Friday, December 29, 2023 – י״ז טֵבֵת תשפ”ד
It’s not easy being a liberal Zionist today.
The horrific massacres of October 7th changed everything in Israel and for all those who support Israel. And now, after nearly three months of fighting, Israel and Jews in North America are facing unprecedented challenges.
Soldiers are being killed every day in Gaza, thousands are injured, and Israel’s health care system is overwhelmed. 200,000 displaced people do not know when they will be able to return to their homes as attacks on the communities of the North by Hezbollah has increased. The economy has taken a huge hit from the hundreds of thousands of reservists having been called up for an extended period of time, displaced people unable to return to work, and the huge drop in tourism.
Our own communities are becoming increasingly divided over how to support Israel and maintain our values of justice and concern for the Other. Watching the images coming from Gaza is deeply upsetting as the more than 20,000 Palestinians who have lost their lives and the more than 1 million who are displaced is truly tragic.
There is not a day when the fate of the 129 hostages now in Hamas captivity does not fill my heart and mind — and I am sure this resonates with the majority of Israelis. The hostages are our brothers and sisters. Their suffering, especially after the testimonies of the released hostages, stirs us all and makes us want to bring them home as quickly as possible.
And here, in North America, Jews are facing our own challenges. We are seeing a wave of anti-Israel protests that have erupted in cities and universities across North America as a reaction to Israel’s actions in the Gaza war, the atmosphere at many of them quickly turning toxic. We are witnessing a growing number of Jews in North America who say that they don’t feel safe anymore, whether on social media, at schools and synagogues, at our workplaces, or on the street.
And so, as we approach the end of the year after months of distress, this thought is weighing heavy on my mind: it’s not easy being a liberal Zionist today.
To be a liberal Zionist today means that we feel a strong and unbreakable connection to our people in Israel who have been killed, kidnapped, displaced, and traumatized, and who feel lonely in a world that seems to be turning its back on the Jewish people. To be a Zionist today is to feel deeply, along with our Israeli brothers and sisters, the aftershocks of the massacre of our fellow Jews, and that we feel compelled to come together in unity.
And to be a liberal Zionist is to say that from our place of solidarity with our siblings and people, for every human being to have the right to life and dignity, and for us to center the humanity of the innocent people being affected in the war as being part of what it means to be a Liberal Zionist. And here’s the thing, that shouldn’t be so difficult, but we can only do it with your support.
This year, it is critically important to work together as we stand with our Israeli brothers and sisters and work together toward the day after the war.
At this fraught moment when Israel is at war and the notion of a liberal Zionism for Diaspora Jews feels at times like it has been relegated to the bookshelves of the theoretical, let us embrace the Zionism of Rabbi David Ellenson ז”ל. A deep and unmitigated love for the people, the Land, the culture, the religion and the State of Israel, alongside a serious and thoughtful tokheicha (rebuke) to the extremist and undemocratic trends surfacing and now ruling in Israel. His was a Zionism of love, of intellect, and one that was interwoven into every fiber of his being.
When you support the URJ’s Reform Zionism and Israel work, you provide invaluable resources and opportunities to take action for individuals, congregations, and communities across North America. Your generosity deepens ties between North American Jews and Israel, especially critical during this difficult time.