I arrived in Israel yesterday, Monday as a member of a delegation of conservative rabbis and lay leaders from the US. I had not planned to be a part of this trip, sponsored by Masorti, the conservative movement in Israel. However after the shellings in Israel and the Pillar of Defense campaign by the IDF, I decided as the Director of Israel Advocacy for the Rabbinical Assembly it was important to accept the invitation to join the group.
On our first day we visited Conservative congregations in Beer Sheva, Ashkelon and Omer, all in the Negev, all places that were on the front line of the Hamas missile attacks. Our group of 25 had the chance to hear firsthand of the impact of these attacks on the lives of ordinary citizens trying to go about their daily lives. As one individual told us, “Every part of your life is taken over by the sirens.” Most impressive was seeing the after school programs in the congregations serving the southern population where children and families are introduced and exposed to a form of Judaism other than Orthodoxy.
Part of the purpose of the mission is to bring support and to show our solidarity with the people of Israel, and part of the focus is to learn about the work of the Masorti movement in Israel. For a number of reasons the conservative movement has an uphill struggle, not least of which is the disproportionate funding of Haredi, ultra-orthodox institutions. As we learned, unfortunately, many of these schools are non-Zionist, which means the students do not serve in the army and do not pay taxes. The primary role of Masorti is not just to oppose this, but to promote a Judaism that is open, tolerant and pluralistic. Support of these efforts and programs enriches and strengthens the Jewish fabric of the Jewish state, thereby reinforcing the partnership between the Jews of Israel and the Diaspora.
Returning to security issues, we visited an Air Force base in the Negev where we saw an impressive exercise of fighter jets taking off and the skill of the Israeli pilots.
Also published on Medium.