Ministers in the newly sworn in Israeli government pose for a group photo at the president’s residence in Jerusalem. June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Progressive Jews in Israel and the Diaspora have celebrated the new government in Israel. Their hopes are that Israel will be more reflective of a pluralistic state, where all streams of Judaism are treated equally and all citizens of Israel can enjoy equal rights under a democracy they were promised in the Declaration of Independence.
It is the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) through its arm, the Israel Religious Action Centre (IRAC) that has fought long and hard since 1987 to defend equality for all, social justice and religious pluralism within Israel through the legal system. Much has been achieved, but there is still a great deal more we would hope to see change in Israel under a new government. Therefore, we support our annual Progressive Appeals to assist this wonderful organisation in its work on our behalf.
It was IRAC, under the direction of its CEO, Anat Hoffman and Rabbi Noa Sattath who established the Women of the Wall organisation to protect the rights of all Jewish Women to pray at the Kotel. They negotiated a new egalitarian prayer space with the Netanyahu government which then reneged on the agreement. So each Rosh Chodesh the Women of the Wall, representing all streams of Judaism gather with their prayer books (Siddurim), wearing their tallit to pray for the new Hebrew month.
Last weekend, as the women were entering the Kotel with their prayer books for the new month of Tammuz, they were viciously assaulted by Heredi youth and men who ripped up the sacred books and tried to physically stop the women from entering the premises. This has been described as a “ hate crime” and happened as the police watched on.
Now with a new Coalition Government in power in Israel, we know that Netanyahu and the opposition parties will be looking for any signs of weakness or fragility.
However, even though Naftali Bennett and his Coalition will not wield the same power as Netanyahu, there is an over-riding determination by this motley lot of parties to ensure Netanyahu never takes charge again. The new ministers will be expected to put forward policies and govern in the interests of all Israelis. This is what they have promised to do, and to be honest it is what they will have to do given the constraints of their power base. The new Prime Minister will have to work in full cooperation with his colleagues from the other more powerful parties. It will be a real test of his political skills and capacity.
Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President