By Rabbi Daniel Lichman
I’ve been avoiding this conversation for a long time.
I’ve seen the news stories about it over the last few months and turned away - still exhausted from difficult conversations about Israel, Palestine and the occupation from 10 years ago.
I’ve been delighted to build this diaspora Jewish community with you. A community that affirms the relevance of our Jewish lives here, rather than abroad, to find meaning to our Jewish lives.
My approach to Judaism is to see Torah as eternal - existing outside of history in some kind of messianic time. Early Zionist theory critiqued such a position: they pointed out that if we Jews exist outside of history, we will continue to be acted upon by others rather than create our own destiny. Zionism sought to take the messianic moment into the hands of the Jewish people by entering history through creating the state of Israel.
Avoiding conversations about our relationship as Jews to Israel then becomes a denial of our existence as Jews within history - within the political reality of states, governments and human rights.
It is time for us to speak and to listen to one another as we respond to the current moment, as Israel moves to annex the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Two moments have led me to invite this conversation in our community.
First, I was inspired by young people in our youth movement RSY-Netzer. I have heard how they are grappling with this as an ideological question for them as young Jews. They have recently published a remarkable document about their ideology for the summer (PDF). On page 42, you can read a piece about the annexation and why it matters.
Second, I read a remarkable, surprising and paradigm-shifting article by Peter Beinart. This has helped me realise that this moment is one of major political change, not to be passed by.
I invite you to join us for a moment of speaking and listening in this week’s Friday evening service. I honour the experience and identity from which you will speak and listen, because we are diverse when it comes to our relationship to Israel and Palestine. We are diaspora Jews, Israelis, IDF veterans, anti-occupation activists, cousins of settlers, friends of Palestinian refugees, the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivers, victims of antisemitism. We are idealistic, we are angry, we are indifferent and we are confused.
This will not be a moment for seeking agreement or for choosing a specific political action for us to do together. Instead, it will be a moment to hear one another into speech and ensure that our community is one that engages with (and doesn’t deny) political reality - that we exist as a Jewish community within history.