system of justice that evokes allegations of apartheid both inside Israel and abroad.
The Israel-American philosopher and social scientist Micah Goodman calls this “shrinking the conflict”. Are punitive house demolitions necessary? Late night “knocks on the door”? Hundreds of checkpoints? If settler hoodlums burn Palestinian olive groves shouldn’t they be subject to the same measure of justice that would apply if the perpetrators were Palestinians? How much of this is essential to Israel’s security? And how much is intended to harass the Palestinians to the point where they will leave?
I believe—and here I move from analysis to hope and prayer—that the very existence of this unlikely coalition, cobbled from disparate parts willing to compromise in order to pursue a shared goal, may effect change in the nature of Israeli political discourse and thinking, softening its toxic nature and moving people to raise their sights beyond the tumultuous here and now to fix their vision on creating a better future for all who need to find of way of sharing their troubled, but sacred land.
The new government may fall tomorrow. Or maybe not. But its every existence, however brief it may be, shows that the heretofore impossible in time becomes possible.
Just in time to end their school year, the students from our Netivot program came together yesterday morning en masse, in-person, masked, distanced and very happy (see photo below).
I can’t overstate my feelings of joy, after a year plus of interacting via Zoom, over being physically together. My utmost wish for all these wonderful students is that they enjoy a summer that will make this past year feel like a distant memory. There is much to make up for and summer break is the time to do it.
Last year at this time we were wondering how the upcoming High Holy Days will be managed entirely on-line. This year we are wondering how they will be managed as we return to physical gathering.
As California opens up, so does CBB. Dazed and happy worshippers are returning to their seats in our sanctuary and chapel. Each individual at his/her/their own pace.
We are ready. We gather in person and on Zoom to offer our prayers of gratitude and petitions for peace. We come together in concern and angst over the ongoing strife in Israel. We look to one another for strength and insight as news of anti-semitic acts and shifting public opinion dominates the headlines.
We have learned that connections can be made and maintained via Zoom, but there’s nothing like looking into the eyes of another with the certainty that they’re actually looking back at you.
Cantor Childs joins Netivot students Sunday morning in person on the CBB campus for the first time in 14 months.
A huge mazel tov on behalf of the entire CBB community to our beloved Rav Debi Lewis!– Editor
Deborah Lynn Lewis graduated from Gratz College with a BA in Jewish Studies. She is a member of Congregation B’nai B’rith (CBB) in Santa Barbara and credits her congregation for instilling within her a great love of Judaism and the Jewish people. Deborah currently serves as a spiritual leader for the Santa Ynez Valley Jewish Community and looks forward to growing and learning with this very warm and wonderful community.
Deborah has completed her third unit of Clinical Pastoral Education and is working toward becoming a Board-Certified Chaplain. She is the Clinical Chaplaincy Intern at Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara County, helping to provide visitation to those that are home-bound. At CBB Deborah has taught practical Judaism to those on the journey toward Judaism. She finds serving these individuals and families to be profoundly meaningful and a great honor.
I am grateful to the AJRCA community for providing knowledgeable, caring teachers and staff, as well as like-minded fellow students, now colleagues and friends. I am humbled by my CBB family and friends, my committed cheerleaders who continually teach me new ways to be loving, supportive, and present. I want to acknowledge the Wednesday morning women’s Torah study group – Judy, Linda and Mahela, as well as my mother Barbara, who has always been a loving and encouraging presence. To Janet Lachais and Amy Locke, I am eternally grateful for your encouragement to start this amazing journey. And to my beshert Traci, you’ve been my rock; without your support I would have never been able to realize this achievement.
Upon ordination, Rabbi Lewis will continue her work as a rabbi, teacher and chaplain, serving the Greater Santa Barbara Jewish Community generally and the Santa Ynez Valley Jewish Community specifically.
First mentioned in 1238, one of the oldest Jewish settlements in the Czech lands.
In 1568 the Jews were expelled from the town. Historical sources refer to their number at the time as “sizeable.”
In 1853 the first Jewish family moved back, in 1880 there were 332 Jewish citizens, in 1900 there were 415 and in 1930, 215 people claimed their Jewish heritage.
The Jews in Pribram enjoyed a rich social life; there was a chevra kadisha, a Sisterhood, and charity and youth organizations. Before WWI there was even a kosher restaurant.
During the Nazi occupation, 171 Pribram Jews were killed in the camps, including 18 children under 15. The youngest was Pavel Schling, he was four years old.
In 1873 the building of the synagogue (in the then-popular Moorish style) began and in 1875 it was finished and the first Torah scroll was placed in the synagogue.
In the 1960s many Torah scrolls were sold to Western Jewish organizations all over the world.
The last Pribram rabbi, Dr. Emil Friedman, was killed in Auschwitz in 1943, along with 543 Jewish people from Pribram and the surrounding area.
During WWII, the synagogue was used as a warehouse and from 1946 to 1957 it housed collections of the town museum.
In 1966, due to only a very small number of Jewish people in Pribram, the congregation donated the synagogue to the town of Pribram.
The magistrate accepted the donation, only to tear the synagogue down in 1969.
The location of the medieval Jewish cemetery in unknown.
The new Jewish cemetery was founded in 1879. There are currently 150 beautifully preserved grave stones and a monument to the 543 Nazi victims, unveiled in 1954. The last Jewish burial took place in 1958. The cemetery is very well preserved and taken care of.