All your questions for Naomi Adler answered! This week’s question:
Why is it important to understand Israel’s new Nation-State bill?
Last week, as you may know, following fierce protest and vigorous debate, Israel’s ‘Nation-State Bill’ was voted into law, 62-55. Over the last several days our partners, Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), have reported on and lobbied against a number of issues associated with the legislation, as they do whenever major legislation is debated in Knesset.
The Nation-State bill’s stated purpose is to enshrine Israel’s status as the nation state of the Jewish people. But, as has been said by the majority of organizations providing commentary about it, provisions of the bill are actually a check on Israel’s democratic principles. For example, the law downgrades Arabic from an official language to one with “special status,” which further alienates Israel’s Muslim population and other minority communities, including Christians. There is also language that appears to limit the impact of Diaspora Jewry on religious pluralism in Israel.
As an organization that strongly believes in the ideals and tachlis of supporting pluralism here and in Israel, as well as in Israel’s democratic principles, we at our Jewish Federation are sorely disappointed by the legislation, which now has quasi-constitutional status in Israel. It also comes at a time when many thought leaders have stated the debate over religious pluralism in Israel has reached a tipping point. Last week, for example, police in Israel detained a Conservative rabbi who had presided over non-Orthodox weddings — another disturbing front in the Israeli government’s attack on pluralism.
As the central hub of Jewish life in Greater Philadelphia, our Jewish Federation represents Jews with a wide array of views on the modern state of Israel. Our work is focused on connecting all Jews, as well as our interfaith partners and communities, to Israel by celebrating our shared values of diversity, inclusion and equality. We recognize that this new law could potentially make this important work more challenging. However, we will not be deterred from serving the children, older adults and others who depend on us every day.
In the coming weeks and months, we will work closely with our interfaith and minority partners to ensure our relationships stay strong and channels of communication remain open. Of course, I will continue to keep you updated. You are also most welcome to write me directly with questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948 states that Israel “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.” The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia will continue to advocate for political leaders in our Jewish homeland to uphold Israel’s founding principles of democracy and equality.