Israel Update – Week of July 23, 2023
Outreach: As expected, on Monday, July 24, the first phase of the judicial reform forwarded by the Likkud and her coalition partners – the “Reasonableness Standard” – was written into law by a vote of 64-0.
As expected, the country erupted in protest because of the unanimous vote. The feeling was that the cauldron was boiling over and that we stood at the precipice. The fact that all this took place during the week of the fast of the Ninth of Av, the date in which Israel twice lost her independence, was not lost on Israelis. People understood that they had to do something, but the question was “What?”
The weekend’s “Makor Rishon” – a Wall-Street-Journal-esque paper for the politically and religiously conservative – dedicated most of its op-eds to answering the question. Most of the op-eds came out in favor of either putting further legislation on the back-burner or shelving it entirely. Hagai Segal, former editor of the newspaper, who was convicted in 1984 for planning acts of terror against prominent Palestinians as part of the Jewish Underground (HaMachteret HaYehudit) wrote, “Nothing good will come from further legislation and the chances of passing it are nil… The minority of Israelis against the legislation are simply too powerful and have no restraint.” Many Likkud Members of Knesset are now publicly acknowledging that there will be no further legislation of judicial reform in this term. This did not stop more than 160,000 people from coming out to protest in downtown Tel Aviv on Saturday night. Is there anything that can be done to put an end to the demonstrations?
A growing group of people believe that both of the questions posed above can be addressed via outreach. To borrow a term used by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the best way to close the gap is via people-to-people activities. If the two sides could see each other as human beings, perhaps some of the animosity would dissipate. My town of Moreshet is the only religious town in the thirty-two towns that make up the Misgav Regional Council, making us uniquely positioned to close the gap. To this end, the leadership of Moreshet invited residents of the Misgav region to Moreshet to break the fast of the Ninth of Av. A couple of dozen people showed up. Our Rabbi spoke as did a representative of Misgav. I did not attend this event. Many-on-many events typically break down into shouting matches, where only the loudest speak, typically in slogans, and the majority remain silent. I am a firm believer that far more ground can be covered in one-on-one meetings. I say this because I have gained experience in this kind of meeting.
In 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was elected on a platform of “[The Jewish town of] Netzarim [in the Gaza Strip] is no different than Tel Aviv,” performed an about-face and threatened to evict every last Jew from the Gaza Strip, receiving nothing in turn. The political right who had elected Sharon was marginalized and demonized. The media provided a shield for Sharon, who was under investigation at the time for corruption. Demonstrations of tens of thousands remaned unreported. “Leaks” raised suspicion that the right would resort to bloodshed to prevent the evacuation (Nothing of the sort happened). Therefore, the people-to-people route occurred. People knocked on doors. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. People sat in living rooms of those they did not know and talked and explained. While the government remained silent, on the day after the Ninth of Av 2005, Israeli bulldozers began demolishing Jewish towns across the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria. These people knew that their brothers across the country had heard their voices. People-to-people might not always work, but it was the only chance they had.
Many found themselves sitting on the floor at the foot of Yodefat, a fortress that had been overrun by the Roman Legion two thousand years ago. About one hundred people came, to read the Book of Lamentations, to recall the destruction of the Holy Temples, and to talk. Some say that the demonstrations have nothing to do with judicial reform, but it is a fig leaf. Most Israelis have not the faintest idea what is meant by “reasonableness.” Some say the problem is Prime Minister (Bibi) Netanyahu. A large swath of Israelis see Bibi as more than the leader of the political party that they do not vote for. As long as Bibi is in power, the demonstrations will continue. Second, many demonstrators have absolutely no idea that the people who voted for the Likkud and her coalition partners were in precisely the same position eighteen years ago. They do not understand that there was the same silence from the leaders.
We will do whatever it takes to bring Israelis back together, one couple at a time. The future of our country depends on our success.
Wishing you a quiet week,