by Mati Gill
I am a Conservative (Masorti) Jew living in Israel, and I’m done apologizing for it. The official Israeli establishment recognizes me as a Jew, just not the way I choose to practice. The government of Israel continues to allow the ultra-Orthodox to fully control all Jewish-religious life in Israel.
They don’t accept that I prefer to pray in places of worship that allow women to take an active and equal part. I am not allowed to choose the rabbi I wish will marry me one day.
When I pass away, the ceremony with which I will be buried will be dictated to my loved ones. I cannot choose the rabbi and cannot ask that I be eulogized by a female.
Time and time again I hear why my beliefs and practices are not enough, many times from fellow Israelis who strongly believe that the same Orthodox rabbi from the synagogue that they never enter is the only on who can legitimately marry them.
I belong to a group of Israelis who feel strongly about their Jewish identity, but remain non-Orthodox (as opposed to secular) in their Jewish beliefs and practice. Judaism is an important part of our lives; yet in Israel, the center of the Jewish world, our practices and beliefs are deemed illegitimate. This is true despite the fact that the vast majority of Jews around the world identify themselves in a similar manner.
Well, I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore.
My sister Hadara and her fiancé Noam grew up, like me, as Conservative Jews. They went to a traditional high school and were active in the local Conservative youth movements, which were affiliated with the affluent Rama program. They will be wed this summer by a rabbi of their personal choosing in their own community of Kfar Adumim on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Their wedding will not count. Our family and friends will watch them stand below the huppah, reciting all the traditional blessings and text, sign a ketubah, exchange rings and break the glass. But their marriage will still not be recognized as Jewish. They will, absurdly, need to wed somewhere overseas in front of a civil judge in order to obtain marital status in Israel. Yet, still, their marriage will not be recognized as a “kosher” Jewish marriage.
No explanation can justify this absurdity. No Orthodox religious establishment should have the power to deny me and my fellow Israelis our basic human and civil rights. It’s time to fight this absurd and unjust state of affairs. To stop being apologetic. To get up and stand up for our basic rights to observe our sacred Jewish religion as we see fit. We should no longer accept watered-down civil solutions for marriage arrangements. I will not apologize anymore. I will no longer support a political leader in Israel that will not accept these goals, I will not vote for a party that will sacrifice my civil rights. There’s consensus in Israel for a two-state solution, but I’m more concerned about the identity of our one and only Jewish state.
Economic monopolies have been rightfully targeted in Israel’s social justice movement. It’s time for us to focus on the religious monopoly that directly affects all our lives.
I’m a proud Israeli and Conservative Jew, and I’m mad as hell, and I won’t take this anymore.
The writer served as bureau chief for the former Israeli minister of public security and is a Captain (res) in the IDF